OpenDaylight optimism persists, along with questions

OpenDaylight Project promotional material on display at Open Networking Summit 2013 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Since the network vendor-led OpenDaylight Project came to light last week, the tech press, bloggers and even some industry people have expressed doubts about the consortium’s prospects. But at the Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, Calif., this week, some attendees sounded optimistic about what could come out of OpenDaylight, as it could broaden adoption of software-defined networking.

It’s true that if useful vendor-agnostic code for many networking components is to come out of OpenDaylight, participants will have to clear several hurdles. Some of the 18 companies sponsoring OpenDaylight, such as Juniper and Cisco, compete with each other, and developers might end up having to maintain controller code that works best with certain kinds of networking appliances. While the tech press has brought up that possibility, it’s not completely unfounded; a Big Switch spokesperson has called into question how Cisco specifically will interact with everyone else when it comes to giving code the OpenDaylight stamp.

The lack of customer leadership in OpenDaylight — unlike, say, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which has board members from Yahoo, Goldman Sachs and other non-vendors — has been another area of contention. Although it might not have been for lack of trying. When executives from Cisco and IBM were organizing the OpenDaylight Project a few months ago, they reached out to Google and NTT, but neither company got on board, according to an engineer involved in the project. Perhaps companies other than network vendors could jump into the project in the coming months, though.

The role of the ONF, which nurtures the development of the OpenFlow networking protocol, is another open question. In public remarks at the Open Networking Summit on Tuesday, ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt said OpenFlow is a “substrate (that) allows you to build things like open-source software.” He said he didn’t think OpenDaylight would have been possible if there hadn’t been “something to build upon.” Asked if he or the ONF will get involved with OpenDaylight, Pitt said he had no information along those lines.

Even so, the OpenDaylight Project is “much more of a meritocracy” than the ONF, said Dave Husak, founder and CEO of Plexxi, which has paid five digits to be a silver OpenDaylight member. He views OpenDaylight as a vehicle for promoting Plexxi algorithms and application programming interfaces, which Plexxi will contirbute to the project. At the same time, OpenDaylight could surely benefit companies that seek to do more with their networks.

As much as I might want to predict the future and approximate the outcome of OpenDaylight, I’m afraid I can’t do that, and I haven’t found anyone here who can. They all say they’ll have to wait and see. And so will I.

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