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OpenDaylight optimism persists, along with questions

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 (s jnpr) and Cisco, (s csco) 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, (s yhoo) Goldman Sachs (s gs) 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 (s 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.

One Response to “OpenDaylight optimism persists, along with questions”

  1. [full disclosure: work at an SDN company that is involved with OpenDaylight]

    I have heard a couple of people make similar comments about customers driving the effort. The question I always have here is whether folks like Google (the name always mentioned) are more customer or more vendor? Google has done great things for sure. But they behave in their own self-interests (as they should). And their experience and willingness to take on some engineering tasks themselves is a bit atypical. If the intent is to get broadly adopted solutions, we probably need to look beyond the DIYers.

    And not to blow Cisco’s horn (I do compete with them after all), but if there is one thing I know about Dave Ward and his team, it is that they talk to a lot of customers. It’s not like these folks are completely separated from customers. They do get a lot of input.

    So would it be ideal to get more people involved on the customer side? Yes. And until then, we just have to make sure we continue to engage our collective customer bases. Transparency about plans will go along way towards making sure people can flag problematic directions.

    And I think transparency is one of the things where ONF has struggled at times. Will be interesting to see if people have learned from that.