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ONF: SDN portal will organize, unite solo open source projects

The newly formed Software Leadership Council hopes that will spur the development of tools and apps engineered to fuel widespread SDN adoption.

The move last month by the Open Networking Foundation to launch an open source SDN repository could eventually pave the way for more enterprises to deploy SDN test beds within their data centers.  

[It's time] to get focused on the specific software artifacts themselves.
Dan PittONF Executive Director

Open Networking Foundation (ONF) Executive Director Dan Pitt said that the new site,, will serve as both catalyst and bellwether, driving the development and deployment of specific software approaches while also reflecting big-picture trends as they emerge.

"Software-defined networking is a transformative paradigm shift to a 30-year-old industry, where both the operational expense structure and the Capex structure are changing," Pitt said. "ONF has, from the beginning of this paradigm shift, been a guiding voice in terms of how the market will adopt this new paradigm. What's new today is [it's time] to get focused on the specific software artifacts themselves."

To encourage this brass-tacks focus, the ONF created a new group -- the Software Leadership Council (SLC) -- to direct its open source efforts. The goal, said SLC director and InfoBlox CTO Stu Bailey, is to use the ONF's collaborative ethos to help SDN gain momentum -- uniting solo software projects into tarball initiatives. Bailey said many developers are already posting their open source SDN contributions to various websites, with some projects focused on the data plane and others on the control plane., Bailey said, will track and unite those disparate efforts, providing a portal the entire open source SDN community can access.

SLC member and Big Switch CTO Rob Sherwood said part of his job with will be to assess existing collaborative projects, identifying where the volunteer developers are producing solid software and where holes are slowing adoption. Once the SLC has identified SDN development areas that are slow moving, Sherwood said the ONF may sponsor its own projects to help make real-world, test bed deployments possible.

Pitt said the SDN market today reflects the continuing evolution of the networking world. With chips, boxes and applications now coming from a variety of different companies -- rather than via the monolithic suppliers of the 20th century -- Pitt said the industry is just beginning to exit the "mainframe era" of networking.

"If you buy a server from Dell and you don't like the software on it, you can swap Windows with Linux, or write your own operating system on the server side," Sherwood said. "On the networking side that has not been possible. A router from Cisco only works with Cisco."

Open source, Sherwood added, will allow independent developers and smaller companies to produce competing software, leveling the field so that it includes more than just a few big players.

Early days

While the ONF hopes that will hasten mainstream adoption of SDN, these are still early days for the technology. Ultimately, experts say, development and demand will have to intersect before SDN will be widely deployed.

In the meantime, Bailey said SDN demand is being spurred by the ballooning growth of big data and the Internet of Things, which require increasingly agile and unique network architectures. Eventually, he said, Opex will grow sufficiently to motivate companies to re-evaluate their existing Capex, which is when he expects to see use cases unfurl.

At the same time, Pitt said, companies need open source software and other artifacts to make their SDN deployments possible. To that end, is about preparation, he said, so that when the tipping point in SDN demand comes, tools are ready and accessible.

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