|Topic:||Vendors in networking shift towards open source|
As OpenDaylight’s executive director, Nicolas “Neela” Jacques works with the OpenDaylight [non-profit] community to advance SDN and NFV with a developer-driven open source platform for products and technologies that expand the intelligence, programmability and performance of network infrastructures. He oversees and provides guidance for all aspects of the project, from governance and technology to community and marketing. Formerly at VMware, Jacques was part of the core team that took virtualization from a niche development and testing product to ubiquitous use. He developed and took to market the company’s software-defined data center vision and strategy including VMware’s vCloud Suite. Jacques also founded and launched VMware’s cloud computing initiative in 2007. Prior to VMware, Jacques was a consultant with Bain & Company with a focus on technology and new product introductions.
The OpenDaylight Project is a collaborative open source project that aims to accelerate adoption of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) for a more transparent approach that fosters new innovation and reduces risk. Founded by industry leaders and open to all, the OpenDaylight community is developing a common, open SDN framework consisting of code and blueprints. Get involved: www.opendaylight.org.
OpenDaylight is a Collaborative Project at The Linux Foundation. Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects are independently funded software projects that harness the power of collaborative development to fuel innovation across industries and ecosystems.
The IT industry has rallied around the idea that Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) as critical building blocks for next-generation carrier services and networks, but the rate of adoption is slow. Why is this? Everyone agrees that we want a fully automated IT and some level of centralization for network intelligence, but we don’t have agreement how this is going to be done.
There are more than 40 SDN controllers available on the market, resulting in duplication and fragmentation of technologies. We don’t need 40 SDN controllers in the world. They all do pretty much the same thing and very few of them work together. Customers like the vision of SDN, but they don’t want to risk their networks for a proprietary controller that may limit where the real value is — the network services, the hardware and the management layer.
So how are we going to overcome this? One option is that we could all pick a winner. Having one vendor dominate the database, network equipment and virtualization industry has had some benefits. Ecosystems have developed around Oracle, Cisco and VMware, but this has also had some significant drawbacks from the standpoint of customer lock-in, barriers to new innovation and interoperability with best-of-breed solutions.
The other option is to create a neutral playing field. This is where I believe the future of networking is going. We need something that isn’t the perfect solution to every possible problem someone can think of, but a platform that anyone can build upon and innovate on top of. Here’s where open source has a valuable role to play. If customers want to adopt SDN but don’t want to be locked into one vendor’s vision, open source provides the flexibility and freedom of choice. It can support many models from distributions of the open source project to complete vendor-supported solutions built upon some or all of the platform. It allows SDN to be integrated within existing infrastructures and custom-built solutions around the technology. But ‘open’ is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. What does it really mean?
First, let’s talk about what ‘open’ is NOT. Open is not publishing an API, and it’s not submitting your proprietary way of doing things to a standards body. These things aren’t enough. Open isn’t about fundamentally changing the equation for the end user. What end users are looking for is the ability to select technology from multiple vendors and have them work together. They want the ability to have independence from a vendor-driven solution and switch non-disruptively when or if that vendor chooses to go in a different direction with its product roadmap.
Open represents a real set of attributes that truly matter to end users. It’s something everyone can see, everyone can access, the community can change and anyone can build on. It’s not easy, it’s hard. Open source works when anyone can change or influence the proposal of work. Good open source is truly open. How do you know good open source? Look at the community. If there is diversity, meritocracy and a high level of activity, it’s probably ‘open’. Linux and OpenStack make the grade. Cloud Foundry is getting there.
That’s why OpenDaylight was created, to create that neutral playing field the industry so desperately needs. By creating an open codebase for SDN and NFV, OpenDaylight is a vehicle for vendors to build their unique products, service and support offerings on top of a common, core set of technologies. This ultimately benefits end users who want interoperability and to avoid vendor lock-in. As a non profit project, OpenDaylight has no profit motive — we’re a community of developers uniting competitors to work collaboratively on networking’s toughest challenge. We’re internalizing the key debates within the industry and using real code as the primary means for agreement. The industry is rallying around OpenDaylight because it delivers all the aspects of a good open source SDN project with a lot of momentum around it.
In less than 15 months since it was formed, OpenDaylight is becoming the de facto standard for SDN. With dozens of companies and more than 200 developers making up the community, OpenDaylight’s rate of innovation and code creation for open SDN is driving broad acceptance. More and more we’re seeing proof that the industry is evolving from building SDN solutions based on their own proprietary technology to solutions with an open core like OpenDaylight.
Cisco, IBM and optical equipment leader Ciena were early to see the value of building on top of OpenDaylight. Inocybe has released a commercial distribution of OpenDaylight’s first software release, Hydrogen, while ConteXtream is leveraging OpenDaylight within their service provider-focused solution. Extreme Networks is starting to market what it calls “the first hardened implementation of OpenDaylight’s controller available today.” OpenDaylight’s ability to easily integrate with other solutions — like OpenStack cloud architectures — has been appealing to companies like Oracle who are using OpenDaylight in their immediate product roadmap. Ericsson and HP have also expressed plans to use OpenDaylight code base in its products.
The fact that so many companies are actively working on embedding OpenDaylight within their solutions is very promising for end users. It means that there is greater interoperability across vendor networks and therefore reduced vendor lock-in. Customers now have the freedom to choose between a single solution or a vendor-driven technology.
But where do standards fit in? Aren’t standards ‘open’? Generally yes, but not always. If someone shows up within a standards body and gets their tech rubber-stamped, that’s not open. A standard is open if others can and do challenge parts of it, make suggestions, make it better and it becomes something that’s broadly embraced. Many open source projects implement open standards. Standards provide a means of consistent and fundamentally agreed-upon protocols that can be easily adopted into open source projects to make for a truly open solution.
Like open source, standards help fuel compatibility and interoperability. But open source ultimately gives users more control and the value of faster time-to-market. Open source also gives users the freedom to test and experience a solution while planning their migration strategy. For the problems facing the IT industry right now, standards alone are not enough. Standards are great for simple systems, but work poorly for complex systems like we have in networking.
So what should end users choose? Is more open always better? It depends on strategy, requirements and skill sets. There are lots of reasons customers might value open but lots of good reasons to also buy proprietary software. OpenDaylight is proof that the IT industry is seeing a shift in software models — to what I call ‘Open Plus’.
Open Plus is when proprietary software is built on top open source and/or open standards. In many cases end users here can experience the best of both worlds – the performance from a highly tuned, controlled piece of software, but the ability to migrate to another member of the ecosystem if technical requirements change. The vendors leveraging the OpenDaylight project for such solutions are great examples of this.
The industry is at a critical turning point that will set the stage for the next 20-30 years of networking. It’s time for vendors to unite around a common SDN platform so that we rid ourselves of fragmentation and confusion and advance networks forward. I see a world where customers have a great range of technologies, built around a range of valid models, but that are all based on one common code base.