The OpenDaylight Project picked up a big-name service provider member this week, with Comcast joining the SDN organization. Comcast also shared how it's using OpenDaylight.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is OpenDaylight's first end user member, "but in open source you don't need to be a member to participate," notes an OpenDaylight Project spokeswoman. "Quite a few" service providers have been using OpenDaylight code since launch, either directly or "through a vendor with an ODL-based solution," such as Brocade and Cisco. AT&T is using OpenDaylight as a global controller, and CableLabs is using ODL as well.
Linux Foundation's members are largely vendors, but Linux is pervasive with end users.
Comcast has been active with OpenDaylight since the beginning. "We have been testing ODL since the project launched to see where it might fit in and have been impressed by the improvements in functionality and stability with each successive release," writes Chris Luke, senior principal engineer, Comcast, and OpenDaylight Advisory Group Member, in a post on the OpenDaylight blog.
Comcast, like many other service providers, wants to reduce operational complexity on its networks. "In the near-term this involves significant improvements to network automation under what we call our Programmable Network Platform. This framework outlines a stack of behaviors and abstraction layers that software uses to interact with the network," Luke says.
Key objectives include simplifying handoffs from OSS/BSS systems, empowering engineers to rapidly develop and deploy new services, and improving operational support, Luke says.
"Longer term, we're working toward creating an architecture where the core of the network is not intimately involved in the operation of virtual networks," Luke says. To that end, Comcast is looking into technologies including segment routing and LISP, as well as virtualizing the traditional provider edge and customer premise device into an overlay system. "What that ultimately looks like we don't know yet; what we do know is that the current complexity inherent in the components we use is undesirable and we must be careful to not simply trade one convoluted system for another equally but differently convoluted system," Luke says.
Several internal Comcast workflows use OpenDaylight, with more to come. These include:
Network Intelligence Abstraction: A proof of concept involving several applications that distribute large volumes of content across the network to customers, including set-top box platforms. "These systems act like a CDN inside the network," Luke says. Comcast developed an SDN app using ODL to interface with the network, influencing "the decisions an application is making in real-time but without adding any complexity to the forwarding plane of the network itself," Luke says.
Overlay Edge Services: A proof-of-concept for implementing IPv6 at the edge of the network.
Luke says he was a founding member of the official ODL advisory group, which he joined in January. The group compares notes with the community on how ODL is being used, to help ODL users learn from each other.
Comcast is also working with partner CableLabs on the PacketCable PCMM OpenDaylight project, with a goal of developing southbound ODL plugins to manage service flows across Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) devices.
SDN holds great promise and challenges for cable providers. SDN can help eliminate video delivery silos, virtualize home networks, and move core functions to the cloud, said panelists from Comcast and other cable providers on a panel discussion at the INTX conference this month. But cable providers also need to manage the transition away from purpose-built hardware and integrated software. (See Cable Makes No Small Plans for SDN.)
The cable industry is quietly making strides on virtualization, focused mainly on incorporating open standards and developing virtual customer premises equipment. (See Cable Sweats SDN/NFV Challenges.)
Comcast is pulling up its socks and moving on following the collapsed merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC)