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OpenDaylight: Open-source SDN is growing fast

With OpenDaylight software-defined networking, rivals and users are united by open source to create software-defined networking for everyone. Believe it or not, the group's already made great progress and more is in store.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When OpenDaylight first appeared, it was assumed by naysayers that this open-source, software-defined network (SDN) project would prove to be little more than a cheering section for Cisco's SDN take. But that isn't how it's worked out.

Many major companies are already supporting OpenDaylight SDN and more will be joining shortly.

OpenDaylight is meant to define a common industry-supported framework for SDN. The group appears to be well on its way. When OpenDaylight was first proposed, Inder Gopal, IBM's Vice President for Networking Development, said that the project should be judged by its actions not its words in two years. And that, "We will not be driven by large vendors agendas and that we will be transparent and open." It's not even been a year yet, but so far, so good.

At the first Linux Foundation-sponsored OpenDaylight Summit in Santa Clara, CA it was clear that the over-capacity gathering of 600 or so attendees from companies both tiny and large were there to turn OpenDaylight into a true open-source project. As Anees Shaikh, formerly the leader of an IBM research group devoted to SDN and now a Google network architect, said in his speech that OpenDaylight would be judged by how well it delivers on code, industry and end-user adoption, and its community. Rather than deal with generalities, Shaikh dove straight into numbers, and by the numbers, OpenDaylight is impressive.

When OpenDaylight started, it only had two open-source projects. Now, it has sixteen. By Ohloh's count, the Black Duck Software site that tracks open-source program development, OpenDaylight now has more than a million lines of code. 461-thousand lines of that code are in Java, with C++ in second place with 292-thousand lines.

OpenDaylight also boasts over 154 developers. "This is one of the largest open-source teams in the world, and is in the top 2 percent of all project teams on Ohloh."  This compares favorably, Shaikh noted, to far older, popular projects such as Openstack with its 1.67-million lines of code and 1,974 contributors; Apache CloudStack with 1.5-million lines of code and 250 contributors, and Eclipse with its 2.67-million lines of code and 404 developers. OpenDaylight's also much larger than some other open-source SDN projects such as Apache and Big Switch's Floodlight OpenFlow controller with its 97-thouand lines of code and 32 contributors. It's comparable to Juniper's Contrail Virtual Router and Contrail Controller with its combined 280-thousand lines of code and 69 developers.

The group's membership now numbers thirty-three companies. And, while you might guess that its main members would all be networking companies, you'd be wrong. Software companies, who are betting their future on the cloud such as Microsoft and Red Hat, are also heavily invested in OpenDaylight.

Looking ahead, Shaikh said that OpenDaylight has been talking to major datacenter user companies such as Google and Facebook. He hinted that while they're taking a wait and see attitude now, he expects one of them to soon join the project as it matures. It's worth noting that Shaikh recently joined Google. 

Companies are also starting to ship OpenDaylight products. Cisco, of course, was first with its XNC OpenDaylight controller and IBM will ship its Software Defined Network for Virtual Environments, this quarter. Radware also announced its Defense4All Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) detection and mitigation program as a native OpenDaylight SDN Controller service.

 With Ericsson launching a new lab at its San Jose campus for OpenDaylight members to integrate, test and verify their applications, new OpenDaylight programs will soon be arriving. "Network programmability and interoperability are two key goals of the OpenDaylight Project," said Neela Jacques, OpenDaylight's Executive Director in a statement. "It is great to see Ericsson devoting significant resources to support the integration and testing of SDN and NFV innovations and applications coming out of the community."

Even before its initial release, Hydrogen, is being used by organizations such as the University of Kentucky, Taiwanese researcher ITRI, and CableLabs, a cable company research consortium. The last is exploring the use of OpenDaylight to manage an ISP's cable modems without needing to rip and replace millions of them.

Is it perfect? Is it ready for prime time? Nope.

Jacques, Gopal, and Shaikh all agree that there's a lot more work to be done. There are still many fundamental issues such as how much centralized control OpenDaylight does, or doesn't, need and how to handle security. In addition, the project needs more developers and writers. And, needless to say, Hydorgen is more of a developer's release than a production one. Still, it's an impressive achievement, and it can be used, as Cisco and IBM are showing, in business environments today. 

In short, as Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation Executive Director declared in his opening day keynote that OpenDaylight, along with open-source development in general, was “on the right side of history." When it comes to OpenDaylight it looks like he was right.

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