Google announced this week that it has overhauled its internal networking infrastructure to reduce costs and increase efficiency. To do this, Google is using a software-defined, open source networking system called OpenFlow. The OpenFlow protocol allows network packets to be routed by software running on routers. By separating packet switching from network management, Google has better and easier control over their network.
From the OpenFlow website:
OpenFlow enables networks to evolve, by giving a remote controller the power to modify the behavior of network devices, through a well-defined "forwarding instruction set". The growing OpenFlow ecosystem now includes routers, switches, virtual switches, and access points from a range of vendors.
The announcement was made this week by Urs Hoelzle, Senior Vice President at Google, during a keynote session at the Open Networking Summit 2012 conference in Santa Clara, California. Wired, however, got an exclusive preview of Hoelzle's presentation, in which Hoelzle explains how Google went about the massive undertaking of swapping their network hardware. Surprisingly, the answer is that Google, which builds its own servers, switches, and routers, deployed them one-by-one to each data center. From the Wired article:
As Hölzle explains in his speech, the method was to pre-deploy the equipment at a site, take down half the site’s networking machines, and hook them up to the new system. After testing to see if the upgrade worked, Google’s engineers would then repeat the process for the remaining 50 percent of the networking in the site. The process went briskly in Google’s data centers around the world. By early this year, all of Google’s internal network was running on OpenFlow.
Google began making its own networking equipment for this project back in 2010. Hotzle said in the interview that, at the time, there wasn't equipment "even remotely suitable for this task."
Google might do something similar for its customer-facing network in the future, but the OpenFlow technology would have to be tested extensively before then. In the meantime, Holzle said Google hopes other companies with large networking infrastructures will adopt the open source technology. That would mean an internet that runs more efficiently, which could mean lower bandwidth costs.
What do you think? Are you ready to convert your network to OpenFlow? Let me know in the comments below.