OpenDaylight is building on our work, SDN group's director says

The Open Networking Foundation intended its OpenFlow protocol to be built upon, its executive director said

The OpenDaylight Project may have won attention last week with a founding list of vendors including Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, but it's standing on the shoulders of others, according to the head of the Open Networking Foundation.

OpenDaylight will be building part of its planned framework for software-defined networking on the OpenFlow protocol that ONF introduced in 2011, ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt said on Tuesday at the Open Networking Summit. The standing-room-only conference is ONF's annual gathering to discuss SDN (software-defined networking), which is intended to place the control of networks in software apart from dedicated hardware.

"It's sort of an evolution of what we were doing," Pitt said in answer to an audience member's question at the conference in Santa Clara, California. "I don't think you would be able to start this ... OpenDaylight consortium if you didn't have a foundation to build upon."

Specifically, OpenDaylight's planned API (application programming interface) for communication between its controller software and network devices will be built on OpenFlow, Pitt said. That's despite the fact that ONF is not a member of OpenDaylight, which includes a long list of major IT and networking vendors including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Ericsson.

Despite broad agreement on SDN's potential, building a whole new foundation for networking is proving to be a complicated dance among vendors, academic projects and standards bodies.

OpenDaylight plans to develop an entire open-source framework for SDN, of which the so-called "southbound API" between controller and network devices would be just one part. The project is being hosted by the Linux Foundation, and the consortium says it is committed to openness, with membership open to any individual or company. OpenDaylight said it had had discussions with ONF.

Last week, ONF, which includes Google, Facebook, Verizon and Deutsche Telekom among its members, responded cautiously to OpenDaylight's launch.

"As a voice of the user community, ONF supports those initiatives that are true to our guiding principles by being based on multi-vendor standards and open to broad, merit-based, multi-vendor input. We are eager to see how this and other initiatives measure up to these principles and meet the needs of users," the group said in a statement.

At least one prominent member of ONF, open software-based networking vendor Big Switch Networks, told Network World it was concerned about Cisco's influence on OpenDaylight.

"We are concerned that Cisco will politicize the selection process ... and that they will begin deprecating the code to move it more toward the proprietary model that serves them and no one else, most especially customers," the company said. Big Switch is also a member of OpenDaylight.

On Tuesday, Pitt didn't seem offended that the new consortium was copying off ONF's homework. He said that's the purpose of OpenFlow, an open-source protocol he called a "substrate," invoking Silicon Valley's history of silicon and other chip manufacturing.

"The substrate allows you to build things like open-source software, other kinds of software to experiment with what makes sense, what gives you good interfaces and services for users."

Code that members contribute to OpenDaylight will be chosen solely on the basis of merit, said Inder Gopal, vice president for networking development at IBM.

"The provenance of the code doesn't matter," Gopal said in a presentation on OpenDaylight at the conference. "Once it becomes Daylight, it's Daylight code."

In answer to another question at the standing-room-only conference, ONF's Pitt said open-source software isn't the same as a standard. If one party controls the software, it may let others use and adapt the code but make unilateral changes that leave them hanging.

"If it's open, but not standard, it might be controlled by a single party," Pitt said. "Something that's standard means it's got broad community and industry agreement on what it is and on how it's used."

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is

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