Lenovo, Comcast Join OpenDaylight SDN, NFV Effort

The cable giant has been testing the consortium's technology and running several proofs-of-concept to see how it fits into its long-term plans.


Lenovo and cable giant Comcast are the latest companies to join the OpenDaylight Project, and Comcast officials are giving some details on internal efforts to leverage the network virtualization technologies being developed by the industry consortium.

The 2-year-old OpenDaylight effort—launched by the likes of Cisco Systems, Microsoft and IBM—now has more than four-dozen members, ranging from hardware makers to network technology vendors to software companies. The group is developing an open framework to help accelerate the adoption of software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV).

The consortium announced it latest software release, dubbed Helium, in September 2014.

OpenDaylight is seeing more end-user interest in its efforts, both in adopting the software and in participating in the development, according to Executive Director Neela Jacques.

"Comcast has been testing ODL and working with our community since launch, and the team at Lenovo [was] heavily involved in ODL’s foundation through their roots at IBM," Jacques said in a statement.

Lenovo bought IBM's x86 server business last year for $2.1 billion. Igor Marty, CTO of Lenovo's SDN and NFV initiatives, said that an open approach like OpenDaylight "is the faster way to deploy solutions, and what we’ve seen OpenDaylight achieve in just two years has been impressive."

In a post on the OpenDaylight blog, Chris Luke, senior principal engineer at Comcast and a member of the OpenDaylight Advisory Group, said his company—which offers video, phone service and high-speed Internet throught its Xfinity program—has been testing OpenDaylight software since the group launched. At the same time, Comcast has been working with a partner, CableLabs, on an OpenDaylight sub-project, called PacketCable PCMM, designed to develop a southbound plug-in for the software to manage services across Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) devices.

"Like many service providers, Comcast is motivated to reduce the operational complexity of our networks," Luke wrote. "In the near term, this involves significant improvements to network automation under what we call our Programmable Network Platform. This framework outlines a stack of behaviors and abstraction layers that software uses to interact with the network."

The company wants to make it easier and faster for engineers to develop and deploy new services, improve support and simplify handoffs from operations and business support systems by using a common framework.

"Longer term, we’re working toward creating an architecture where the core of the network is not intimately involved in the operation of virtual networks," he wrote.

Among the steps Comcast is taking is reviewing technologies like segment routing and the LISP networking protocol, and virtualizing the traditional provider edge and customer premise device.

"What that ultimately looks like we don't know yet; what we do know is that the current complexity inherent in the components we use is undesirable, and we must be careful to not simply trade one convoluted system for another equally but differently convoluted system," Luke wrote. With OpenDaylight, "we were pleased to see an open-source platform come forward aiming to provide a neutral playing field with support for more than just OpenFlow."

Among the work Comcast is doing is a proof-of-concept around network intelligence abstraction to enable software systems that move large volumes of content across the network to customers to be more responsive during times when the network is being disrupted. The company created an SDN app that uses OpenDaylight technology to interface with the network.

"The beauty of this mechanism is it allows the network to influence the decisions an application is making in real time, but without adding any complexity to the forwarding plane of the network itself," Luke wrote. "For future work, we will investigate several projects slated for inclusion in the [upcoming] Lithium ODL release, such as ALTO, Maple and others to see if they offer more of the functionality we're looking for in order to make the SDN App much less complex."

Another proof-of-concept involves overlay services at the edge of the network. One facet includes testing the use of LISP to build VPN meshes, while another involves "using mostly-stateless GRE (also known as SoftGRE) tunnels to build endpoints that integrate with the legacy MPLS network."