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

  • OmarSultan


    Anytime you can work a good pun into a blog title deserves some recognition.:) Beyond that, there are a couple of points I want to further explore. In terms of disclosure, I work for Cisco and am also lead the Marketing Working Group for OpenDaylight, so for the sake of clarity, let me separate the two points:

    The question of customer participation is an critical one. Its important to note a couple of things about the structure of the Project. First, its an open organization, so anyone, including end users can become a member at any level, so there is nothing that prevents anyone from joining. Second, any end user (really any one) can contribute code, propose a project, lead a project and go so far as to be elevated to the Technical Steering Committee without being a member–by the same token, anyone can use the OpenDaylight code without being a member. That being said, the current membership is really a artifact of bootstrapping the Project. We are exploring ways to more formally incorporate the “voice of the customer” other than by becoming a formal member (which involves paying/committing FTEs, which does not really make sense to me), so stay tuned for more details as the Board figures things out.

    Cisco and OpenFlow:
    I know there are quotes bouncing around calling into question Cisco’s commitment to OpenFlow, but salacious quotes aside, the simple fact is that Cisco is bringing OpenFlow to market across multiple billion dollar platforms. We will see OpenFlow support start to ship in the next couple of months. Additionally, our commercial SDN controller (built on OpenDaylight) will support OpenFlow on day 1. Our perspective is that there are multiple methods to deliver programmability, but that should not be interpreted as having a weak role for OpenFlow in our overall strategy.


    Omar (@omarsultan)