Why Microsoft is invested in OpenDaylight

Why Microsoft is invested in OpenDaylight

Summary: What could Microsoft possibly get out of investing in an open-source networking project such as OpenDaylight? A lot.


Santa Clara, CA: The amazing thing about the OpenDaylight open-source software-defined network (SDN) project is that the Linux Foundation got enemies such as Brocade, Cisco, and Juniper to work together. The surprising thing is that the consortium also got such non-networking powers as IBM, Red Hat, and Microsoft on board. What's that you say, "Why has Microsoft of all companies invested in an open-source, SDN project?"


Easy. It's to make data-center networking better for both its own internal use and their customers.

As a platinum member, Microsoft is paying half-a-million a year to the consortium and devoted ten full-time developers to OpenDaylight. That may be small change for Microsoft, but it's not chicken feed either. The company has already demonstrated the first release of OpenDaylight, Hydrogen, on Azure at the OpenDaylight Summit in Santa Clara, CA, 

In an interview at the show, Rajeev Nagar who oversees Microsoft's Windows Datacenter Networking & Platform team, explained, "At Microsoft we have to deliver services at scale to an enormous diverse customer base. With Azure, Xbox, and our cloud-based applications we have tens of thousands of mission-critical servers. In a large scale environment like this, agility and flexibility are critical to serve both our internal and external Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) needs. In order to do this we utilize our own technologies in a holistic approach that includes compute, storage and networking."

What OpenDaylight brings to Microsoft's data center and cloud table is that it makes the network both more robust and flexible. Microsoft, which is both on OpenDaylight's board and technical steering committee, sees "SDN as being disruptive. We all want to bring it to market so end-users can win from this. The industry is working together so that SDN's benefits will go not only to vendors but to the end-users. OpenDaylight can deliver on the SDN promise."

In particular, Nagar sees OpenDaylight helping with "Microsoft's focus on hybrid cloud deployments. Our products on the data center side, Windows server platform and system center. A full featured stack includes control, management, and orchestration for multi-tenant servers." OpenDaylight complements the network section of this stack. Specifically, OpenStacks' standard-based switch and full-featured network deployment and management tools all work cohesively to deliver SDN for private and managed service provider (MSP) cloud customers."

Looking ahead, Nagar said, "OpenDaylight can lead to a rich set of apps and services. By delivering common application programming interfaces (API)s and standard ways to manage networks this will inspire innovation."

By working together with others in an open-source environment, Nagar sees "everyone working together in a virtuous cycle in which both vendors and end-users will benefit."

Yes, that's Microsoft talking like an open-source power such as Red Hat. Coming on the heels of Microsoft joining Open Compute, Facebook's all-in-one open-source approach to the data center. It seems changing CEOs  isn't the only big change Microsoft is making in the twenty-teens.

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Topics: Networking, Data Centers, Microsoft, Open Source

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  • I know we can do our own research, but...

    ...what is OpenDaylight? A few sentences on what it is (or on what it's trying to be) would have been helpful here.
    John L. Ries
    • After a quick look at the site...

      ...the other useful things to know would be:

      1. Under what license is the software to be distributed?
      2. How do the developers intend to avoid patent encumbrances?
      John L. Ries
      • @ John L. Ries

        Ok. I will be your resident engineer.

        Here are the answers -
        #1 What is SDN?
        - Traditional tele and data communication control protocols that setup voice, data and mobile networks are more like peer to peer or actually self-organizing hop-by-hop protocols that communicate among each other and figure out a path to be used to route packets end to end. Examples of communication protocols include IPv4 routing protocols, IPv6 routing protocols, SNA routing protocols from IBM (past), IPX routing protocol from Novell etc. All of these used a particular switch or router to talk to another router which will talk to another router or set of routers and so on to figure the right path for packet forwarding from source to destination. They used switching algorithms that were run on each switch in a distributed manner and in parallel to figure the routing path decision.

        There are two decisions made by these algorithms -
        #1 What is the path to use and the algorithm used to find the path? This is called routing decision. It can also be called control decision.
        #2 How to use the path to send an incoming packet to the next router? This is called forwarding decision. It can also be called data decision.

        What SDN and its various flavors like OpenDayLight attempt to do is to separate the data forwarding decision from the control routing decision. The data decisions and the control decisions occur in a certain sequence right now with traditional switches, bridges and routers. What SDN does is separate the two decisions with a new node called the controller taking control of the control decision. While a new node called the network element will do only the data decision. The control decision in SDN terminology includes what is called as programmability of the network element.

        Only the controller makes the control decisions now while the network element just forwards the traffic to the next element until the destination is reached. And one controller can now control a larger number of data network elements simplifying the previous switch/bridge/router design where each controller had to be attached to a limited number of on chassis data engines.

        - What is Oracle's or Microsoft's interest in this?
        The controller is a pure software element which uses algorithms to figure the control decision. That is where software makers like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle come into the picture. Their interest lies in making and selling controller software on a license basis or subscription basis in the future. In the least, they can save costs in their data centers instead of buying traditional data center switches which are costly due to hardware ramp up.

        - What is the size of the market?
        Lastly, this is a brand new market and so there is scope for massive market expansion. It can be as big as $50 or $40 billion by 2020. Right now, it is probably less than $100 or $200 million in size.

        - What is OpenDayLight?
        This is an open source version of the controller/network element software. Look up license questions at https://wiki.opendaylight.org/ or www.opendaylight.org.

        Hope this helps.
    • Me too! What is it?

      I know it has to do with servers and how the work together faster. But beyond that I am guessing its a software that does this? I don't get why Microsoft bought them either?
      • Microsoft has huge data center needs for it's services,

        those data centers use a lot of hardware. Microsoft can avoid vendor lock-in and insure all of it's equipment works on their networks with software. By joining the Linux foundation (I know weird as it seems for MS to do) they can have a say in and contribute to stuff they will use in their data centers.
        • Huh??

          Since when did MS join the Linux Foundation? That would be a sign of the apocalypse, I think.
          • Read the line

            (I know weird as it seems for MS to do)
          • Microsoft contributes a fair amount of code to Linux

            Microsoft contributes a fair amount of code to Linux in order to get Linux running well on Microsoft's Azure hosting as well as HyperV. Linus has said that he's OK with the idea of Microsoft contributing source that also benefits their interests, since self-interest is one of the best engines for open source development.
          • Several years...

            they've been one of the biggest contributors to Linux for a few years now. Especially in terms of adding in HyperV support into the Kernel.

            They just don't blow their own trumpet that much.
          • Nonsense! MS just contributed a lot of HyperV code one day.

            Here are the people and organizations who contributed to the Linux 3.12 kernel:


            Can you spot Microsoft's name in this list? No? How about the 3.11 kernel instead?


            Oh dear! Maybe in the 3.10 kernel?


            Good heavens! So maybe MS's code contribution to the Linux kernel was really just a one-off event, back in 2011?

          • MS didn't contribute to the Linux 3.13 kernel either.

            At least, not significantly enough to be noticed:


            This is probably the real reason why MS doesn't "blow its trumpet".
          • But surely there's more to Linux

            than just the kernel, or doesn't that count?
          • MS contributed HyperV to the Linux kernel.

            The claim that MS is a "big contributor to Linux" stems from its donation of the Hyper V code.

            Do you have any examples of other large bodies of code that MS may or may not have contributed to the Linux ecosystem?
          • By the way, MS was *compelled* to donate Hyper V...


            "In July 2009, Microsoft submitted Hyper-V drivers to the kernel, which improve the performance of virtual Linux guest systems in a Windows hosted environment. Microsoft was forced to submit the code when it was discovered that Microsoft had incorporated a Hyper-V network driver with GPL-licensed components statically linked to closed-source binaries."

            The MS patches that went into Linux 3.0 were *all* cleaning up the Hyper V code, to prevent it getting yanked from the kernel after MS neglected it.
    • The OpenDaylight Project,

      a community-led and industry-supported open source platform to advance Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).

      Basically the OpenDaylight Project helps network designers fit all the hardware togeather with open source software, so that you don't have to worry that the new switch you bought for your data center won't work with other hardware.
  • Another Open Source coup for Microsoft

    The summary title of this article is perfectly correct.

    Microsoft gains significantly from such an innovative, advanced (Open Source) technology, especially in the brand new category of Software Defined Networks (SDN) for a measly $500.000, and not have to spend $billions on building from a non-existent or their own dysfunctional networking technology base, with added bonus of not having to give back, one iota - which is their usual stance.

    Go! Microsoft, and don't forget to tell the world that Open Daylight SDN was your "innovation", as the company' normal deceptive market speak.