4 November 2014 9:27:03 AM
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The optical networking community seems to be embracing open source software in a big way. While industry leading conferences like OFC have always been strong advocates for interoperability and a standards-based approach to networking, this has traditionally been a hardware-focused community.
Given the increasing importance of software in network control planes, data centers, and telecommunication systems, it’s not surprising that OFC will also include a greater emphasis on open source code. This means a faster development cycle compared with the underlying hardware, and more opportunities for innovation as the source code for network control planes becomes accessible to the global programming community.
Even the telecommunications sector, traditionally known for multi-year standardization efforts, has come to recognize the importance of open source software for packet optical transport. A recently formed consortium, the Open Platform for Network Function Virtualization (OPNFV) has begun reaching out to the open source development community for help building the next generation of virtual networking appliances. As discussed during a recent panel at the SDN / OpenFlow World Congress in Germany, this group, chaired by Hewlett Packard, is interested in promoting carrier-grade versions of OpenStack and other middleware originally developed for cloud data centers. By showing that there’s a ready-made market for this software, OPNFV hopes to encourage development that will benefit both Datacom and telecom system, rather than trying to create a telecom-specific fork of Open Daylight or other software-defined networking (SDN) efforts.
Open Source Network Software Gains Momentum
Speaking of Open Daylight, the leading open source SDN controller project gained momentum in the past month when Dell announced they were upgrading their membership to platinum status. Although many companies joined the Linux Foundation’s Open Daylight effort when it was first announced, most were simply keeping a watchful eye on the technology rather than investing significant resources in the program. As industry acceptance of Open Daylight has grown, these companies have begun to invest significant funding and resources towards contributing open source code. Dell joins a host of partners who will also be represented at OFC, including such optical networking industry leaders as Juniper (donating their Open Contrail plugin), Cisco, Brocade, and many more. With interest in this area heating up now, we’re sure to see some initial progress in time for OFC this coming March.
The growing momentum behind open source network software was echoed in recent comments from the Open Networking Forum (ONF) executive director, Dan Pitt, who feels that OpenFlow protocols are now becoming mainstream as the de facto southbound protocol for SDN data networks. The ONF recently announced a conformance testing pilot program, with nine companies initially participating, all of which will be represented during panel discussions, technical papers, and other symposia at OFC. While some of this work is more commercial in nature, there’s a significant open source development community pursuing a model which provides either free code, or code with service and support offerings wrapped around it (similar to what Red Hat and others have done for the Linux market). In fact, as more vendors adopt open source code as part of their solution offerings, SDN and NFV protocols will naturally continue making inroads into large scale cloud and telecom service providers.
Some industry observers have noted that companies which don’t participate in open source networking are conspicuous by their absence – in other words, large networking clients are increasingly expecting their core providers to also be leaders in the open source movement. This provides a good climate for industry – academic partnerships, many of which were evident at SDN World Congress (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/adva-optical-networking-bt-show-070554574.html ). The field of network virtualization is still in its early stages, so we can expect a lot more innovative developments this coming year. And there’s no better place to stay in touch with the leading voices from all parts of this community than OFC. Whether you’d like to meet the thought leaders in optical communication and networking or find new products and solutions among the over 550 exhibitors on the industry floor, OFC is sure to provide many vital insights into the rapidly evolving world of open network virtualization.
Is open source part of your organization’s strategy? Drop me a line on twitter with your story (@Dr_Casimer), and I’ll include the most interesting open source networking contributions in a future blog.