OpenDaylight's Helium SDN Platform Expands Enterprise Capabilities

The new release follows Hydrogen by eight months and offers a new UI and greater integration with OpenStack.

Helium SDN Platform

The OpenDaylight Project almost eight months ago unveiled Hydrogen, the first software release in its efforts to build an open-source platform to help drive the adoption of software-defined networking and network-functions virtualization.

Hydrogen came 10 months after the industry consortium was launched by such vendors as Cisco Systems and IBM, and the goal of the software release when it was announced in February was as much to prove that such a group could work as it was pushing forward its agenda, according to Executive Director Neela Jacques.

"People liked the idea [of such a vendor-led consortium], but they were unsure whether the companies would follow through," Jacques told eWEEK. "I think Hydrogen really answered that. People were surprised. … You could kick the tires [of Hydrogen] and the car didn't come apart."

Now the project, which is run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, has come out with Helium, the second iteration of its software that is more focused on what it can do rather than what it can prove, he said. Helium, which was released Sept. 29, offers deeper integration with OpenStack, the open-source cloud orchestration platform. Those integrations into the upcoming next iteration of OpenStack include Security Groups, which enable users to better manage access to instances in the cloud, distributed virtual routing and load balancing-as-a-service for greater network security and flexibility the use of load balancing products from disparate vendors.

Helium also comes with a new user interface and an installation process that is easier to use and is customizable. The release comes with greater authorization, authentication and accounting for even more security, improvements around the Open vSwitch Database Protocol, allows for high-availability and clustering for scale-out environments, and expanded support for such open-source technologies as the OpenFlow protocol's Table Type Patterns and the PacketCable Multimedia framework for such services as voice-over-IP (VoIP), multimedia conferencing and interactive gaming.

The advances in Helium are designed to make it more ready for the enterprise than Hydrogen, and to continue OpenDaylight's efforts to make it the de facto open-source framework for software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV), Jacques said. SDN and NFV hold the promise of more flexible, automated and agile networks by moving the control panel and network tasks—like firewalls and load balancing—off of the network hardware and putting it into software that can run on commodity systems.

Many vendors are embracing open source as a way to accelerate the adoption of SDN and NFV, with OpenDaylight being one of several open-source groups working on the technologies. Most recently, on Sept. 30, more than three dozen tech vendors and telecommunications companies—including Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Cisco Systems and AT&T—launched the Open Platform for NFV Project, also under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.

Jacques said OpenDaylight is headed in the right direction. Vendor support is strong, with more than 40 members and HP recently upgrading its membership. In addition, more products based on OpenDaylight's work are coming to market. For example, Brocade on Sept. 22 introduced its Vyatta SDN controller based on Helium.

"Helium allows Brocade and others to build a strategy partly built on OpenDaylight or completely built on OpenDaylight," he said. "We're becoming the de facto standard for SDN in the industry."