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Revisiting OpenDaylight

by Andrew Lerner  |  February 7, 2014  |  8 Comments

Revisiting OpenDaylight

When OpenDaylight was announced, we at Gartner were skeptical because the consortium was led and comprised of the vendor/selling community with near-zero participation from the user/buying community. Thus, our concerns were that it didn’t have the best interests of enterprise customers in mind.  It had the tell-tale signs of a delay tactic to slow SDN deployments, while giving incumbents a chance to “catch-up” to non-incumbents and startups. This week, OpenDaylight announced their first code release (Hydrogen) so it is a good time to revisit this discussion.  Let’s start by looking at the facts surrounding what has happened since OpenDaylight was commissioned/announced (in April 2013) and today…

  •  In November, Cisco (a founding member of OpenDaylight) announced their next-gen strategic data center platform, ACI.
  • Several other vendors including Juniper and VMware released mainstream SDN solutions including NSX and Contrail, respectively.
  • Juniper even open-sourced a version of their Contrail controller, which now competes with OpenDaylight.
  • SDN pioneer Big Switch reduced their participation in OpenDaylight and ultimately shifted corporate focus.
  • Many commercial SDN offerings do not support or integrate with OpenDaylight (i.e., Juniper, Dell, HP and VMware).  Cisco supports Daylight in some products,  but not in their flagship data center network solution, ACI (at least not yet).
  • Many additional member organizations were added to the OpenDaylight effort, but the buying/user community remains mostly absent from the membership base (unlike the ONF).
  • While it isn’t anywhere near a consensus among Gartner clients, several have remarked to me that they wanted to wait for OpenDaylight before making any “major decisions” around SDN.

So overall, this seems to confirm our initial concerns with the effort in many regards.

Moving Forward

However, at this point, that is essentially water under the bridge and we can look at OpenDaylight moving forward… So there is now usable code, derived from a wide variety of contributors and based on what I’ve read and heard, it includes some good stuff.  How does it compare with or differentiate from other open source controllers, is it reliable and does it scale? Short answer is we don’t know; it is too early to say.

However, OpenDaylight is still very much a science project for mainstream enterprise.  Most mainstream network designers want a supported enterprise-class product which typically means an appliance, and maintenance/ support for it.  OpenDaylight simply isn’t there yet, and outside of IBM’s SDN offering, there isn’t widespread commercialized product support for it either in the data center (at least not yet). Time will tell and perhaps more mainstream networking vendors will integrate it into  their SDN solutions and/or wrap sheet metal around it and sell it with a support contract. But at this point in time, it competes with other open-source controller solutions such as OpenContrail and Floodlight (and others).  And to date,  we’ve seen very limited adoption of these in mainstream enterprise, and don’t anticipate that changing much over the next year or two.

The Bottom Line

At this point in time, I am not saying that OpenDaylight is a bad thing, in fact quite the contrary – Open Source SDN controllers are a very good thing – they foster SDN adoption/innovation and lead to increased customer choice.  But you have to take into account the full backstory of OpenDaylight, including what has been left in its wake.

Thanks for reading and looking forward to your thoughts and feedback…

Andrew Lerner

PS-Some Published Research regarding OpenDaylight, NSX and ACI

OpenDaylight Project Casts Cloud Over SDN Deployments

VMware’s NSX Could Be a Small Step or Giant Leap for SDN

Cisco’s ACI Delivers Tactical Benefits but Lacks Strategic Value of SDN


Additional Resources

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Category: networking  

Tags: aci  cisco  contrail  juniper  nsx  open-source  opendaylight  sdn  vmware  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
6+ years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Revisiting OpenDaylight

  1. Jesse Freund says:


    Enjoyed the read and always appreciate your perspective.

    Gartner seems to have two incompatible positions here.

    On the one hand, you write: “It [OpenDaylight] had the tell-tale signs of a delay tactic to slow SDN deployments, while giving incumbents a chance to “catch-up” to non-incumbents and startups.”

    On the other hand, you say: “I am not saying that OpenDaylight is a bad thing, in fact quite the contrary – Open Source SDN controllers are a very good thing – they foster SDN adoption/innovation and lead to increased customer choice.”

    So, which is it? Does OpenDaylight exist to slow or accelerate innovation and adoption of SDN and its deployments?

    In my experience, open source software communities exist almost singlehandedly to drive innovation, standardization and adoption of an emerging technology. In fact, in the now storied annals of open source projects, there doesn’t appear to be a single example of a community that served to delay or stall deployments of the associated disruptive technology. Open source is, simply put, a very powerful accelerant.

    Furthermore, it’s my belief that all of the founding members, as well as the 50+ organizations that contributed to the Hydrogen release, approached their participation under the assumption that OpenDaylight exists to accelerate the adoption of SDN deployments. No one was naïve to its purpose nor duplicitous about its virtue.

    I know our industry love a juicy ulterior motive, but this is another perspective to consider.

    And although Andrew knows me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t state that I work for Cisco.

    • Andrew Lerner says:

      Jesse, thanks for reading and responding. I see the confusion but it is not 2 different positions, it is that there are two different events. Event #1 is the founding of the Daylight consortium, while event #2 is actual code being released from it. Two distinct and different events with seperate ramifications. At this point, the code is out and that is a good thing… With regards to the founding of Daylight, call me a skeptic but I have a hard-time believing that the founders’ intentions were ultimately in the best interests of the consumer….

      Also…On a side note, blogs do not necessarily reflect official Gartner positions…

  2. Jesse Freund says:


    My pleasure. I respect your pov and enjoy the dialogue.

    In answer to your reply: While the precipitating events are different the statements are incompatible just the same. If you believe that open source exists to fuel innovation and speed adoption (as I do, and as you seem to indicate in the second quote) then it can’t be true that OpenDaylight was created to “slow SDN deployments” (from your first quote).

    As to motives, you and I can agree to disagree :). I’ll more than likely be accused of vendor bias by other interested parties — no matter my true feelings 🙂

    However, I will add that if any of the members went into OpenDaylight thinking it would stall SDN adoption they were sorely mistaken. I truly believe that all of the founding members and contributing organizations knew (and still believe) that OpenDaylight exists to speed the innovation, standardization and adoption of SDN.

    And, at the end of the day, I struggle to see how that is bad for customers.

  3. Omar Sultan says:

    [Disclosure: I work for Cisco and am the chair for the OpenDaylight Marketing Workgroup–I am responding from the latter perspective]


    Thanks for taking time to provide an update on the Hydrogen release.

    Delivering 1M+ lines of code and 4,700 commits from 154 contributors in 10 months is a notable milestone, but your observation is correct that this is essentially a 1.0 release. The primary purpose of Hydrogen is to provide a complete enough platform for developers to start playing creating applications, end users to start experimenting and organizations to begin evaluation ODL-based commercial offerings–if you caught the opening day keynote, you saw Neela touch upon some of the end users making plans around ODL as well as some of the commercial offerings. Furthermore, much like other open source projects, we expect a rich ecosystem to spring up to provide enterprises with support for implementation, customization and support.

    I guess my bottom line is that we see Hydrogen as the opening hand, not the end game. As a project we are suitably proud of what we have achieved in 10 short months, but recognize there is still much work to do. As we have said from day one, judge us by our code. 🙂



  4. Omar Sultan says:

    OK, back again, since I wanted to address a couple of Cisco-specifc points without muddying the waters (see above disclosure).

    1) With regards to ACI and ODL, Cisco Plexxi, Midokura and IBM, have proposed a policy plug-in for ODL that allows it to understand ACI-style policy and allow the ODL controller to instantiate that policy on whatever hardware it is controlling. This will create a consistent policy substrate for apps, tools, etc regardless of if the underlying controllers are ACI-derived, ODL-derived, or some combination of the two:

    2) Cisco has offered XNC for a number of months now–it is a commercialized version of the prior ODL code with full Cisco support services:



  5. Andrew Lerner says:

    Thanks much for the multiple posts, Omar… Look forward to seeing this develop.

  6. […] certainly adds legitimacy to the ODL initiative. As I blogged in February, ODL needed mainstream networking vendors to  ”…integrate it into  their SDN solutions […]

  7. […] certainly adds legitimacy to the ODL initiative. As I blogged in February, ODL needed mainstream networking vendors to  ”…integrate it into  their SDN solutions […]

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