Driving SDN with open standards

Software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) are built on the concept of open standards and open source, but there is more than one organization pushing SDN openness. Two have recently opted to merge.  Here we unravel the open source communities behind SDN and look at their latest releases.

Open standards in SDN allow enterprises to avoid vendor-lock in for their networking products and reduce the risk of obsolescence. By adopting an open, interoperable platform, companies can benefit from faster time to market and increased access to solutions that better fit business needs. In addition, it also gives IT departments flexibility and makes network design easier. 

SDN is fast gaining traction amongst enterprises attracted by cost savings and the need for greater agility and scalability to support their digital transformation programs. The global SDN market is expected to reach $132.9 billion by 2022, growing 47% from 2016 to 2022, according to Allied Market Research.  The analyst firm says uptake is driven by complex traffic patterns, a growing need for mobility services and a dramatic increase in cloud computing services.  

Openness is also helping drive the market, says Laurent Perrin, Head of Connectivity Product Management at Orange Business. “Enterprises do not want to let the solution choices they make today limit what they can do in the future. They don’t want to be tied in.”

“Using open standards – and, where relevant, open source software – helps innovation and allow end-to-end visibility and management control over traffic flows,” he adds. “This is the foundation on which Orange’s SDN/NFV platform and Network as a Service is built.”

ONF & ONLab merge to drive SDN

In October, the Open Networking Foundation and the Open Networking Lab (ON Lab), two pioneering not-for-profit organizations, opted to merge to further push SDN benchmarks and drive the adoption of the technology.  The single organization will now also be referred as ONF.

The ONF was originally set up in 2011 to advance OpenFlow as a standard.  ON Lab was founded in 2012 to advance the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) project and the Central Office Re-architectured as a Data Center (CORD).

Joint operations are being led by ON Lab founder and executive director, Guru Parulkar, who believes that it has become clear that SDN standards and open source development must come together to advance SDN deployment. “Open source is critical to SDN deployment,” says Parulkar. “With the combination of ONF and ON.Lab, we are shaping the future of networking by bringing standards and open source efforts under a single umbrella. This will build real synergy between the two – letting open source development and deployment guide standards development.”

ONF maintains that standards based on widely adopted open source projects such as ODL, ONOS, OPNFV, and CORD can be more widely and easily implemented within the industry. “This emphasis on open source, supported by ON.Lab’s successful software development, will guide ONF’s ongoing standards work, including updates to OpenFlow,” Parulkar confirms.

ONF will continue advancing ONOS, the software-defined networking (SDN) Operating System (OS), and CORD open source projects, which are led by ON.Lab and The Linux Foundation. The organization will also work with other open source projects such as OpenDaylight and the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) to ensure that future ONF standards, including ongoing updates to OpenFlow, are taken from a consensus amongst these open source developer communities.

A spate of SDN/NFV releases

Open source projects have been putting a huge amount of energy into driving SDN and creating open platforms for network virtualization. We have recently seen a number of open releases announced that will dramatically enhance the maturity of the technology in the eyes of users.

The collaborative open source project, the OpenDaylight Foundation (ODL), has unveiled the fifth release of its open SDN platform called Boron.

The much anticipated Boron includes enhancements to grow ODL’s support for Cloud and NFV.  OpenStack- related capabilities have been re-architectured in a unified development framework which the organization says enhances both scalability and performance, including taking clustering up a gear.

“This is an important step as it accelerates our ability to meet the real-world functionality, robustness and interoperability needs of end users,” explains Colin Dixon, OpenDaylight’s Technical Steering Committee Chair and Distinguished Engineer at Brocade.

ONOS project has also just announced its eighth quarterly platform release, dubbed Hummingbird. ONOS claims that it provides the only SDN control plane that “can support both disruptive and incremental SDN for service providers and enterprises” looking for both virtualization and optimization to keep ahead of the curve in digital transformation.

“Hummingbird delivers important advancements not only in the core control functions, but also in support of automation and configuration of legacy and OpenFlow-enabled devices to serve the growing set of use cases being tackled by service providers today and into the future,” says Bill Snow, vice president of engineering, ON.Lab.

In addition, the Open NFV project has rolled out OPNFV Colorado. The Open NFV is an open source program that is helping in the development and evolution of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) components across various open source ecoystems through integration, deployment and testing. 

Colorado represents a more robust version of OPNFV’s previous Brahmaputra platform. It includes enhancements across security, IPv6, Service Function Chaining (SFC), testing, VPN capabilities and support for multiple hardware architectures. Colorado also includes full support for multiple hardware architectures, including x86 and ARM.

OpenDaylight, ONOS and OPNFV all fall under the under the guidance of the Linux Foundation. At the same time, vendors are working closely with standardization organizations (SDO) to accelerate the standardization of SDN and NFV technologies. 

Orange Business Solutions, for example, has over 200 employees working with SDOs and open source communities focusing entirely on SDN/NFV. It is collaborating with OpenStack, a cloud computing orchestration project offering free open source Orchestrator software released under the terms of the Apache License, as well as the OPNFV and ODL.

Working to a common cause

These industry groups are all working towards a common ground for vendors to build products, whilst reducing vendor tie-in and providing enterprises with greater flexibility in building out SDN solutions to support their increasingly agile business models.  

SDOs, for example, have played an important role in the development of high level architecture that is enabling the network industry to utilize SDN and NFV in the Wide Area Network used by Orange.

Beyond this, Orange has joined forces with AT&T to promote SDN/NFV standardization and ensure technologies are open and interoperable, which doesn’t always prove to be the case today.

Introducing common SDN/NFV standards will enable industry and business to benefit from greater efficiency, reduced costs, faster deployment and rapid innovation, whilst future-proofing roadmaps.  Open Source Communities are helping us burn rubber to accelerate this process.

Find out about our Easy Go network as a service.


Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.