New ONF working group tackles wireless and mobile SDN

A new ONF working group will study uses of OpenFlow for wireless and mobile SDN.

The Open Networking Foundation has formed a Wireless and Mobile Working Group to explore how the foundation can adapt OpenFlow for use in cellular access networks and wireless transport networks for telecommunications providers. The group will also explore OpenFlow's applicability in unifying Wi-Fi and wired networks in enterprise campus environments.

In its charter, the working group has identified a dozen distinct mobile and wireless SDN use cases that fall under the three categories mentioned above, said Dr. Serge Manning, the group's newly appointed chairman, who also serves as senior manager for corporate standards at Huawei, China's leading manufacturer of enterprise and carrier networking equipment. Those use cases include management of secured flows in LTE, service chaining in mobile service domains and unified equipment management and control.

On the enterprise side, the working group will look at, for example, methods for enabling network applications to instruct an OpenFlow controller to authenticate and manage network access across the wired and wireless network through 802.1x, Manning said.

The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is one technology the working group will look at on the service provider side, Manning said. "The [EPC] architecture is largely 3GPP-based standards, which the industry has adopted. In there, the control signal plane is already defined, but the gateways are traditional gateways where there is a control path and forwarding path that combine. We want to use OpenFlow to separate those so these various gateways in EPC architecture -- the data plane -- can be separated and [carriers] can use OpenFlow switches."

ONF wireless and mobile SDN will support NFV

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) expects the work of the Mobile and Wireless Working Group to overlap with and complement work by ETSI's Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) group, which is, for example, exploring how to run EPC functions on x86 servers.

More on the ONF and its work

ONF forms northbound interface working group

ONF certifies OpenFlow testing labs

"We have a formal partnership with ETSI NFV, where our role is to create the standard mechanisms for the virtualized function to achieve its aim by communicating with the network using OpenFlow," said Dan Pitt, executive director of the ONF. [Operators] like to dynamically create customized services for their subscribers. The linking of [these services] is service chaining. Through OpenFlow, we're providing a way to set the paths to have that service chaining."

The working group will spend the first half of 2014 examining the architectural requirements of supporting the wireless and mobile SDN use cases it has identified. In the latter half of the year, the group will study what changes these use cases will require within OpenFlow.

The ONF will publish whatever architectural recommendations and OpenFlow protocol changes the working group comes up with by the end of the year.

"Then, we want to work with the other Working Groups to actually generate an OpenFlow specification and work with them so it's harmonized with all their other OpenFlow developments," Manning said. "After that, we hope we can have some of our member companies provide some proofs of concept or demos of some of these features at the end of this year or toward next year, because we don't want to just write a paper spec. We want to have something real."

In addition to Huawei's Manning, the working group has representatives from several other vendors, including NEC, Nokia-Siemens Networks and Cisco. China Mobile, Orange, Telefonica, Verizon and Goldman Sachs are also working with the group, Manning said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shamus McGillicuddy, news Director, or follow him on Twitter @ShamusTT.

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