Industry Bodies/Groups

SDN Champions ONF & ON.Lab Tie the Knot

SDN industry bodies ON.Lab and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) formally announced their merger today, ending weeks of speculation as to the future of the latter. Promising to combine the best of the standards and open source processes, the new organization is keeping the cooler name -- ONF -- but clearly it's the ON.Lab team that's in charge. (See ONF, ON.Labs to Merge.)

That starts with Guru Parulkar, founder and executive director of ON.Lab and the new Open Networking Foundation top dog. As he tells Light Reading in an interview, the joint operation of the two groups starts immediately, in Menlo Park where both are based, but the legal combination of the two non-profit organizations could take almost a year.

Larry Peterson, chief architect at ON.Lab, and Bill Snow, ON.Lab's vice president of engineering, will jointly lead the new group's software development. Rick Bauer, who stepped in as interim ONF chief when long-time executive director Dan Pitt departed, becomes ONF's head of standards.

The two independent open source projects created by ON.Lab -- ONOS (Open Network Operating System) and CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) -- will continue to operate separately, led by the Linux Foundation and aren't affected by this change.

ONF has been a software-defined networking (SDN) pioneer and, as developer of the OpenFlow architecture, was its earliest and strongest proponent. But it seemed to take a back seat to other open source efforts -- including ON.Lab, OpenDaylight and OPNFV -- in recent months. Pitt's quiet departure seemed to underscore the group's general direction.

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Parulkar says the new ONF will not abandon the standards-making process for an open source approach but will try to combine the two in an intelligent way, using software-defined standards that reflect the consensus of the developer community, for the applications programming interfaces and more.

"Open source is definitely gaining influence," he notes. The traditional standards process is now seen as way too slow, while failing to always produce systems are easily implemented, truly vendor independent and interoperable. Those are among the reasons open source is taking hold as telecom tries to move faster in adopting virtualization, Parulkar says.

"But there are so many open source components now that if you want to build an end-to-end system or a complete system, you need end-to-end compatibility among these different platforms and that requires a certain amount of standards, at least for APIs or interfaces," he says. "So yes, open source has been gaining a lot of influence but it does not eliminate the need for standards."

The ONF will be a place where the industry can choose what needs to be standardized, in software, and make that happen, and in the process, speed up SDN adoption, he says.

Its ecosystem will be among the largest in the industry with a combined 150 companies. Influential service providers including AT&T, Google, NTT Communications, SK Telecom and Verizon will be represented on the interim board, which will be in charge through the end of 2017. A new board will be announced early next year.

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

Pull_Request 10/20/2016 | 11:46:03 PM
Re: End of an era The challenge for the "new" project will be the same as the one for the old ones. Namely building a robust community.  The governance of a project is generally an indicator of an open source project's success. So far I see no change in the governance that has kept ONOS in the backwaters of SDN controllers (relative to ODL). The fact that OPNFV had to fork ONOS to get it's changes in is telling. the new ONS would do well to loosen it's governance and be more inclusive.
Carol Wilson 10/19/2016 | 3:04:37 PM
Re: End of an era Well we can debate "cool" where names are concerned but I have a personal preference for something clean and not things that involve random caps and punctuation.

The "new" ONF is still very much focused on SDN, and advancing the cause of faster deployment through defining standards, where they are needed - such as at points of interconnection - through an open source process. 

There is still a lot of work to be done around OpenFlow, right? That is still on the agenda. 
Mitch Wagner 10/19/2016 | 2:42:52 PM
End of an era This is the end of an era. ONF was a pioneer in SDN, which is something that's gone from controversial to table stakes in a few short years.

I'm unclear on what the new ONF's mission will be. What, if anything, will it build?

Carol, I must disagree with you on one point: ON.Lab is a very cool name. 
GregW333 10/19/2016 | 10:36:31 AM
Open Source and Standards are Synergistic Where did the narrative that Open Source and Standards are mutually exclusive begin?  Open Source needs standards to implement.  For Vendors: Open source implementations of standards should save them R&D resources that they can re-invest in innovation to benefit their SP customer
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