Another open source group has joined the virtualization fray, and might be viewed skeptically were it not for its strong industry pedigree and backing from the two largest carriers who have pioneered SDN deployment. (See ON.Lab Intros Open Source SDN OS.)
The ON.Lab is a non-profit organization founded by software-defined network inventors and leaders from Stanford University and UC Berkeley, and its new SDN Open Network Operating System (ONOS) has the backing of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT). The ONOS software will be available for downloading on December 5.
AT&T, in particular, is funding ONOS to the tune of $5 million, and John Donovan, senior executive VP-AT&T Technology & Operations has added his personal endorsement of the ONOS launch in his blog and with this quote in its press materials: "Software-defined networking can radically reshape the wide area network. The introduction of ONOS provides a true open source SDN option designed for service provider networks and delivers the performance, scale, availability and core features that we value."
According to Tom Anschutz, a member of the technical team collaborating with ON.Lab on behalf of AT&T, the company doesn't see ON.Lab as competition to other open source approaches, such as OpenDaylight, but as another welcome and potentially complementary effort.
"ON.Lab is working on some impressive applications that we see complementing work done by other organizations, such as OpenDaylight," Anschutz says in an email. "Ultimately we're really looking at anything that moves the industry forward, particularly in open source."
AT&T has, in fact, used OpenDaylight as the framework for its early SDN deployments "where we can leverage our existing equipment and get these features to customers quickly," he notes. But ONOS is offering something different.
"ON.Lab is bridging the gap between academic aspects and practical implementation of SDN concepts," Anschutz says. "They're focused on some sophisticated abstractions/APIs and also taking a fresh look at how SDN architectures need to evolve to meet emerging large-scale provider requirements. Additionally, ON.Lab is looking at real, challenging applications for the industry. They're leveraging web-scale sub-systems and architecture, and creating proof points for scaling and performance on a SDN controller. We are also pleased with the work they have done to make coordination of optical and IP networks easier."
ON.Lab is promising its open source code will go further than existing open source groups have gone to date by offering an entire operating system that can run on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and enable the gradual migration of carrier-class services from today's existing networks to a virtualized infrastructure of the future.
"The value of ONOS is in helping the transition from vertically siloed systems to a much more common infrastructure," says Ram Appalaraju, strategic advisor to the ON.Lab and former VP-Technology for Cisco's data center group. "ONOS is the core of the SDN control plane and it is meant to be modular, scalable and resilient, with abstractions that hide complexity at the right level."
Anschutz says this approach makes sense from AT&T's perspective. "It makes a lot of sense to deploy SDN first where the added flexibility is needed most," he says. "We also think it's possible to apply SDN to those networks that don't have a control plane today but would benefit from more dynamic management. You can also look at new underlay and overlay networks like those used in the cloud or in NFV infrastructure."
The current approach to software-defined networking (SDN) even using an Open Daylight-based controller built on open source software is limited in its ability to automate the provisioning of network resources because it is still built on vendor proprietary network hardware and requires proprietary plug-ins, notes Guru Parulkar, executive director of ON.Lab, which shares facilities with the Open Networking Foundation and the Open Networking Summit, but is financially separate.
Other backers of ONOS include Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701).
ONOS is built on a distributed core that runs on different services but as a single unified system for management purposes. It is designed for abstraction on both the northbound and southbound interfaces, with a high throughput path to northbound applications and a low latency connection southbound to either proprietary hardware or "white boxes" (COTS).
The idea is to give an application developer the tools to get what is needed from the pool of network resources without requiring that person to understand how the network works or what the piece parts are, says Parulkar.
ON.Lab is promising a "deep-dive" webinar on ONUS on the day the software is released and is holding its own summit four days later, on December 9, in Menlo Park.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading