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OpenDaylight partners create SDN controller testing environments

OpenDaylight Executive Director Neela Jacques explains two SDN controller testing labs that were developed within the project.

As SDN use cases continue to emerge, a growing need has developed for SDN controller testing environments. At The OpenDaylight Project, two companies have spearheaded community labs that aim to test use cases in multivendor environments.

"There are a ton of people who want to create, but few who want to test," said Neela Jacques, executive director at the OpenDaylight Project. "It's a critical, come-to-Jesus time for open source projects like ours, if you will. Testing is not sexy, so this is where you see if people are dedicated."

Ericsson and Huawei have created labs to conduct controller testing in conjunction with other OpenDaylight members, including direct competitors. Ericsson opened its lab in February of this year in San Jose, California. Huawei, a networking equipment provider, announced the opening of its lab in Shenzhen, China, this past April.

The Ericsson lab grew out of an organic need to do more interoperability testing, according to Jacques. Members of OpenDaylight's Technical Steering Committee, or TSC, recognized this need and began searching for resources to put together a lab. Luis Gomez, formerly of Ericsson and now of Brocade, became the lab's point person, and soon after, he began gathering resources from Ericsson to put together the lab infrastructure.

"It's a community lab, so people can come in and test whatever you want," Gomez said. "We welcome hardware and software … any contribution to OpenDaylight."

The development of the Huawei lab in China came shortly after, and is almost a carbon copy of the Ericsson lab, Jacques said. They saw the connection in China and companies in China interested in working and connecting with Silicon Valley, he said.

"Before Open Daylight, Huawei was an active player in the OpenFlow community … but it takes time to migrate our previous work to the OpenDaylight-based solution, which makes it difficult for Huawei to contribute code to the community immediately," said Zhexuan Song, director of the Huawei IT Open Lab in Shenzhen, China. "When we noticed this community lab plan, we realized that this was something we could contribute. With a fully functional lab environment, internal and external users can get familiar with OpenDaylight."

SDN controller testing made easy

Both the Ericsson and Huawei labs have infrastructure designed to test three types of use cases. The first and most obvious, Jacques explained, is for developers working within a specific part of a project to come in and test their work in a broader environment.

"So, that may be how code works with a controller, or, for example, there's a project focusing on service chaining," Jacques said. "They'll want to see how things interact with one another. There are questions that arise when you create your own functionality as to how it works with a broader solution or code base."

The second use case focuses primarily on hardware and how that works with a controller. Jacques pointed to Brocade as an example, saying that the company has a set of physical switches that needed to be tested with OpenDaylight, along with the functionality and subcontexts.

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"One option Brocade had was to install OpenDaylight and create tests to see how well it does by running simulations," Jacques said. "But Brocade is familiar with some parts of OpenDaylight, but not all parts. And it can be quite costly."

Brocade chose the other option, which was to donate its physical switch to Ericsson for testing in the lab. "By donating that gear, what you have is the bringing together of the first two use cases," Jacques said.

Lab engineers were able to run a series of tests, including one that examined how Brocade's switching worked with Radware's Defense4All open source SDN security application for OpenDaylight. "This is an example of testing in the Ericsson lab with the Brocade switch," Jacques said. "You're able to offload testing of your gear to the community, or it's a sharing of the testing burden. It's a win-win for both sides, and it's making sure it works with a wide variety of hardware." 

Testing proofs of concept

The third use case is end-user focused, Jacques said. When recently visiting the Ericsson lab, he met a team of engineers from a major telecommunications carrier. "Many [of those companies] have their own labs, so why are they interested in Ericsson's? In many cases, they're looking to answer a specific question, or something that's focused and targeted."

For example, a company may want to test the resiliency within a network. Setting up entire lab environments takes resources, so, instead of creating a full proof of concept (POC), engineers can visit the community lab with dedicated staff and do work there.

"In a typical POC, I force a few pieces to go down and I want to see how the traffic routes around it. That's a great idea, and there are different ways to do it. Traditionally, you would write a POC and hope you have the right POC design. With the lab, you can come in and do a draft and see if that can help shape the full blown POC," Jacques said. Lab workers can also give suggestions on what's worked in similar use cases without disclosing specifics, he said.

Lab testing set to expand

Jacques sees the labs continuing to grow in the future, given the need for testing throughout the community. "The challenge is, how do we meet this demand and have more folks, like Brocade, trust Ericsson and share their gear," he said.

On Brocade's end, Gomez hopes to create something similar to the Ericsson lab in the future. "We want to see more labs, and the more labs we have, the better for the project," he said. "It's not clear yet, but we know we need to do something different. It's not to compete with Ericsson; there's no competition within OpenDaylight. We're all working together for the same goal. It's so we can collaborate more."

Another interesting thing that's grown out of OpenDaylight is its involvement with OpenStack. A big use case for the project is OpenStack, and when testing and running a cloud environment, "the question is, 'Where does it happen?'" Jacques said. Time will tell whether testing will happen at the Linux Foundation or within the OpenStack community, he said.

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