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ONOS, ODL closer to cooperating on open source controller

The ONOS and ODL projects are likely to share their work on an SDN open source controller, now that the groups have made the Linux Foundation their home.

Two open source groups building separate software-defined networking (SDN) controllers are now part of the Linux Foundation, increasing the likelihood of cross-project collaboration.

This week, the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) placed its Open Networking Operating System (ONOS) project under the foundation. ONOS developers are building a carrier-grade SDN open source controller.

ON.Lab joined the foundation to seek help from its large developer community. "As SDN and NFV [network functions virtualization] are taking off, there is a serious shortage of a talent pool in the service provider and developer community," said Guru Parulkar, executive director of the ONOS project.

The foundation is also the home of the OpenDaylight Project (ODL), a mostly vendor-driven effort to build a controller framework. Contributors include rivals Cisco, Juniper Networks Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Arista Networks Inc.

ODL and ONOS became competitors late last year, when ON.Lab launched the latter project. At the time, industry observers saw it as a challenger to ODL, given ON.Lab's aspirations to one day pivot its focus from network service providers to cloud providers and enterprises.

Moving toward cooperation

Having both organizations building open source controllers threatened to eventually force the networking industry to take sides, assuming neither ONOS nor ODL became the dominant technology. The latest development, however, leans more towards collaboration, since code developed under the foundation license is freely available to everyone.

What the tech buyers may want to see is an architectural coordination between the two projects.
Dan Condeanalyst at Enterprise Strategy Group

Indeed, members of the ONOS and ODL projects are sounding more like potential partners than rivals. Neela Jacques, executive director of the ODL Project, said in a blog that the industry would benefit more from the two groups sharing their work.

"We need to recognize that the user community needs us to find a way to come together to drive towards greater collaboration, integration and rationalization," he said.

The ONOS project's top priority remains developing an open source controller, with the scalability and features service providers need, Parulkar said. The goal is to build technology capable of running carrier-grade networks through software that sits on top of commodity hardware powered by off-the-shelf chips.

Benefits to tech buyers

Tech buyers will get better products if ONOS developers continue to focus on service providers, and the ODL Project on a general open source controller for enterprise data centers, said Dan Conde, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass.

"What the tech buyers may want to see is an architectural coordination between the two projects," Conde said. "It would be a mistake to consider either one to be the single solution that solves all problems." 

Technology from both projects is in the market today. Networking vendor Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is shipping product that uses ONOS, and AT&T plans to sell ONOS-based services next year, Parulkar said. ODL technology, on the other hand, is used in controllers provided by Juniper, Brocade and Inocybe Technologies.

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