Daylight Finally Breaks Through the Clouds
“To my surprise and my delight…the clouds burst to show daylight” - Coldplay
This past month, a lot of people have been asking me to comment on the rumors swirling around a possible IBM open source initiative for software-defined networking (SDN) called Daylight. And I mean a LOT of people, from the audience at the OFC/NFOEC conference, to the Wall Street banks who attended my talk at the Open Network Exchange in Manhattan, to my fellow networking engineers who participated in the online roundtable from the MPLS/Ethernet World Congress. Since I usually enjoy a good technical discussion, it’s been more than a bit frustrating that I couldn’t respond to these rumors directly before now. Waiting for the official announcement of this initiative was made even harder when I read some of the preliminary online speculation about Daylight that was either misinformed, misguided, or just plain wrong.
In any case, it was a tremendous relief for me when The Linux Foundation (the industry’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to open source development) announced OpenDaylight this morning. So for everyone who’s been waiting along with me, let’s take this opportunity to clear the air about what OpenDaylight actually means for the data networking industry.
As I mentioned in my recent tutorial at OFC/NFOEC, major industry trends such as warehouse scale data centers, big data analytics, and cloud computing in the enterprise are driving companies to revisit their data center network designs. SDN has the potential to lower capital and operating expenses, increase efficiencies, and provide faster time to value in this rapidly changing environment. But in order to fully realize the potential value of SDN, as quickly as possible, we need to go beyond the product line of any one networking company. We need to create a development community that encourages rapid innovation from a broad range of stake holders serving a common goal. In short, we need to do for networking what Linux did for server operating systems.
OpenDaylight is an open source framework intended to accelerate adoption of Software Defined Networking and to create an open, transparent approach to SDN development. Just as the Linux community created a viable open source operating system, which matured until it was deployed on enterprise-class systems and mainframes, OpenDaylight will create programmable SDN abstractions for many different types of data networks. Much of the initial code will be contributed and supported by industry leading companies who have signed up as either Platinum or Gold members of the OpenDaylight project. I feel this is one of the strongest features of the project; OpenDaylight is not owned by any one company, although many industry leaders have committed both developers and funding to the effort. Besides IBM, founding members include BigSwitch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, Juniper, Microsoft, NEC, Red Hat, and VMWare; other contributors include Arista, Fujitsu, Alcatel-Lucent, Intel, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Nuage, and Plumgrid. I’ve been working with many other IBMers for the past few months, talking with these companies and crafting a common perspective for the SDN open source community. You’ll note that a number of these companies had previously publicly endorsed IBM’s point of view regarding open networking standards (the Open Datacenter Interoperable Network, or ODIN). One of the five initial ODIN volumes deals with SDN and its implications for the data center; by definition, supporting OpenDaylight means supporting open networking standards, so it’s nice to see other companies joining this commitment to interoperable SDN networks.
This project is good news for anyone who’s been trying to implement the recent Gartner Group study, which effectively said that corporations who didn’t pursue a multi-vendor networking strategy were paying 15-25% more than necessary for their network, and thus failing to meet their fiduciary responsibilities. But SDN is about much more than just reducing your network operating expenses; it’s also a driving force for new applications and potentially new revenue streams. As I’ve said in my blog on many occasions, open standards and open source software are an excellent way to foster innovation. By supporting OpenFlow and other standards, OpenDaylight allows a global development community to innovate at the speed of software, just as we’ve seen for smart phones or tablet computers.
The first code from the OpenDaylight Project is expected to be available in 3Q this year, and will include an open controller, virtual overlay network, protocol plug-ins, and switch device enhancements. The code is independent of the network operating system, and is governed by best practices such as the Eclipse Public License (EPL) commonly used for Java. Just as in any open source community, companies are free to participate based on the merit of their contributions. For example, IBM plans to contribute an open source version of its Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet (DOVE) technology, which has been working its way through the IETF standards bodies for some time now. DOVE software runs on top of the existing network hardware infrastructure and virtualizes layer 2 and 3 network properties. This makes it possible to set up, manage, and scale virtual networks much faster than ever before. Some possible applications of DOVE include merging multiple data networks together (for example, when one company acquires another) or allowing highly virtualized servers to connect with merchant silicon switches (by abstracting the IP and MAC address tables).
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating…it's a very cool time to be a networking engineer. I’m excited by the potential of OpenDaylight for cloud computing and other applications, and I’m looking forward to working with the global development community on bringing all the benefits of Linux and server virtualization to the data center network.
Still not sure how you feel about open source networking? Now that I can talk freely about OpenDaylight, drop me a line on Twitter @Dr_Casimer