10 Most important open source networking projects

There's an open source revolution happening in the network industry

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There’s an open source insurgence happening in the networking industry.

Increasing demands on the network to scale to unprecedented levels and at the same time become more customized to specific use cases has led to the emergence of  open source projects to support them.

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In many cases networking vendors are using these open source projects as the basis for enterprise networking products. In other cases, they are the core underlying technology for some of the largest networks in the world.

“Network transformation is moving into a phase of production-ready deployments,” says Arpit Joshipura, general manager of networking at the Linux Foundation. “As that happens, we believe there's a major disruption happening in open source networking, and it's becoming a fundamental building block for next-generation IT and next-gen networks for carriers.”

Here are 10 of the most important open source projects in the networking industry.


The idea behind the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) project is that central offices of telecommunications and service provider environments typically include myriad hardware and software for controlling many different aspects of networks. CORD aims to create a software-defined operating platform for central offices that uses commodity servers, white box switches and open source software.

More information on CORD


FD.io stands for Fast Data – input/output, and it’s an open source project made up of various open source libraries all with the goal of accelerating data efficiency in networking. FD.io focuses on ensuring open source networking deployments have the highest throughput, lowest latency and most efficient IO services. There are a handful of focus areas for FD.io, including a Vector Packet Processing (VPP) project donated by Cisco, and others focused on hardware acceleration, programmability and integration with other systems. FD.io components are typically used in conjunction with other projects such as OpenDaylight, OpenNFV, and OpenStack. The components are designed to work on a variety of generic hardware, including x86, ARM and PowerPC. Platinum members of the FD.io project include Cisco, Ericsson and Intel.

More information on FD.io


Mano is meant to be an open source software project for management and orchestration of software-defined networks and network function virtualization. It focuses on core areas such as supporting multi-site deployments, onboarding of NFVs, virtual network funcntions packaging, upgrading and installations on an SDN, creating development environments, service modeling and being platform-aware. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) houses the project.

More information on ETSI open source Mano


The Open Networking Automation Platform, or ONAP, is the combination of two projects: ECOMP, which was donated by AT&T, and the Open-O Orchestration platform. ONAP is primarily targeted at providing an open source automation and orchestration platform for service providers, particularly telecommunication vendors, to run SDNs and offer virtual network functions. ONAP’s more than 10 million lines of code include processes for onboarding networks and network functions, orchestration, control, inventory and maintaining policy across the network.

More information on ONAP


The Open Networking Operating System (ONOS) describes itself as an open source carrier-grade software defined networking (SDN) operating system. It’s geared at service providers who are looking for an open source operating system on which to build or run their SDN software.

More information about ONOS


Founded in 2013, this modular open source software defined networking (SDN) controller is housed within the Linux Foundation. It is fundamentally a series of software packages that users can use bits and parts of – or the whole thing – to create software controllers for their virtual networks. Many vendorss use or support the open source code in their commercial SDN controllers, including Brocade, HPE, Ericsson, Serro and Inocybe. The OpenDaylight Foundation, which manages the development of the source code for the Linux Foundation, says there are 27 OpenDaylight User Groups around the world.

More information about OpenDaylight


OpenFlow is credited with being the first standard communications protocol in the software defined networking market. Developed at Stanford University, the communications standards in OpenFlow dictate how the control plane can communicate with the forwarding data plane in SDN environments. While OpenFlow itself is not an open source project, the standards developed by OpenFlow and its organizer the Open Networking Foundation are some of the most important standards in the SDN market. Vendors including Alcatlel-Lucent, Arista, Brocade, Big Switch Networks, Ciena, Cisco, Cumulus, Dell, Ericsson, Extreme Networks, HPE, Huawei, Juniper, Pica8 and many others support OpenFlow standards in at least some of their routers and switches.

More information about OpenFlow


Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is the idea of replacing networking applications that used to be in dedicated hardware, such as load balancers and firewalls, and implementing them as software. OpenNFV’s goal is to create open source NFV components. OpenNFV has created a reference NFV platform for companies to build and deploy NFV components on, with a goal of providing system-level integration. OpenNFV has primarily been used by service providers and telecommunication vendors. AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Ericsson, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Juniper, Red Hat and SUSE are among the 53 member companies of the OpenNFV project, which is housed within the Linux Foundation.

More information about OpenNFV


OpenSwitch is a modular, Linux-based open source network operating system (NOS) hosted in the Linux Foundation. It is a software platform that provides Layer 2 and 3 capabilities. It’s meant to run inside hardware, such as switches and routers, that are designed using specifications from the Open Compute Project. Premier members of the OpenSwitch project include Barefoot Networks, Broadcom, Cavium, Dell EMC, Extreme Networks, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mellanox and Snaproute.

More information on OpenSwitch


OpenvSwitch, also known as OVS, is a multi-layer open source virtual switch distributed with an Apache license. OpenvSwitch can be used as a virtual, or software implementation of a networking switch in a networking environment. OVS is used to connect virtual machines within a host or virtual machines across hosts. It also supports common networking protocols, such as OpenFlow as well as standard spanning tree architectures, VLAN tagging and port mirroring.

More information about OpenvSwitch

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