Light Reading

Big Switch Pulls Back from OpenDaylight

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto

Big Switch is drastically shrinking its support for the OpenDaylight consortium, potentially setting up a battle between certain incumbent vendors, led by Cisco, and what Big Switch describes as the OpenFlow protocol's true believers.

The company is planning to announce the move Wednesday morning on its blog.

Big Switch will still technically be involved as a silver-level member of OpenDaylight, but it's ending its status as a platinum member and quitting the consortium's steering committee.

By being a silver member, rather than dropping out completely, Big Switch can keep an eye on the proceedings. Many of the big vendors involved in OpenDaylight are sitting at just the silver level -- particularly Broadcom, HP and Intel.

For Big Switch, the last straw was the consortium's choice of controller for software-defined networking (SDN).

"SDN, and this is the Open Networking Foundation definition, is about creating the common abstraction between the data plane and the controller -- not creating abstractions for other abstractions," says Jason Matlof, Big Switch's vice president of marketing. "It's not worth dropping ourselves back a year or two in development."

Here's what he's talking about. Big Switch's controller and the Cisco ONE Controller were both submitted as options, and OpenDaylight has chosen to go with a mix of the two, an option called the Dixon-Erickson Proposal. Big Switch is OK with that, but the company doesn't like that the starting point for the OpenDaylight controller will be the Cisco service abstraction layer (SAL), which is an abstraction of OpenFlow -- that's what Matlof means by "abstractions for other abstractions."

Big Switch wanted the starting point to be something more neutral. The result, Matlof says, is that OpenDaylight is "doing a controller that's two years behind where we are today."

He says Big Switch will go back to focusing on promoting OpenFlow fabrics and networks based on generic-hardware switches.

The latter camp got a major vote of support in May, at Interop in Las Vegas, the Open Compute Project announced it would take on networking. That is, there's now an open-source group intent on introducing generic hardware into the Ethernet switching world. (See Open Compute Project Takes On Networking.)

Big Switch is trying to play up its move as a protest rooted not in politics but in technology.

"Customers are asking for all this, and we just can't be driven by the beast that is ODL [OpenDaylight]. It's just a time suck," Matlof says.

In a prepared statement midday Wednesday, the OpenDaylight group said "the facts do not support" the "David vs. Goliath" attitude Big Switch is rocking:

    It's more accurate to say this is open source vs. the goals of a single, for-profit startup. In this case the developer community combined technology from multiple sources (including BSN), which the company obviously didn't like. Open source is based on compromise and working together. Sometimes strong motivations and investor goals can get in the way of that. In the spirit of open source, we fully expect BSN to honor its commitments to this project. We also hope BSN will continue to engage in the community discussions as more eyes on code and more suggestions and alternative approaches in the long run produce the strongest code.

    We've said many times before that the beauty of the open source software development model is the best code always wins -- we never said one company had the best, entire codebase.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
6/6/2013 | 5:43:30 AM
re: Big Switch Pulls Back from OpenDaylight
This was predictable from the start. Good move by Big Switch. I predict a mass ODL exodus over the next few months. Cisco successfully confused the market with ODL (as a defensive maneuver to SDN/Openflow) but the market will quickly recover in favor of openness (which always wins).
Melissa Logan
Melissa Logan,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/5/2013 | 4:58:07 PM
re: Big Switch Pulls Back from OpenDaylight
Hey, saw this story and thought folks might be interested in a blog by our Technical Steering Committee chair that talks about OpenDaylight's base architecture and decision-making process:

If you're a developer and interested in participating, please join a virtual Hackfest taking place June 6-7 from 9:30am-5pm PT on the #OpenDaylight IRC channel on FreeNode.
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