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Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo! have formed a new standards group, the Open Networking Foundation, a nonprofit organization to promote”Software-Defined Networking.” SDN hopes to allow data centers, wide area telecommunication networks, wireless networks, enterprises and home networks to optimize network behavior.

For instance, in data centers SDN can be used to reduce energy usage by allowing some routers to be powered down during off-peak periods. Other expected benefits include additional ways to lower the cost of operating and managing networks, in part because it will be easier to simplify hardware and network management chores.

The SDN approach arose out of a six-year research collaboration between Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Essential to SDN are two basic components: a software interface called OpenFlow for controlling how packets are forwarded through network switches, and a set of global management interfaces upon which more advanced management tools can be built.

The first task of ONF will be to adopt and then lead the ongoing development of the OpenFlow standard ( and encourage its adoption by freely licensing it to all member companies. ONF will then begin the process of defining global management interfaces.

“Software-Defined Networking will allow networks to evolve and improve more quickly than they can today,” said Urs Hoelzle, ONF President and Chairman of the Board, and Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google. “Over time, we expect SDN will help networks become both more secure and more reliable.”

The initial members of ONF are: Broadcom, Brocade, Ciena, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Facebook, Force10, Google, HP, IBM, Juniper Networks, Marvell, Microsoft, NEC, Netgear, NTT, Riverbed Technology, Verizon, VMware, and Yahoo!.

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