OpenDaylight Project Casts Cloud Over SDN Deployments

G00252116

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Summary

The OpenDaylight Project will likely delay the adoption of enterprise software-defined networking solutions and stifle innovation from smaller, SDN-focused startups with open SDN-based applications and related capabilities.

News Analysis

Event

On 8 April 2013, The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to open-source development and technologies, announced that it will collaborate with members including Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix and IBM to form the OpenDaylight Project. The OpenDaylight Project expects to release its first code in 3Q13.

Analysis

Although widely touted as a revolutionary advance for open-source software-defined networking (SDN) initiatives, we believe the OpenDaylight Project is more likely to delay the adoption of enterprise SDN solutions and could stifle innovation for open SDN applications.

  • Vendor-based membership: Unlike the user-driven Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which also focuses on SDN and other open-source movements, the OpenDaylight Project contributors are primarily large, established vendors. Furthermore, the large variety of players in Open Daylight — all with varying potential technical contributions — ensures that progress is likely to be slow, with complex integration tasks and interoperability testing to arrive at a set of base technologies.

  • Vendor Politics: The development of OpenDaylight illustrates the worrisome trend Gartner first noted in 2011: "Expect equipment vendors to publicly support OpenFlow while many do all they can to delay standardization and ultimate adoption. Proprietary extensions that cause vendor lock-in are already appearing, and other vendors describe their solutions as 'software-defined networking' (SDN) to take advantage of the growing hype" (see "Open Network Foundation Formed: The Battle to Commoditize Network Hardware Begins" ). Many OpenDaylight participants are openly skeptical about the Project, and we expect many of the vendors are there simply to observe. We expect OpenDaylight could easily follow the path of other multivendor initiatives around complex networking standards such as the ATM Forum and the Network Interoperability Alliance in getting bogged down in vendor politics and competitive market realities. To drive open SDN standards, vendors will have to support efforts lead by the ONF and to demonstrate the development and growing ecosystem around open SDN standards, including OpenFlow and Northbound interfaces.

  • Plug-In Components: OpenDaylight includes plug ins to control existing devices, an approach that does not align with Gartner’s view of SDN and could further hinder user the migration to more strategic SDN solutions. Providing a centralized method of managing existing devices may help incumbent network vendors, but it is outside the scope of strategic SDN initiatives and will distract from the real work that needs to be done for SDN.

Recommendations

Enterprises:

  • Don’t wait for OpenDaylight solutions and be wary of any concrete deliverables coming from these efforts. Start planning discussions with vendors that are shipping commercial-ready SDN solutions.

  • Encourage operations managers to think beyond their current operational approaches and look for strategic SDN benefits. Forward-looking enterprises will benefit from open SDN solutions. However, OpenDaylight all but guarantees that delivering a commercial-ready product will be a long, drawn-out process with questionable deliverables.

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