Too Many Hammers

A Pox* On (Too Many) SDN Standards

Too Many HammersWhat if you created a standards group that everybody wanted to participate in? I’m not saying that OpenDaylight Project represents all — or even the majority — of SDN stakeholders, but its current lineup of industry heavyweights will probably do for now. Announced on April 8, it is intended to ‘accelerate adoption, foster new innovation and create a more open and transparent approach to software-defined networking.’

Created by the nonprofit Linux Foundation, OpenDaylight’s Platinum and Gold members consist of Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, IBM, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Red Hat, and VMware. They will donate software and engineering resources for this open source framework and help to define the future of an open SDN platform. The first code is expected to be released next quarter and expected donations and projects include an open controller, a virtual overlay network, protocol plug-ins, and switch device enhancements.

Other members as of launch are Arista Networks, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Intel, Nuage Networks, and PLUMgrid. This follows Dell’s recent announcement it was going to create an Object Management Group (OMG) committee on SDN, and 10 months after Cisco outlined its SDN-plus strategy, Open Network Environment (ONE),.

According to Enterprise Strategy Group Senior Analyst John Mazur, this is a positive development. “A plethora of competing vendors’ SDN marketing hype has been muddying the waters on defining SDN, its vision, roadmap, and deployment timescale, but today that changes.”

“The service provider drove Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is doing a commendable job of advancing the principles, promise, and benefits of SDN,” writes Mazur, “but the unexpected tsunami of interest in SDN, although welcomed, has led to an SDN bubble destined to pop. Allowing the market to decide on the best SDN solution isn’t necessarily the most expeditious or cost-effective approach. Collaborative central planning within the SDN ecosystem could yield better results.”

Not everyone is prepared to sit around the OpenDaylight campfire, guzzle the vendor Kool-aid and sing Kumbaya just yet. There are a number of technical and political questions around the consortium, including the conspicuous absence of the user-driven Open Networking Foundation (ONF), and Cisco’s downplay — and even dismissal — of the role of OpenFlow and the decoupling of control and data planes in SDNs.

“We’re skeptical of this effort for several reasons,” says Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa. “Unlike the ONF, this effort is controlled by large vendors and has cut out the voice of the consumer. In private conversations with a number of vendors, they have expressed the same concerns. They may be members, but clearly aren’t supportive.”

Bottom line is that vendor-led standards groups face significant challenges about playing nice with others, so results, not press releases, will determine how effective OpenDaylight will be. Still, it could be a major step forward in bringing some focus to SDN, and making it easier for end-users to jump on the SDN bandwagon.

*POX is an open source development platform for Python-based SDN control applications, such as OpenFlow SDN controllers.

Image credit: Velo Steve (flickr) – CC-BY-SA

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