OpenFlow’s Beginnings

NetworkWorld recently posted a blog that includes an interview with me (Martin) on OpenFlow’s roots and relevance in the current ecosystem.

While it’s generous to label me as the “inventor” of OpenFlow, the accolade is somewhat misleading. So I wanted to jot off a quick post to clarify things a bit.

To begin with, there  is no sole inventor of OpenFlow.  It’s been the product of many tens of individuals and organizations, over multiple years, and really, it’s still in its infancy and can be expected to evolve drastically going forward.

Regarding the specifics of its origins.  I wrote the first, half-baked, unofficial draft in late 2007 with Nick McKeown (my advisor) as a follow on to research we were doing at Stanford with Scott Shenker, and Justin Pettit (among others). The first contributors to a “full” spec were Ben Pfaff, Justin, Nick, and myself. Ben and Justin did the lion’s share of the work evolving the protocol into something that could actually be used and implemented. And Justin was the primary editor and wrote the bulk of the initial spec text.

Justin, Ben, and I were at Nicira at the time and needed a protocol for remote switch management, so we coordinated with Nick to develop something that could be useful to a wider community.

Within a few months, we handed the spec, along with a working implementation (primarily written by Ben and Justin) to Stanford as there was growing interest in building a community effort around it. Since then, we’ve continued to play a limited role in its development.  However, there have been many very influential contributors since (Rajiv Ramanathan, Jean Tourhilles, Glen Gibb, Brandon Heller, and Ed Crabbe just to name a very few).

So there you have it. The largely uninteresting, and somewhat convoluted origins of OpenFlow.

One Comment on “OpenFlow’s Beginnings”

  1. Art Fewell says:

    Sorry for that … I know it has been a community effort. I’ll just say that the title that was published was not the title I submitted. On the good side the editors that changed this are experts at driving traffic, and perhaps more people read the post, so hopefully thats a good thing.

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