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OpenDaylight Project finds industry wants open-source SDN

The Linux Foundation's OpenDaylight Project conducted a third-party survey that found 95 percent of networking pros want open-source software-defined networking technologies.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It's not too surprising that members of the Linux Foundation's OpenDaylight Project believe that the networking industry thinks open source is the future for software-defined networking (SDN). After all, OpenDaylight is an industry consortium of technology powers, such as Brocade, Cisco, and Microsoft, devoted to open-sourcing SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). The Project's survey was conducted by a third party, Gigaom Research, which found no less than 95 percent of networking professionals want open-source SDN.

Even outside of SDN, where 95 percent of network professionals favor open source, OpenDaylight found that the vast majority of serious network users want commercially-supported open-source technology.

I believe those numbers. It's not just the OpenDaylight Project that's pounding the drum for SDN. Juniper is also playing the open-source SDN beat with its OpenContrail project. In short, open-source SDN really is that popular with the networking movers and shakers.

The survey, SDN, NFV, and Open Source: The Operator’s View, checked in with 600 IT decision makers and technologists in medium to large organizations within enterprise (300) and service-provider (300) organizations in North America. Its key findings include:

Networking experts show a strong bias for open source. 95 percent want open source in their SDN and NFV solutions. It represents greater choice, more functionality and interoperability, and lower costs. Open-source SDN also for vendors it represents an opportunity rather than a threat, as 76 percent of respondents prefer to consume open source through commercial suppliers.

Networking professionals want SDN to solve a multitude of challenges. The top four concerns are security (72 percent), network utilization (64 percent), network deployment and management (62 percent), and network operating expense (61 percent). They think open source can deliver benefits of SDN faster by overcoming traditional barriers of adoption for emerging technology like migration and interoperability.

SDN deployment time lines are aggressive. Over 50 percent of respondents intend to deploy SDN and NFV in 2014, and 97 percent by 2015. The primary initial target for enterprises is wide area network (WAN), while for service providers it is the data center.

It's not all optimism. The network professionals have concerns as well.

SDN and NFV deployment targets vary. As expected, the datacenter is a primary initial target for SDN and NFV solutions. However, for enterprise respondents, the wide area network (WAN) takes precedence over the data center. And likely reflecting the pressure of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement, enterprises are targeting the wireless local area network LAN (WLAN) before the campus LAN, branch WAN, or metropolitan area network (MAN). For the service provider, the datacenter is far and away the No. 1 initial target. Interestingly, however, the LAN and the wireless WAN (WWAN) are targets two and three, respectively, for the service provider – not the WAN or the MAN.

Pleasing both groups of users with one broad solution is likely to prove troublesome.

Finally, SDN and NFV deployment roadblocks. These include migration costs, clear and consistent capabilities, and unproven performance and reliability. Interestingly, interoperability is viewed as the least of the concerns with SDN and NFV. Perhaps this because operators look at the close ties between SDN, NFV, open systems, and open source as a true saving grace. Open source will relieve them of the burden of heightened systems integration which is the problem-resolution work that comes with an undoubtedly more mixed-vendor SDN and NFV environment in the future.

In a blog posting, Neela Jacques, the OpenDaylight Project's executive director, added, "People have seen open-source projects create de facto standards through common code development. They want the advantages of an open platform that nobody controls to avoid things like vendor lock-in. If their needs or requirements change, if their solution goes end-of-life, they feel confident they can migrate elsewhere with less disruption. More specifically from the report, networking pros want open source to be:"

  • Created using formal design and development practices
  • Validated by strict integration and testing procedures
  • Delivered and deployed via proven tools and techniques
  • Supported by trusted programs, processes, and people

Jacques added, "Applying these commonly used software development practices to open source makes perfect sense. The difference from a fully proprietary solution is that all of this is done in the open--you can see what the testing process is, who is committing code, what’s on the roadmap, etc. You can even participate in shaping these things if you’re so inclined. It’s the best of both worlds for everyone — vendors, end users, developers — and the result, more often than not, is better quality software"

“As SDN moves from theory to practice, one thing is clear: networking pros want SDN now and are looking at open source to make it attainable,” Jacques said in a statement. “It’s great to see users demanding openness and interoperability in the solutions they’re looking to consume. They believe SDN can fix their toughest challenges and that open source can help them experience the benefits faster.”

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