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Why Microsoft is invested in OpenDaylight

What could Microsoft possibly get out of investing in an open-source networking project such as OpenDaylight? A lot.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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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