Most data networks could be faster, more energy efficient, and more secure. But network hardware—switches, routers, and other devices—is essentially locked down, meaning network operators can't change the way they function. Software called OpenFlow, developed at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, has opened some network hardware, allowing researchers to reprogram devices to perform new tricks.
Now 23 companies, including Google, Facebook, Cisco, and Verizon, have formed the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) with the intention of making open and programmable networks mainstream. The foundation aims to put OpenFlow and similar software into more hardware, establish standards that let different devices communicate, and let programmers write software for networks as they would for computers or smart phones.