Software-defined networking, or SDN, got a boost on Monday with an announcement by IBM, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Systems and more than a dozen other companies that they are launching the open-source OpenDaylight Project. The effort is intended to result in a common development platform to facilitate compatibility for the developing technology.
OpenDaylight will be administered under the non-profit Linux Foundation, and the first open-source products are scheduled for release by third quarter. Products, resulting from corporate donations and OpenDaylight projects, are expected to include an open controller, a virtual overlay network, protocol plug-ins and switch device enhancements.
As network virtualization increases, so does the complexity of managing and configuring routers, switches, storage and other resources, much of which currently has to be done manually by network admins. With SDN, the idea is that operations can be automated more cost-effectively and efficiently through a software layer.
SDN could be particularly useful in managing infrastructure for today's complex environments, including ones involving cloud computing, social business, mobile and big data, but the relatively new technology has been hampered by concerns of incompatibility between vendors. Some SDN vendors have said that they will continue developing their products, even if they are not OpenDaylight-compatible.
The OpenFlow technology standard, an SDN protocol supported by the Open Networking Foundation, lets the path of network packets through switches be controlled by router software. OpenDaylight members support it and the organization's products will build on it.
Some big players have recently been buying SDN vendors, such as VMware's purchase of Nicira Networks and Oracle's of Xsigo Systems, but in general the sector's growth and adoption has been hindered by incompatibility.
'A Good Chance'
Companies who are not OpenDaylight members will still be able to use its tools and adopt its standards. Other OpenDaylight members include Microsoft, VMware, Brocade Communications Systems, Citrix Systems, Red Hat, NEC and Ericsson LM Telephone. Members' fees range from $10,000 to $500,000 each plus, in some cases, the assignment of as many as 10 full-time engineers for two years.
Inder Gopal, IBM vice president of system networking development technology, told The Wall Street Journal that "interoperability has not occurred yet in the SDN space, and that's a big inhibitor." Gopal added that the OpenDaylight Project could force "interoperability in a way that nothing else can."
Laura DiDio of Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said SDN is still "an emerging and developing technology" that is not yet widely used but could save substantial costs in data centers and offer such benefits as potentially being "more secure than current networks."
She told us that an indication by the OpenDaylight Project of the products that will be released, a third-quarter target and the level of resources pledged by members means that this effort "has a good chance of moving things forward" for SDN.