SDN, OpenFlow to spell the end of complex ASICs

The shift toward software-defined networking based on OpenFlow will have the side effect of eliminating ASICs in routers and switches over the next decade, according to Nick McKeown, an engineering professor at Stanford University. The OpenFlow protocol is poised to shake up the traditional business model for networks, which is based on equipment using complex ASICs and proprietary code. McKeown told EE Times this new approach will enable an emerging class of merchant chips to replace protocol-specific ASICs designed by vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Juniper and others. That trend, in turn, will prompt major router and switch players to evolve into software companies. "We'll look back in 10 years, and they will be providing control plane software and apps on top of it," said McKeown. For more on the future of ASICs in network gear, see this EE Times article.