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Skepticism follows Cisco-IBM led OpenDaylight SDN consortium

Many technical, political questions surround SDN effort

By , Network World
April 09, 2013 10:02 AM ET

Page 2 of 4

Matlof and Big Switch are concerned about Cisco's recent remarks about OpenFlow, which Big Switch believes undermines the capability of OpenFlow in SDNs. The company is also concerned that Cisco will use OpenDaylight to push its own Cisco ONE controller as the de facto controller for OpenDaylight.

That concern is legitimate, according to Skorupa.

"While the effort is supposed to be governed by a 'technical meritocracy' it looks to be 'pay to play' from a governance perspective," Skorupa says, referring to the tiered membership fees for participation in OpenDaylight. "Furthermore, the selection of a foundation controller that hasn't been proven from a vendor with a mixed record on new software and that has been openly critical of OpenFlow seems suspect."

Cisco is "not ready to coronate" its Cisco ONE controller as the de facto controller for OpenDaylight -- but Cisco did submit it for the project and it's in the hands of 50 customers who are writing applications for it, says Dave Ward, Cisco vice president of engineering, CTO and chief architect. So that, and that Cisco co-founded OpenDaylight with IBM, might make Cisco ONE's chances pretty good.

"There's no momentum around one controller of all the open source controllers out there" like Floodlight, Nox, Trema and others, Ward says. "There's no reference architecture."

But it's not about the controller, Ward asserts -- it's about the applications.

Without OpenDaylight "there's a chance in three to five years we're all chasing a controller," Ward says. "But all revenue comes with the applications on top. All the action is in the applications on top of a common controller."

That may be why Big Switch is so cautious about OpenDaylight: It may disrupt its business plan. Big Switch charges about $1,700 per month for its Big Switch Controller and $4,200 per month for its Big Virtual Switch.

"Most of the vendors are saying, 'Let's get together to create an OpenFlow controller,'" says Peter Christy, Networks research director at 451 Research. "Vendors don't plan to differentiate on it. They agree that they don't want to compete at some lower layer. They're doing an OpenFlow controller like they collaborate on OpenStack."

Christy says this effort could either undercut or accelerate Big Switch's business plan, but Big Switch says that's not what worries it.

"What we are contributing is overwhelmingly already free through Project Floodlight, and our business model is already largely open source," a Big Switch spokesperson states in an email to Network World. We derive our revenue from subscription and services around the Open SDN Suite. The [business] model is analogous to Red Hat's enterprise edition.

"We are concerned that Cisco will politicize the selection process ... and that they will begin deprecating the code to move it more toward the proprietary model that serves them and no one else, most especially customers."

That may be the ONF's concern as well. The ONF's participation, endorsement and support was missing from the OpenDaylight press release and related material, but the OpenFlow-focused organization, founded by Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Verizon and Deutsche Telekom, issued a statement upon request that it is watching Daylight and other initiatives to see how they "measure up" to openness.

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