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OpenDaylight Executive Director spells out where this open source SDN efforts stands

John Dix | Sept. 16, 2014
Neela Jacques talks about where the standards stand on SDN.

What do you make of Cisco OpFlex, which it describes as a policy framework "to transfer abstract policy from a network policy controller to a set of smart devices capable of rendering abstract policy"?  
Our philosophy is that we want the network elements to be as simple as possible so they are just high-performance packet-processing devices. They need to be able to interpret models. We don't think they need to have a lot of custom ASICs in them, and we see the value of being in software up on the control plane, and so we are pursuing all the means we have to make the philosophy that we hold available in products and services.

Then you have VMware, which is pushing network virtualization, which again is a bit different than your SDN vision. Do you view network virtualization as an application of SDN, as some say?
I think it's a use case of SDN. It comes in handy in lots of scenarios and has been very useful for a number of organizations to get started.  But some users say, "Virtualization is nice, but I'm not doing overlays. I'm going to do real SDN. I'm going to control the whole forwarding plane."

And as we build out the OpenFlow substrate, we're getting the conversation around to what is truly important to the enterprise, and that's the stuff you build on top of it.  Some people debate whether this protocol is better than OpenFlow for this or that use, and I say, let's get beyond that.  The outbound protocol is just a vehicle, just a carrier of these things.  The real importance to enterprises is the orchestration, the automation and the central policy management.  This just carries those commands down to do those things. It's figuring out how those couple to organizational objectives that really matters to people who operate networks.

 So we have quite a number of activities in that area, and we're going to see, I think, great progress in helping organizations put these pieces together so they have a functioning system that does bring them the business value that SDN promises.

We continue to work with VMware.  They have championed and deployed the overlay approach, which a lot of people have liked and it's gotten SDN in the door.  We think there will be some significant industry battlegrounds for giving customers what they want and, as always, the market decides who wins.

Switching gears a little ... how critical is OpenDaylight -- the vendor-lead effort to build an open source SDN controller -- to the success of the SDN movement?
We certainly believe that as networking becomes more a software play, open-source software will have an increasingly significant role.  So we cooperated in a number of ways with OpenDaylight, and OpenDaylight has a lot of control modules that are useful and important and we're delighted to see people contributing to those.  


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