A year ago conversations around software-defined networking (SDN) were all about protocols or proprietary controllers. Today it's all about openness. For an industry that has been historically slow to change, it is now embracing open source as the de facto way to achieve innovation and interoperability for SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV). One recent example was Brocade's introduction of its open source controller. (See Brocade Debuts OpenDaylight SDN Controller.)
As another example, Andrew Lerner, research director, Gartner Inc. , noted in a blog, "Perhaps the biggest benefit of SDN is that it fosters long-term innovation in networking. With SDN and de-coupling of hardware/software, you can now innovate independently in hardware and software. So software innovation isn't held back by hardware and vice-versa." He followed up the blog with a footnote stating: "This is why there is so much importance associated with the Northbound API initiatives that should come out of OpenDaylight and ONF." (See the full blog here).
This is exactly what the industry needs to truly accelerate adoption of SDN. Opening up the platform means innovation can occur above, below and around it, which is one of the key benefits that any open source project provides, be it Linux or Hadoop or Docker and Kubernetes. We call it the open source 80/20 rule, where 80% of technology is undifferentiated and 20% is where the real innovation comes in.
OpenDaylight is at the forefront of this change, leading the industry to achieve the vision of SDN and NFV. A few weeks ago, the project announced its second software release, Helium, aimed at developers and users who are progressing on their journey to SDN. This release is further proof that the shift to open source in networking is real and the industry is forever changed. Gartner's Lerner also blogged about this shift recently, saying that OpenDaylight has now joined Cisco ACI/APIC and VMware NSX as the third major "horse" in the SDN platform "race." (See Why Helium Is a Crucial Step for SDN.)
One key user group actively planning their next-generation networks is telecom carriers and service providers. Since I took my role as executive director of the OpenDaylight Project, I have been in constant discussions with carriers keen to bring network programmability and service agility to their networks. One recurring theme has been how quickly we could move from proof of concepts of core technology that supports and enables SDN and NFV, to deploying solutions into carriers' production networks. Carriers recognize they have some very different needs and requirements compared to the broader enterprise and data center markets, not least the need to tie everything into complex OSS/BSS systems that need to evolve in lockstep to the underlying networks.
The recent formation of the Linux Foundation's open source project, Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV), represents a key step for the industry in their move to an "open first, not proprietary first" model for delivering SDN and NFV. Carriers are clear they don't want to be locked into to one proprietary model, but instead want to build out their networks leveraging interoperable parts that plug into an open platform. OPNFV is a key step toward tackling the problems of the world's leading carriers head-on and thus accelerating their adoption of SDN and NFV. (See Open NFV Group Uncloaks Its Platform Plan).
But needless to say there's more work for us to do. Things like application policy, controller federation and the mechanics of delivering a service abstraction layer that is easy and intuitive to program will continue to be iterated on, discussed and debated. The beauty of open source is that these conversations can be shaped by anyone -- whether by writing code or voicing an opinion here.
As the entire industry continues its evolution to an open-first model, I look forward to collaborating with users, vendors and other open source software projects to deliver a truly open networking platform that will benefit enterprises, data centers and carriers alike. I have no doubt 2015 will be an exciting year for the networking industry. Please join the community's discussions here, or talk to me on Twitter anytime @NeelaJacques.
— Neela Jacques, executive director for OpenDaylight, and Contributor, The New IP