SDN Technology

ONOS & Linux Foundation Head Off War

ONOS and the Linux Foundation on Tuesday announced they're partnering on community development, heading off a potential platform war between ONOS and the Linux Foundation-backed OpenDaylight Project.

As previously reported, ON.Lab will work with Linux Foundation resources for community development, training and certification to help ONOS grow from a project led by a small group of developers who work at ON.Lab to a true open source community with worldwide support. (See Is ONOS About to Merge With OpenDaylight? .)

ONOS has great software and projects with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Internet2 and more. But code isn't enough for a thriving open source project. "For any open source project, it is important to create a vibrant and sustainable developer community," On.Lab executive director Guru Parulkar, tells Light Reading. That's where the Linux Foundation comes in.


The Linux Foundation will bring the same resources to bear on ONOS that it has used to spread Linux and other open source projects. The organization provides Linux introductory courses for 400,000 students, as well as certification to allow employers to make informed decisions when hiring open source developers and staff.

"That is what the networking sector needs to make SDN and NFV a reality today," Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin tells Light Reading. "There simply aren't enough developers to create this technology and be able to use it at large scale. We have a true human resources issue."

The Linux Foundation also has experience building and managing communities, including developer events and meetups, hackathons, group meetings and providing collaborative tools that work at scale, Zemlin says.

ONOS will become a collaborative project of the Linux Foundation, continuing to be led by ON.Lab, similar to the way CloudFoundry is structured, Zemlin says.

And OpenDaylight will also continue as an independent project, collaborating with the Linux Foundation.

Neela Jacques, OpenDaylight Project executive director, tells Light Reading he welcomes the decision. Having the two projects operate separately, but within the Linux Foundation, allows each group to focus on its own goals while sharing resources. "I hope it moves us toward greater collaboration and higher synergies," Jacques says.

OpenDaylight and ONOS relationships have been cordial on the surface, but behind the scenes the two communities have been critical of each other's approach.

The two communities appear to be operating at cross-purposes, but looked at another way their approaches are complementary. OpenDaylight is building a general-purpose SDN operating system to work with legacy networks, new proprietary networks and white box networks, for all network operators -- both carriers and enterprises. OpenDaylight is vendor-driven, at least for now, though it also has strong network operator voices.

ONOS, on the other hand, is building a network operating system for high-availability, high performance, highly scalable, greenfield networks for carriers, built on white box switches. ONOS is backed predominantly by carriers.

I've seen this kind of thing before. At the beginning of my career in tech journalism, I covered the emerging business of UNIX in enterprise computing, and that period has many parallels to covering New IP, SDN and NFV network for comms today.

Back around 1990, two not-for-profits were fighting for control of the UNIX standard: The first was Unix International, backed by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Sun Microsystems Inc. . The other was the Open Software Foundation, backed by Digital Equipment Corp., Apollo Computer, HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM and more. And there weren't just those two variants, or "flavors," of UNIX; each vendor had its own variety.

While the companies maneuvered for position, making much out of small differences in products, they alienated developers and enterprise users with their lack of standards. Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) -- and later Linux -- came in and swept up the market. Sun, Digital Equipment, Apollo and other companies that led both groups are no longer in business.

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The only people who win in a platform war are the not-for-profit organizations supporting each platform -- the Unix Internationals and OSFs, or their equivalents.

Users lose because they have a confusing array of choices -- choices with no more real differentiation than different kinds of toothpaste in the supermarket. Developers lose because they have to waste time supporting APIs for multiple software implementations, rather than having their coders do useful work. And the vendors eventually lose too, as users as users flee to platforms that involve less hassle.

Reconciliation between OpenDaylight and ONOS is by no means assured. There's some ongoing bad feelings between them. But the long-term survival of both platforms -- and maybe open source SDN in general -- depends on their working together to patch things up.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

Mitch Wagner 10/13/2015 | 3:34:23 PM
Other winners Tech journalists win platform wars too. I wrote a million words of articles about UNIX International vs. ONF. 

But vendors, customers, and softare developers? They lose. 
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