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ONF Aims to Be Open-Source SDN Glue

Carol Wilson
2/18/2015
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The Open Networking Foundation today is launching a new portal/website and open source development community to get more deeply involved in software development as part of its efforts to speed commercial deployment of open SDN. Part of this new effort involves another new group -- the ONF's Software Leadership Council -- but overall it is aimed at creating a kind of open source glue that will pull together the software developed by ONF and other open source groups into a common infrastructure into which other software pieces fit, ONF officials tell Light Reading. (See ONF Launches Open Source Community.)

"What we are announcing is the opening of a portal and the building of a community for open SDN that complements the work done by open source consortia, hardware and software-based, that fills in some gaps and gives a broader place of community for major operators to come out with innovative solutions of their own and put them in a common place where people can find them," says Dan Pitt, Open Networking Foundation executive director.

The new SLC includes veterans from the software and networking industry led by Infoblox Inc. CTO Stuart Bailey as its chair. "We have assembled the team that will look now at community building outside just the networking industry," he says. "That includes folks such as Jono Bacon, who helped build Ubuntu, and Jasson Casey from Flowgrammable, who has done an amazing job of developing systems that helped educate whole generations of folks" in addition to experts from Cisco, VMWare and BigSwitch Networks. "We are moving into the mainstream."

That means getting the ONF more deeply engaged in the software development process itself, Bailey says.

"From the SLC's standpoint," Bailey says, "the ONF is moving to be deeply involved with real software artifacts that will accelerate collaboration -- it will be software developers working with software artifacts to move the state of the art forward. We haven't had that kind of relationship because ONF has not been as deeply involved with actual software artifacts."


Zoom in on carrier SDN strategies in our SDN channel here on Light Reading.

ONF has created open source software in the past but Pitts admits these sat in a repository because there was no community built around them. The new open source efforts by ONF are intended to create that community that works not only with ONF's own open source projects but also others.

"Our goal is never to duplicate what somebody else is doing, to leverage what they do and to help them by given them a larger context by which their work can be part of a broader ecosystem," Pitt says. He cites several specific groups, such as OpenDaylight, ON.Lab , Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. and the Open Compute Project.

Taking an open source approach to software remains critical to allowing the market to agree on technical solutions to common problems ahead of the more time-consuming standards process, Pitt notes. But operators of all sizes, both small and large, need to have access to open source solutions that tackle the common, undifferentiated networking issues so they can then create their own more personalized approaches to new services.

"What we are going to see over the next couple of years is solutions that address a long-tail of un-met user needs that are smaller markets, more individualized but that can be economically addressed in software," he says. "We want to make those opportunities available by getting the common infrastructure pieces in place that you can then build onto."

Pitts distinguishes the ONF's new initiative and the SLC from other groups that have sprung up within the last 12 months by saying his organization isn't expecting network operators to devote additional staff and resource time to supporting this effort. Instead the ONF is providing resources and helping knit together efforts already underway that are consuming operator resources.

"There is an opportunity for us to help the operators to move forward without having to make a huge investment themselves," he says. "We are trying a different model where it's a combination of community contributions and stuff we can seed with our own efforts. We think it will be an efficient model for the network and will serve operators well."

The ONF has a strong working relationship with many of these other groups and will continue to build on that including through the many companies that share membership.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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