Over the past 10 years or so, there’s been a very strong interest in SDN. Initially that meant using OpenFlow as a centralized control point for all of a network’s routers, but that never really took off. I think it met a lot of resistance from the routing manufacturers that were concerned about how well it could scale in large provider networks. But the basic concept was one that everyone became excited about — separating software and hardware to give the customer more options, better control over their costs and the ability to optimize for their particular goals.
We embraced this disaggregated model, and our goal was to scale the number of virtual routers that can run on a single piece of equipment — a white box switch, for example. We wanted to bring the flexibility of SDN to the routing market, but without trying to put more and more CPU on white boxes, which raises their price and undercuts cost savings. Instead, we realized the easiest and least expensive way to scale processing and run multiple virtual routers on a single low-cost device would be to move the control plane to the cloud. We didn’t have to introduce new protocols or change how customers built their networks — we simply changed where the control plane ran.
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