SDN Standards Groups ONF, ON.Lab to Merge

The move will help consolidate open-source efforts around SDN and NFV and bring together such efforts as ONOS, CORD and OpenFlow.

network virtualization

Two key players in the open-standards efforts around network virtualization will merge next year, bringing some consolidation to an area where over the past several years there has been a proliferation of standards groups.

Officials with the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) this week announced that the two organizations will become a single consortium that will operate under the ONF name and will be led by Guru Parulkar, founder and executive director of ON.Lab.

The merger is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, with the headquarters remaining in Menlo Park, Calif. Until then, the groups will continue to run as separate entities, though they will have closely affiliated operations.

Both organizations, which boast big names in tech and telecommunications as members and partners, have been working on various areas of standardization around software-defined networking (SDN) with the goal of creating specifications that will accelerate the adoption of the technology in enterprise data centers and with carrier infrastructures. SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) are expected to become key components in network infrastructures, with the SDN market hitting $132.9 billion by 2022, according to analysts with Allied Market Research.

The technologies enable organizations to take the network control plane and tasks like load balancing, routing and firewalls off of the underlying hardware and putting them into software, allowing for networks that are more programmable, scalable, agile and affordable.

There have been a number of industry consortiums that have been established over the past few years to create open platforms and standards for SDN and NFV that they said gives vendors common specs to build upon and speed up the adoption of the technologies. Many of the groups operate under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, and officials with ONF and ON.Lab said the merged organization will work with many of these other open-source projects, such as OpenDaylight and the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV).

"We see a lot of value in combining the best of ONF and ON.Lab," Andre Fuetsch, ONF board member and president of AT&T Labs and CTO of AT&T, which like Verizon is aggressively moving network virtual technologies into its networks.

. "To continue driving adoption of SDN, we need both high-quality open-source software for the necessary but non-differentiating infrastructure as well as open standards and APIs. This will allow us to quickly create and deploy innovative new services above and to control standard hardware below."

Such a unified project "enables software to inform new standards and help drive much faster adoption of SDN," Fuetsch said.

ON.Lab's Parulkar said in a statement that "over the last few years, it has become clear that SDN standards and open-source software development must come together. Open source is critical to SDN deployment. With the combination of ONF and ON.Lab, we are … bringing standards and open-source efforts under a single umbrella. This will build real synergy between the two—letting open-source development and deployment guide standards development."

The groups said that ONF will continue moving forward with both ONOS, an SDN operating system, and the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) projects, which are being driven by ON.Lab and the Linux Foundation. In addition, the merged organization will work closely with OpenDaylight, OPNFV and other groups and will continue to update to the OpenFlow SDN protocol.

"We believe that standards based on widely adopted open-source projects such as [OpenDaylight], ONOS, OPNFV and CORD can be more widely and easily implemented within the industry," Parulkar said.