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The Linux Foundation unifies Software-Defined Networking powers

What could bring Red Hat, Cisco, VMware, and Microsoft together in one cause? Would you believe The Linux Foundation and Software-Defined Networking? Believe it.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Recently, I argued that while there's been a lot of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) hype, it's also real and will redefine corporate networking in the coming years. The Linux Foundation agrees and — in its OpenDaylight Project — has introduced a community-led and industry-supported open-source framework to accelerate  SDN adoption, foster new innovation, and give it a more open and transparent approach.

The Linux Foundation has brought together essentially all the SDN powers to work on a common, open-source framework.
Image: Linux Foundation

That sounds nice, but without industry backing, it doesn't mean much.

OpenDaylight has the support it needs to transform SDN. Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, IBM, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Red Hat, and VMware are all founding Platinum and Gold members of the project. It will donate software and engineering resources for this open source framework, and help to define the future of an open SDN platform. Yes, that's right: Cisco and Juniper, Microsoft and Red Hat, and other major industry rivals are all joining forces.

Specifically, OpenDaylight will be supporting already existing open standards such as OpenFlow. The project's goal is to deliver a common open-source framework and platform for SDN across the industry for customers, partners, and developers. The customer win: A single, multi-vendor and open-source SDN platform.

The first code from the OpenDaylight Project should be released in 3Q13; expected donations and projects include an open controller, a virtual overlay network, protocol plugins, and switch device enhancements. What makes it in will be determined by the OpenDaylight Technical Steering Committee (TSC).

"This is a rare gathering of leaders in the technology ecosystem who have decided to combine efforts in a common platform in order to innovate faster and build better products for their customers," said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation in a statement. "The world has learned that collaborative development can quickly drive software innovation, especially in fast moving markets. We are excited to be working with OpenDaylight and expect truly amazing things to come."

At this point, we know that Big Switch Networks is planning to contribute open-source elements of its Open SDN Suite to the OpenDaylight Project. This will include controller code, advanced data store with high availability, distributed virtual routing service applications, network virtualization, network overlays, and other applications.

Cisco has contributed controller technology including an Application Framework and Service Abstraction Layer (SAL). This provides basic controller functionality with support for southbound plug-ins to communicate with network devices using various protocols including OpenFlow, the ability to integrate controller applications as modules, and a set of REST APIs (Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface) to expose the controller capabilities.

Cisco's arch-rival Juniper Networks is planning to contribute a number of technical elements including Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) client and server protocol code and a flexible data model.

For its part, Citrix is  contributing an application controller that integrates Layer 4-7 network services into OpenDaylight Project. Citrix has also committed to contributing a plug-in for OpenDaylight into the Apache CloudStack project.

IBM intends to submit an open-source version of its Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet [PDF link] technology as its initial contribution. According to IBM, DOVE is designed to work on top of existing network infrastructures to help simplify the process of setting up, managing and scaling virtual networks for faster and more flexible delivery of cloud, analytics, mobile and social business services.

Red Hat will be working on building and delivering an SDN solution that integrates with OpenStack and Linux's built-in Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor.

Microsoft hasn't spelled out what it plans to contribute to the project yet. In a statement, Brad Anderson, Microsoft's Corporate VP for Windows Server and System Center, said, "Microsoft is pleased to be a member of the OpenDaylight Project and to work with industry leaders to create a common framework and platform for SDN. The OpenDaylight Project aligns with Microsoft’s commitment to open standards-based development and enables the industry to benefit from Microsoft’s deep experience running global, large-scale data-centers and delivering flexible, elastic cloud-scale services."

All the OpenDaylight code will be operating-system independent and is expected to be available on multiple platforms. It will be licensed under the Eclipse Public License (EPL). This is an Open Source Initiative approved license.

These companies are taking on a monster of a job. The problem isn't so much the standards or the code, it's getting everyone on the same page. The mere fact that The Linux Foundation has brought together essentially all the major players in the SDN space and has gotten them to agree to work on a common, open framework is remarkable in its own right. If they're successful in actually creating the OpenDaylight framework, SDN will be one giant step closer to becoming the new datacenter and corporate networking standard.

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