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Summary:

Networking startups are hot as VCs get hip to the promise that software-defined networking has for the industry, but Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit entity supporting open-source software may have a hot startup in the form of one of its open-source projects.

quagga

The growing popularity of software defined networking has resulted in a spurt in networking startups, and that is going to get a further boost in coming months thanks to Google and an open-source project shepherded by the Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit entity. The ISC is supporting a project to stabilize and test Quagga, open-source networking software. The project, called the Open Source Routing Project, is exciting because it could help make a cheap, open-source router a reality.

The ISC created the Open Source Routing Project in August after Google came to it requesting help in creating a community around Quagga. Google is a champion of the Open Source Routing Project (and Quagga) because it wants cheaper, highly programmable routers it can use in its network. Stephen Stuart, of Google says the search giant will could use the open-source router it created called the Open LSR to use in its core network. The router is a combination of merchant switching silicon, a commodity server, the OpenFlow protocol and the Quagga open-source code.

Google, however, doesn’t want to be the only OSR project supporter. It needs to find others interested in building cheaper hardware that they can program and control, hence the Open Source Routing Project. Just as OpenFlow has the Open Networking Foundation,  Quagga has the Open Source Routing Project. Bill Shetti, the general manager of the project said the goal of the project is to first stabilize the Quagga code base, and then to eventually offer commercial support for folks using the code.

Er, what is Quagga, exactly?

Quagga is an open-source routing daemon that is named after an extinct African zebra. The code been languishing without an organized community, but it’s also something vendors large and small are playing with. Shetti says large service providers and Google are using it. Small companies such as Fastly are experimenting with Quagga as well. Shetti says the project is under the wing of the Internet Systems Consortium, which also provides commercial support for the Bind DNS software.

However, unlike with Bind, ICS ISC won’t own the code for Quagga, it will just shepherd it through stabilization and then later provide support. Currently, it’s looking for sponsors to help support the organizations efforts. Google is one, and Igor Gashinky, a principleprincipal architect at Yahoo said his company is also talking to the Open Source Routing Project. Other potential sponsors might include service providers, other webscale businesses and even silicon companies.

The details on Google’s Open LSR

Shetti says Google has come to the ISC and proposed that it act to help stabilize the code base as it was trying to build its Open LSR. The Open LSR is an open-source router that consists of a switch made with merchant silicon and running Open vSwitch that talks to a server that has an OpenFlow-based controller and uses Quagga to generate the routing tables and forwarding information.

So the server has become the route processor (the intelligence) and the switch is essentially a line card (the physical mover of the packets). The idea is similar to the box proposed by Vyatta, which puts open-source software on a commodity box, but the market for the end product is different. Google wants its Open LSR to go big and handle the core network, while the Vyatta boxes are generally used to handle smaller traffic loads.

The promise of the Open Source Routing Project and Google’s Open LSR is that big data center and network operators can build out their networks more cheaply and control their own destiny with the code that manages the networking hardware. This won’t be for everyone, but for companies with a large IT staff and that sees a benefit in not paying high margins for big, intelligent boxes, they can take the money they save buying pricey gear and put it toward paying internal developers to build what Gashinsky called “a big dumb network” or perhaps add their own applications to deliver as a service as Verizon has discussed.

  1. Is the company name Internet Systems Consortium (in 1st paragraph) or Internet Standards Consortium (in 4th paragraph)?

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    1. Systems. Fixed.

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  2. Michael Adams Friday, October 21, 2011

    I’ve used Quagga for 4 years now: been using it to maintain an IPv6-based VPN. http://unquietwiki.com/ipv6/tinc_quagga_ipv6.html

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  3. oh .. the beauty of hype .. I want to see when the big telcos will rely on Google contributed code for the most critical part of the infrastructure. As if they haven’t learned the lessons from the “open” Android yet .. Btw, what happened to the source code of the latest Android releases?

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    1. Are you comparing a GPL licensed project to an Apache licensed one ? ICS source is to be released by fall of this year, Honeycomb source comes afterward…

      Your post is just a good example of mixing FUD and ignorance…

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  4. Stacey – “principle” is something you believe in, “principal” is someone you are.

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    1. Thanks for the note, GN. That was my bad as copy editor. As fast as I’m handling copy, I tend to err on the side of “whatever they have listed” when it comes to job titles and I should have double-checked. Believe it or not, there are an awful lot of “principle architects” out there. (Whatever you do, don’t check LinkedIn.)

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  5. How an Extinct Zebra Could Upend the Networking Market: http://t.co/8QLua1s5

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  6. Tomek Mrugalski Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    His name is Igor Gashinsky, not Gashinky.

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