Network vendors launch open-source OpenDaylight Project to standardize SDN

Cisco, (s csco) Juniper, (s jnpr), Big Switch Networks, Nuage Networks, VMware (s vmw) and several other network hardware and software vendors are jumping into the open-source code-development pool with the establishment on Monday of the OpenDaylight Project inside the Linux Foundation.

Rumored in recent months, the project begins more than two years after the establishment of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which counts customers such as Facebook (s fb) and Google (s goog) as board members and has nurtured the OpenFlow protocol. OpenDaylight organizers describe the vendor-led consortium as a nice complement to the ONF that will support OpenFlow, but it’s hard to predict how nicely the organizations will really dovetail with one another.

OpenDaylight is taking proposals for code from engineers working inside and outside the sponsoring companies. The software line will include an open controller, plugins, applications, a virtual overlay and interfaces to bring all those elements together, said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. Those elements will sit on top of OpenFlow, as well as vendor-specific interfaces and other standard protocols, which work on top of virtual and physical switches.

Elements of the OpenDaylight Project

Elements of the OpenDaylight Project

Different sponsors are proposing different parts of the total OpenDaylight product line. All contributions must be approved by a steering committee. The first OpenDaylight code is slated to ship in the third quarter of this year.

OpenDaylight says it intends to play nice with the ONF. But it’s unclear if that will actually happen. There are competing visions, for example, for the northbound API. The ONF believes there should not be a standard, while OpenDaylight will be shipping standard northbound APIs. Meanwhile, there are lots of SDN startups not sponsoring OpenDaylight, so it’s hard to tell what those companies will do.

OpenDaylight’s stated goal — widening the adoption of and sparking more innovation around software-defined networking — is noble. Vendors’ acknowledgment that the network indeed must become as dynamic and programmable as compute and storage is right on point. Whether OpenDaylight will cripple SDN startups’ efforts to help companies swap out expensive brand-name gear for cheaper commodity equipment is an open question. To be sure, though, the establishment of OpenDaylight is a turning point, and the SDN hype ensures that lots of people will be eager to see what actually comes to pass.