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Intel goes platinum at OpenDaylight

The Intel open network strategy is becoming clearer by the day. With a new OpenDaylight platinum membership, Intel is vying to be the leading silicon and platform behind emerging SDN and NFV infrastructure.

Intel is continuing to build its SDN and NFV presence, announcing last week that it has become a platinum member of OpenDaylight (ODL).

The company is now a platinum member in three leading open source communities that have a hand in programmable networks -- OpenStack, OpenNFV and ODL.

Intel is the only chip maker to play such a central role in ODL. At the platinum level it joins a group of 11 vendors, dominated by infrastructure players, including Cisco, HP, Juniper, Brocade, Dell and IBM.

While Intel was an ODL founding member, in its new role it will contribute $500,000 a year, and place a member on the board and the Technical Steering Committee. It will also assign 10 full-time engineers -- or the equivalent in engineering hours.

Intel has plenty to gain by expanding its ODL role. It's vying to be the leading silicon platform for emerging open standards in SDN and NFV infrastructures.

Intel's big push into programmable networking first became public in 2013 when it unveiled the Open Network Platform reference designs for white box switches and servers. The designs let Original Equipment Manufacturers develop virtual switching and servers with built-in support for SDN, network virtualization overlays and NFV. Intel also launched the Data Plane Development Kit, a programmable forwarding module and API that could be used to optimize network processing on servers.

"Intel has made a strong commitment to enhance networking on x86 architectures," said 451 Research chief analyst Eric Hanselman.

Supporting OpenDaylight as a platinum member "isn't radical, but it's a further commitment to ensure that OpenDaylight has the backing to become a much more broadly accepted control environment," he continued.

The competition to provide network switch chips and reference designs for SDN is heating up with Broadcom making major headway. However, Hanselman doesn't believe Intel's ODL move is about gaining a leg up in that race. Instead, it's a natural progression of its extensive work on switch and server designs. Intel wants to "influence a control platform that supports a wide range of networking requirements," he said.

Intel will push into orchestration, control

Over time, Intel will go further than optimizing server and white box switch designs for SDN and network virtualization. It will also seek to provide optimized platforms and architecture for orchestration and control across SDN infrastructures.

"We have a vision around software defined infrastructure that is about how you take compute, networking and storage that was manually provisioned and automate it to make it more efficient," said René Torres, director of marketing for Intel's SDN and NFV group. "This includes multiple elements in the stack from orchestration, to the hypervisor, to the server node, to the switch -- and in this case, the OpenDaylight controller is a key piece."

Since Intel is also a platinum member of the open source orchestration community OpenStack, the company will work to integrate the orchestration stack with ODL control.

"We see our efforts across multiple SDI [software-defined infrastructure] layers that also include OpenStack and Open vSwitch, in addition to OpenDaylight … in a coordinated way," said director of SDN architecture Uri Elzur on the OpenDaylight blog.

Integrating ODL, OpenStack and Open vSwitch "allows us to expose platform capabilities all the way to the top of the SDI stack. For example, by allowing applications to 'talk back' to the infrastructure to express their needs and intents, we are leveraging the capabilities of the SDN controller to optimally enable Network Functions Virtualization workloads on standard high-volume servers," he added.

How ODL and Intel open network components could enable NFV

As a platinum member of open source community OpenNFV, Intel has contributed to developing reference architecture for NFV productization. Going forward, ODL could play a key role in developing Open NFV architecture.

In fact, Intel's ODL involvement may be more about enabling NFV for service providers than about enterprise SDN, according to NFV expert and CIMI Corp founder Tom Nolle.

"While it's true that SDN controllers could run on Intel platforms, the total number of those servers could be small. But if NFV uses OpenDaylight in its VIMs [virtual infrastructure managers], which it's likely to do, then there [will be] potentially hundreds of thousands of servers," said Nolle.

Intel's Elzur noted the important role of SDN control in NFV Infrastructure on his recent ODL blog.

"One change that we have seen over the last few months is a shift in organizations such as ETSI [European Telecommunications Standards Institute] NFV that, while always considering SDN to be reasonably important, never placed much emphasis on the SDN controller. This has changed. The ETSI NFV community has come to terms with the idea that if you want scalability, a rich set of features, automation and service agility, then you need an SDN controller such as OpenDaylight as part of the solution stack," he wrote.

Intel will work to establish a "community platform" that relies on functionality between OpenStack, NFV and SDN control stacks, using technology from the across the open communities, Torres explained.

From a networking perspective Intel will work to "make sure the left and the right hand work well together," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Rivka Gewirtz Little, or follow her on Twitter.

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