OpenDaylight Summit: Pick and Choose

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At the OpenDaylight (ODL) Summit, we got news about the development of its controller infrastructure. It’s important to remember several things about ODL:

  • It has a set of northbound APIs through a variety of methods such as REST. An example project is the Virtual Tenant Network, which NEC has contributed to ODL. The apps that are created to use the NB API directly deliver the value of the SDN system to end-users.
  • A set of southbound plug-ins enables interactions to data plane elements via different devices or protocols, such as Open vSwitch, or OpenFlow. This is the part that makes the system work with the real-world of devices.
  • There’s lots of infrastructure code in the middle, that is mostly hidden from end-users, but technically defines ODL’s architecture.
  • ODL isn’t a product per-se, but a set of projects under one umbrella. There are common components, of course, but many other elements are optional, due to the modular architecture. It’s possible for an end-user to download pieces of this open source project and construct their own ODL controller, but many choose to rely on a distribution that packages it for you. These create different flavors of ODL.

Distributions include Brocade’s SDN Controller, Cisco Open SDN Controller (OSC), Extreme Networks’ OneController, and Inocybe’s ODL Distribution.

Many end-users may ask what makes these commercial distributions different from being a branded version of the open source code. It’s an issue of the level of hardening, support, or QA. These distributions also provide a form of packaging where not all projects are included, but what the vendor considers a good set of capabilities that work together is. So just because you see a project in the ODL list does not mean that it will be in a distribution.

It’s not too different from contributions to the GNU/Linux world. Some companies take ODL components, help develop it, and contribute code back to the community, while others create their own editions (known as a fork).

How does this affect end-users? Being a key upstream contributor to ODL does burnish the firm’s reputation as a firm that understands the code base and can offer knowledgeable support, but since this is an open source project, it’s important to realize that the power of the community is what makes it valuable. Being a contributor is important, but hardening it is also a lot of work and they are independent.

For example, Brocade’s distribution tracks the ODL project, contributes to it (e.g., Colin Dixon is the chair of the Technical Steering Committee), QAs it, and offers long-term support. By making it a stable, commercial distribution, it is said to have found deployment at a major telecom carrier.

Cisco’s distribution is new, as it was just announced at the ODL Summit and is currently found in their DevNet website, so there’s a close tie to developers who want to use it as a platform and we’ll need to track how it evolves. Cisco has traditionally been a key contributor to the project, but has not until now, commercialized it. Extreme has chosen to combine ODL components with their own technologies to create their own offering. Inocybe emphasizes its services in a manner analogous to how Mirantis works with OpenStack.

Other firms such as HP and Red Hat are expected to offer some commercialized distributions but nothing formal has been announced.

HP, for example, has taken a multi-pronged approach to SDN. They are supporters of ODL, but also have many SDN offerings: It has a commercial Virtual Applications Networks SDN Controller (VAN) as well as contributions to the OpenStack Neutron project through components such as Distributed Virtual Routing. The work on the OpenStack project creates an SDN system for OpenStack cloud customers. Its SDN App Store supports both ODL and OpenFlow. So this is a pick-and-choose approach, based on end-user requirements.

So this means that just like OpenStack or GNU/Linux, we need to examine this as a source of technologies but end-users have a choice on how they deploy it—whether in a do-it-yourself manner, or working with a vendor who commercialized it.

My previous blog on ODL: NFV Strong is also available with ties to the NFV and carrier users.

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Topics: Networking