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Skeptcism follows Cisco-IBM led OpenDaylight SDN consortium

Jim Duffy | April 10, 2013
If you're skeptical about the intentions of the OpenDaylight SDN consortium, you're not alone.

If you're skeptical about the intentions of the OpenDaylight SDN consortium, you're not alone.

Several questions remain regarding the true objectives of this consortium, pulled together by Cisco and IBM and involving several of their partner and competitor vendors in an effort, on surface, to induce an application ecosystem for open source SDNs. Several established and startup vendors, including Cisco, IBM, HP, Juniper, Arista Networks and Big Switch Networks, are collaborating under the auspices of the Linux Foundation to develop an open source framework for SDN application development.

But there are several elephants in the room, of various sizes:

  • The conspicuous absence of the user-driven Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Not even a proactive endorsement or statement of support, let alone participation.
  • Co-founder Cisco's effort to have its Cisco ONE controller as the de facto controller for OpenDaylight
  • Guarded optimism -- read: skepticism -- from some members, like Big Switch, that this effort stays true to its stated goals. Indeed, Big Switch's participation is as much a watchdog over the process as it is contributor.
  • Cisco's downplay, and even dismissal, of the role of OpenFlow and the decoupling of control and data planes in SDNs. OpenFlow is the popular open source SDN API and protocol supported by many users -- like Google and other founders of the ONF -- and vendors, like Big Switch, HP and IBM.
  • The likelihood that Cisco's Insieme Networks programmable networking spin-in will not include Daylight in its product development.
  • And just the unlikelihood that fierce competitors can collaborate and/or agree on any strategic product development. Indeed, efforts like this in the past have ended up as nothing more than failed PR exercises and thinly veiled smokescreens for other less-than-altruistic agendas.

"We're skeptical of this effort for several reasons," says Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa. "Unlike the ONF, this effort is controlled by large vendors and has cut out the voice of the consumer. In private conversations with a number of vendors, they have expressed the same concerns. They may be members, but clearly aren't supportive."

So why should anyone view this as anything more than Cisco and IBM attempting to freeze the SDN market and potential momentum as they get their own unique products ready in the background?

Good question, according to Jason Matlof, vice president of marketing for Big Switch.

"We are very cautious and even skeptical that this body will not be politicized by some vendors' behavior," Matlof says. "We are Platinum members because we believe that the spirit of Daylight is the right thing for the industry and users, to the extent that it remains committed to standards, including OpenFlow; it delivers on the explicit expectation that the community be 'Merit-Based'; and it is open to all contributions."


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