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Open Networking foundation (ONF) Executive Director on the group's achievements, goals

John Dix | Sept. 16, 2014
Dan Pitt explains where the standards stand.

There are folks who believe it's just early and that it will evolve and we'll go to 1.5 and 1.6 and 1.7 and 1.8 and 1.9, and over time it will continue to get refined and it will be the protocol that changes the industry.  You'll eventually be able to do everything with OpenFlow.  And that's possible.  It may do just that. 

But other folks say, "Actually, no.  OpenFlow was a great start.  But there will be another protocol that overcomes it."  And then still others that say, "Networks don't change overnight. No point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  OpenFlow does flow programming really, really well.  In parts of your network OpenFlow works great.  But BGP does a great job for certain things.  And we need other protocols out there. "

And the truth is we don't have one programming language in the world, we have many. It's fine that there is Java and C and Python and Ruby.  Our world can deal with multiple solutions to many different problems. Networking is likely to evolve that way.  What we need are systems that are able to work with and integrate with other systems.I do believe we will see a shake-out. This industry has been sleepy and has not changed for so many years, and now we're in a period of great change, which means that a lot of innovation, a lot of seeds are being planted, but not every seedling will grow into a tree.  I think we will end up with a few trees.  I think OpenFlow has some critical mass.  I don't see OpenFlow disappearing.  But I just don't know that it's going to be the silver bullet that works for everything everywhere.

You've mentioned overlay networks a few times, is network virtualization the low-hanging fruit?
I do think it is the low-hanging fruit, which is what's nice about it. It's very accessible.  It appears non-disruptive. It gets you out of having a million silos in networking.  And it offers the promise, I think, of a programmable network.  But I don't think it solves every problem, and it creates some new problems.  So I think network virtualization makes some sense, and I understand why the data center is looking at it and why it's gaining a lot of traction. But I think there is a lot more to SDN than just network virtualization.

And I think longer term we need more profound change to networking than what network virtualization brings.

Given VMware is the major proponent of that approach, why do they want to be a part of OpenDaylight?
OpenDaylight has the potential of changing the networking industry, of slowly becoming a community with the greatest minds, the biggest questions in the industry. And that can be disruptive to anybody who either makes a lot of money or has designs to make a lot of money.


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