​Linux Foundation seeks to bring rhyme and reason to open-source networking projects

Open source is transforming networking, but there have been way too many projects with far too little coordination. The LF Networking Fund aims to get everyone on the same page.

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Open source is transforming networking. Ever since OpenFlow appeared in 2011 and showed that we could use software to improve networking, open-source software, and not hardware, has blazed the future of networking. There was only one problem. There are far, far too many open-source networking projects. The Linux Foundation, home to nine of the 10 largest open-source networking projects, has decided enough is enough. These communities have come together to form the LF Networking Fund (LFN) for cross-project collaboration.

Under the Linux Foundation's baton, popular open-source networking projects Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP), Open Platform for NFC (OPNFV), OpenDaylight, FD.io, PNDA, and Streaming Network Analytics System (SNAS) have come together to harmonize their visions for software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).

It's about time! I follow open source, networking, and where and how they intersect for a living and even I have trouble keeping up with all these projects!

These projects won't be merged into one master open-source network project. They answer too many different needs for various parts of the network stack for that to happen.

What LFN will do is provide "avenues for greater collaboration between those projects, as well as related projects and communities across the ecosystem. Therefore, we are creating a combined administrative structure, the LFN." This platform will bridge the gaps between programs to facilitate cross-project collaboration.

According to The Linux Foundation's general manager of Networking and Orchestration Arpit Joshipura, "Following the example of the Linux Foundation's Cloud Native Computing Foundation, [which brought together Kubernetes and other platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud projects] LFN will bring similar cohesion to networking communities that in many cases are already working together. Over the past five years, LFN projects have dramatically accelerated networking innovations; together, they will enable data networking advancements at an unprecedented rate for decades to come."

Under the LFN, each project will continue to operate under their existing meritocratic charters, maintain their technical independence, community affinities, release roadmaps, and web presence, while staff and financial resources are shared across member projects, via a unified governing board.

The long-term goal is for LFN to form the basis of collaboration across the network stack, from the data plane into the control plane, to orchestration, automation, end-to-end testing, and more. With 83 member organizations, it has the participation of:

  • Nine of the top 10 open source networking projects
  • Over 60 percent of global mobile subscribers enabled by participating companies
  • Most of the top 10 networking and enterprise vendors
  • Top systems integrators
  • Top cloud providers

In short, LFN has the business and developer community support it needs to make a difference.

Still, this will be like herding cats. For example, OpenDaylight and the newest member of The Linux Foundation networking groups, Juniper Network's OpenContrail, have similar plans for SDN, but different ideas on how to do it.

The hope is the LFN will bring improved cross-project synergies, faster path to adoption and communities working closer together for all the open-source network technologies.

Under the LFN structure, there will be an LF board and an Umbrella Governing Board.

These boards will communicate with the Technology Advisory Council and the Marketing Advisory Council, which runs over the projects.

We'll see how well the LFN works in practice when these open networking communities get together at the Open Networking Summit LFN developer forum from March 24 prior immediately to the Open Networking Summit North America in Los Angeles. There will be a cross-project plenary and a mix of presentation sessions and opportunities for breakout meetings/hacking in several rooms. Tracks are being programmed through the LFN project technical communities.

I'll be there, and I'm hoping to find everyone singing together in harmony rather than caterwauling in disharmony.

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