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OpenDaylight unveils Helium, a new software release to replace Hydrogen

OpenDaylight, the open-source project created to standardize an industry accepted framework for software defined networking (SDN), plans to announce Monday that it is releasing its second open source codebase to the public. The new software, called Helium, will be available to download and marks a significant improvement over the organization’s first release, Hydrogen, explained Colin Dixon, an OpenDaylight ambassador and a principal engineer for Brocade.

With many big networking companies touting the benefits of SDN and unveiling their own gear designed to take advantage of the technology, consumers have been left in a sort of “VHS versus Betamax” predicament, said OpenDaylight executive director Nicolas Jacques in reference to customers not knowing which version of SDN equipment they should buy. To help with this situation, the OpenDaylight Project was created to take over the task of creating a common SDN controller — essentially, the software brain behind networking operations that steers the delivery of data to routers and switchers.

The new Helium software is the open source codebase that powers the SDN controller and can be modified by the development community to better suit their needs when it comes to how they want the software to integrate with hardware. Among Helium’s new features is the ability to perform clustering, which is useful for users who want to replicate a particular node in their network so that if it fails, there will be nodes that can be brought to life to prevent the network from falling apart, explained Dixon. OpenDaylight also baked in better security, authorization and permissions into the new software and fixed a bunch of bugs that hampered the previous codebase, he added.

OpenDaylight diagram of Helium
OpenDaylight diagram of Helium

Dixon said that Helium could perhaps lay the groundwork for developers to set policy in their networks, meaning that one could route traffic to other hosts like email mailboxes so that the information passes to the other side in the exact manner that a user wants.

“This is a declarative-policy based way to manage your network,” Dixon said. “This could fundamentally change the way we think of networks.”

For Jacques, the success of OpenDaylight will be seen if more vendors continue to create OpenDaylight-friendly products so it becomes the de-factor standard for SDN. He would also love to see its development community, now over 200 coders, double annually.

Of course, it’s hard not to think that with so many competing companies participating in the project—OpenDaylight counts [company]Brocade[/company], [company]Cisco[/company], [company]RedHat[/company], [company]IBM[/company] and [company]Citrix[/company] among its many project members—that OpenDaylight could experience bottlenecks as it attempts to gain influence, a la OpenStack.

“We have less politicking than OpenStack,” said Dixon. “You have to see it to believe it.”