Big Switch Steps Away From OpenDaylight SDN Group

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-06-05

Big Switch Steps Away From OpenDaylight SDN Group

Big Switch Networks, a key player in the burgeoning software-defined network market, is essentially leaving the open-source OpenDaylight Project it helped found only two months ago.

In a June 5 post on Big Switch’s blog, CEO Guido Appenzeller said the project’s decision to create to merge the software-defined network (SDN) controller technologies from Big Switch and Cisco Systems to create a common controller confirmed fears that his company had that OpenDaylight would be driven by big vendors rather than what was best for the industry.

“Thinking about this long and hard, it became clear to us that this isn’t a foundation that we can build on,” Appenzeller wrote.

The OpenDaylight Project was created by more than a dozen tech vendors—including Big Switch, IBM, Cisco, Arista Networks and Hewlett-Packard—to develop an open platform for SDNs that would be widely adopted and enable vendors to compete at higher levels, such as with the applications that run atop the SDN platform.

Big Switch’s depature comes a day after several other vendors—including Cyan, Huawei, Plexxi, Radware and Inocybe Technologies joined the consortium.

OpenDaylight, being run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, joined a number of other community-based SDN projects run by such groups as the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and Open Compute Project.

However, from its launch in April, there has been skepticism about the validity of OpenDaylight—including from Big Switch officials—because of the involvement of such big networking vendors as Cisco and IBM. In an interview with eWEEK before the company announced it was stepping down from the project, Jason Matlof, vice president of marketing at Big Switch, said OpenDaylight was a “big question mark” because of Cisco’s involvement.

“If the industry is interested in open source and open standards in networking, do we really trust Cisco with this?” Matlof asked.

Others had echoed Matlof’s sentiment. Gartner analyst Mark Fabbi said that the “ulterior motive for Cisco is to gain a voice in SDN, which they didn’t have before,” while Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking, stressed the importance of true openness in SDN in everything from the controller to the northbound and southbound interfaces.

“Those have to remain open and we cannot allow [vendor lock-in] to happen, because then innovation will die, and we just can’t have that in the networking industry right now,” Mayer told eWEEK last month.

Big Switch Steps Away From OpenDaylight SDN Group

Cisco officials have said they embrace open standards in SDN, noting its support of the OpenFlow controller technology in its switches, its work with the ONF and its participation in the OpenDaylight Project.

In his blog post, Big Switch CEO Appenzeller wrote that the company disagreed with OpenDaylight’s decision to merge Big Switch Floodlight controller and Cisco’s ONE controller to create a common code base. Big Switch disagreed for two key reasons, the first being that its Floodlight technology is one to two years ahead of what the OpenDaylight Project is proposing, which would force Big Switch to try to port its software to a less mature code base.

“The second, and more important reason is that our energy is better spent concentrating on the needs of the user community—not playing politics with the incumbent vendor community,” Appenzeller wrote.

The trend in the industry is toward inexpensive and simple bare-metal or white-box switches that can be easily programmed via controller software. It’s a trend that’s been validated by the work of the ONF and the Open Compute Project, among others, he wrote.

“We support this trend towards OpenFlow-based bare metal switch fabrics with our Indigo open-source repo and our Switch Light thin-switching platform,” Appenzeller wrote. “While forward-thinking customers are committed to this trend, we question whether or not the incumbent hardware vendors leading OpenDaylight have a similar commitment.”

In a June 5 post on the OpenDaylight blog, David Meyer, CTO and chief scientist at Brocade and an OpenDaylight board member, wrote that the decision on the controller—dubbed the Dickson-Erickson Proposal—that was accepted by the community was a good example of how open-source development should work.

Noting that multiple controller code bases were submitted, Meyer said that “the community looked at the code, weighed the merits of various parts and in typical open-source fashion picked the best pieces from multiple codebases to build the base controller. In the open-source software world, that’s positive forward progress.”

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