April 08, 2013, 7:00 AM — Software-defined networking, a set of technologies to help networks better adapt to user needs with less manual effort, may at last be getting the common foundation it has needed for interoperability and efficient development.
Most of the major vendors working on SDN have joined in on OpenDaylight, a project being announced on Monday that will develop an open-source SDN framework. The vendors, which include Cisco Systems, VMware, Juniper Networks and Ericsson, will contribute software and engineers to the effort, according to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, which is hosting the project.
With OpenDaylight, the networking industry will take the same approach to developing its next generation of technology as the big-data sector did with Hadoop or Web browsers with WebKit, Zemlin said. It will be a vendor-neutral group that no single member can dominate and in which "the best code can win," he said. By pooling code and engineering effort to build core infrastructure software, vendors will free up their own research and development resources to build value-added products on top of it.
On an OpenDaylight conference call with media on Friday, Cisco committed itself to this model.
"Cisco plans to use OpenDaylight as the foundation of several product offerings and include aspects that might be specific to Cisco," said Colin Kincaid, the company's vice president of product management, marketing and architecture.
OpenDaylight launches with a group of backers that includes most of the major makers of network infrastructure. Cisco, Brocade, Ericsson, Citrix, Microsoft and SDN specialist Big Switch Networks make up the top-level Platinum group of sponsors. Other members include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Intel, NEC, Arista Networks, and Alcatel-Lucent's just-launched internal SDN startup, Nuage Networks.
SDN is designed to turn networks into programmable platforms instead of collections of boxes that have to be managed on their own. While virtualized servers and storage can be reconfigured and moved around quickly from a central management point, networks still require many manual changes.
SDN emerged through development of the OpenFlow protocol and the formation of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) in 2011 to standardize the technology. But since then, networking vendors have developed other SDN tools on their own, saying OpenFlow solves only some parts of the problem. OpenDaylight is a development body and will be complementary to ONF, which is a standards body, according to Zemlin. The two groups have had discussions, he said.