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EETE MAY 2013

Software defined networks snare open source spotlight By Rick Merritt Eighten mainly large communications and software companies have created the Open Daylight Project in the Linux Foundation to develop open source code for software-defined networks (SDNs). The group will develop a wide range of software including an SDN controller and an applications interface for it with the first elements slated for release this fall. SDN aspires to ease the job of programming large networks by abstracting details of network functions today expressed in many complex protocols and ASICs. Operators will then control network functions using applications and high-level programming languages running mainly on Linux servers. The group aims to deliver a full stack of SDN software including north- and southbound OpenFlow APIs. The 11 founders consist mainly of established companies for which the move to SDN is a potentially disruptive influence. The founders are Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco Systems, Citrix, Ericsson, IBM, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Red Hat and VMware. Silver-tier members consist of Arista Networks, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Intel, Nuage Networks (the new SDN unit of Alcatel-Lucent) and PlumGrid. The group promises to build both north- and southbound application programming interfaces (APIs) for its SDN controller. It also plans to develop open source code for “a virtual overlay network, protocol plug-ins and switch device enhancements,” according to its press statement. Big Switch and Cisco separately will propose contributing at least some code from their SDN controllers to the project. IBM will submit an open-source version of its Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet (DOVE) technology as its initial contribution. Arista, Brocade, Citrix and Ericsson are among other participants saying they will contribute code to the effort. A technical steering committee will evaluate all the contributions, selecting what will become part of Open Daylight releases. Impact, outlook for Open Daylight The group plans to support OpenFlow and has “had discussions” with the Open Networking Foundation that oversees the protocol, seen as a key foundation of SDN. However, it’s not clear to what extent Open Daylight will complement or compete with the ONF, which has a full suite of its own technical working groups on APIs and other topics. A battle for the control of SDN’s future may emerge between the ONF and Open Daylight, especially around APIs for Open- Flow. In addition to having several technical working groups of its own, ONF runs the largest annual SDN event, the Open Network Summit. The Open DayLight code will be licensed under the Eclipse Public License, the same approach used for Java-based projects. The Linux Foundation said the project will be run like other open-source collaborations. The group’s software will not necessarily be confined to run on Linux but could support other operating systems, too. Open Daylight appears to be an attempt by large established comms and software companies to counterattack a rising group of mainly startup companies who were among the first to roll out SDN products. However two of the most high-profile startups are also involved in the effort, Big Switch and Nicira, acquired last year by VMWare for more than a billion dollars. The latest move harkens back to the early days of Unix in computing as well as more recent open-source efforts in server virtualization such as OpenStack. As with Linux, free opensource SDN code could gain market dominance, disrupting early players with proprietary software. However it’s still early days for SDN with lively debates about exactly what the term means and how its benefits should be delivered in products. In addition, the complexity and proprietary nature of today’s networks prevents any quick or easy roads to SDN. Indeed, SDN is often described as virtualization for the network, just as VMWare, Citrix, Microsoft and others now provide virtualization for servers. However today’s networks are much more complex than servers with dramatic variations among competing vendors expressed in silicon and low-level software protocols. 8 Electronic Engineering Times Europe May 2013 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE MAY 2013
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