SDN Champions ONF & ON.Lab Tie the Knot

Two groups merge into single effort on SDN, promising to combine standards and open source.

October 19, 2016

3 Min Read
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.

Want to know more about carrier SDN strategies and open source? Check out our dedicated SDN content channel here on Light Reading.

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

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