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OpenDaylight could threaten SDN startups, or new alliances could crumble

As 18 networking hardware and software vendors offer up developer time and sponsoring money to make open-source code for standardizing software-defined networking (SDN) through the newly established OpenDaylight Project, industry people are monitoring the development to see how things might change and how it will impact the rest of the networking industry.

Midokura, an SDN startup with overlay-based software for creating load balancers and other virutal devices in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds, is closely watching the vendor-led consortium and could join depending on what happens, said Midokura’s chief strategy officer, Ben Cherian. IBM (s ibm) is contributing to OpenDaylight a version of the architecture underlying its virtual overlay product for connecting virtual compute and storage resources, according to the OpenDaylight announcement.

That could pose a problem for Midokura if it’s approved for inclusion in OpenDaylight, particularly if OpenDaylight code is able to do what Midokura’s does but for free. “Are they (OpenDaylight) going to be an eventual competitor? Maybe. But it’s too early to tell until we see how some of these things map out,” Cherian said.

There are similar questions about competition around OpenDaylight’s expected controller code, which Cisco (s csco) and Big Switch Networks are contributing. The Cyan SDN product runs applications on top of its Blue Planet controller. Rafael Francis, senior director of service provider solutions at Cyan, said he views OpenDaylight as less of a threat and more of a validation of an open, vendor-neutral approach. At the same time, Cyan could get involved with the consortium if customers demand it, he said. Beyond that, OpenDaylight controller code could turn out to work best with Cisco gear, said Mike Bushong, vice president of technical marketing at Plexxi. In that case, developers at multiple participating companies would have to work on maintaining code.

Relations among the many companies involved in OpenDaylight looked copacetic on Monday, with no parties quitting the consortium and with even the Open Networking Foundation feeling good about the OpenDaylight premiere. Dan Pitt, its executive director, said in a statement that the organization is glad to hear that OpenDaylight will support the OpenFlow protocol.

But the relative calm is only based on what’s happened before. Jason Edelman, a solutions architect at New York-based channel partner Presidio, pointed out that only Cisco and Citrix (s ctxs) appear to have contributed code, while others seem to be planning to do so. Unity could fracture as companies start unveiling their proposals. For example, what will VMware (s vmw) put forth? The official announcement doesn’t say. When that information comes to light, executives at Cisco and other sponsors might change their minds about participating.

Meanwhile there are questions about the fairness of OpenDaylight’s current organizational structure. Jo Maitland, research director for cloud and infrastructure at GigaOM Research, noted in an email that OpenDaylight “will need an elected board, much like the OpenStack Foundation, to offset the competing interests of the more powerful vendors who will throw lots of money and people to make sure the ‘standard’ evolves to suit their position.”

Although the formation of OpenDaylight seems like a significant development on its own, it ought to seen as the beginning of a story. At this rate, the middle and end will be dramatic to witness.

2 Responses to “OpenDaylight could threaten SDN startups, or new alliances could crumble”

  1. Steve Noble

    I feel the word Open is being used improperly in a lot of these situations. ONF, OpenStack and OpenDaylight require a paid membership to be involved (past contributing code). The boards are built of either a combination of the paying members and some of the community (ala OpenStack) or just paying members as seen on the OpenDaylight board page.

    I donate equipment, time and $$ to Open Source projects to help keep the community going.

  2. John Shaw

    Its bad news for many SDN startups – even for the ones that are part of the consortium now or who will join later. Its because many of the underlying functionalities and differentiating features that startups had already invested in or were planning to invest in would become part of the open source. Startups would need to pick small niches to carve out their differentiation over open source, further cornering them and preventing them to become real companies. Also, barrier to entry against those niches would become lower, diluting value proposition and pricing power further. Also, there are so many incumbents in this ecosystem who would bundle solutions against small niche players.

    Nicira went out of market at just the right time!