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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.

And while this OpenDaylight work proceeds, Cisco and the other vendors in the consortium will continue to work on their own unique SDN architectures apart from the OpenDaylight project. Cisco's is Cisco ONE and the onePK API set for the company's three key operating systems: IOS, IOS XR and NX-OS.

Cisco clearly believes customers should go the onePK route, if a recent meeting with networking bloggers is any indication.

"OpenFlow is a fantasy you cannot counter because it's promising everything," says Prashant Gandhi, senior director of Cisco's Service Access Virtualization Technology Group, during the meeting with the Networking Field Day bloggers. "And there's nothing in production."

OnePK itself is only in the proof-of-concept phase, Gandhi acknowledged. Cisco is adopting a hybrid implementation of OpenFlow where its decoupled control and data planes work in unison with the control plane of IP. OpenFlow is also a new protocol with unanswered questions around security, survivability and scalability, Gandhi notes, to which a blogger countered that onePK has yet be proven bulletproof against buggy code, attack vulnerabilities, scale, etc.

So with so much suspicion of OpenFlow within Cisco, is it likely that Cisco will aggressively market the OpenDaylight controller vs. onePK? Is it likely that a strategic SDN investment like that made in Insieme Networks will include OpenDaylight in its product development?

Cisco would not comment on whether Insieme plans to embrace OpenDaylight in its product development. Analyst Christy believes Insieme will provide an interface to it but not base any product capabilities on it.

And then there are the vendors participants themselves, which represent some of the fiercest rivals in enterprise and data center networking. It's unlikely that they would collaborate strategically on something as strategic as SDNs.

It didn't happen with the Network Interoperability Alliance, led by IBM, Bay Networks and 3Com; Microsoft's Web-based Enterprise Management -- WBEM -- effort was viewed as a thinly veiled cabal against Sun's Java. It didn't happen with the Open Software Foundation's distributed computing and management environments, and it didn't happen with the OSI protocols.

Why would OpenDaylight be any different?

"One should not conclude that perfect amity will prevail among the membership," says IDC's Casemore. "Common membership does not denote uniform agreement. Each vendor has its own reasons for joining OpenDaylight, and, quite often, those reasons differ. Even Cisco and IBM have different agendas. So, yes, cooperation, except on the most fundamental code contributions, will be difficult to achieve."

Which leads one to ask, just how strategic is OpenDaylight?

"OpenDaylight will not guide vendor strategies," says Casemore. "More likely, it will serve as a foil and tactical bulwark for individual vendor strategies."


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