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Another Open-Source SDN Controller?

by Andrew Lerner  |  November 10, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Last week, another Open-Source SDN controller hit the market. The Open Networking Lab (On.Lab) is a non-profit consortium to promote networking innovation and last week they released their ONOS controller (link here). If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking a) this sounds eerily familiar and b) do we really need another SDN controller on the market? There are already several open-source SDN software/controller options including OpenDaylight, OpenContrail (via Juniper), Ryu, Floodlight (the “old-school” open-source controller via Big Switch Networks), Midonet (via Midokura) and others. This certainly seems like overkill considering there are less than 1000 mainstream SDN deployments out there and most folks want a commercially supported controller.

It’s all about the (Northbound) API…

So this could further fragment an already-fragmented space, especially after a potential center of gravity was starting to coalesce around ODL. Putting that aside for a second, one of the biggest keys to this whole SDN movement is the northbound API. Without a common shared NB-API, it is like everyone is using a different foreign currency – nobody can exchange goods across borders (controllers).  If ONOS and ODL ultimately share a NB-API then coolness (i.e., innovation and adoption) can prevail. In all likelihood, there will be handful of SDN NB-APIs that emerge as de-facto standards, so it is critically important that ODL, ONF and ONOS can agree on at least one consistent well-documented, feature-rich NB-API. That  would be  key to limiting further fragmentation and could also even proliferate  SDN adoption. This theoretical shared NB-API would make  SDN services/apps portable across multiple controllers.  And after all, that is one of the general principles behind SDN, right?

ONOS Differentiators

All that said, I reviewed some of the ONOS collateral and they claim differentiation via their architecture (more about that here). They’ve architected the ONOS controller for distributed (scale-out) capability, to run across multiple devices.  As a result of this distributed architecture they claim a) reduced latency, b) a high degree of scalability supporting up to 1M transactions per second and c) increased resiliency via clustering. Obviously, I’ve not been able to validate these with anyone actually running the ONOS controller yet (always important to caveat that!).

Who’s Behind all this?

AT&T is a big backer of the project (to the tune of $5M in investments) along with other network operators (i.e., network equipment buyers) like NTT and Internet2.  However, the consortium is also made of equipment vendors (sellers)  including Ciena, Fujitsu, Huawei, and Ericsson. So, while it has been reported that ONOS is “free from vendor influence“, in reality there is certainly influence from equipment vendors. Call me a skeptic (not the first time and won’t be the last), and yes, we’ve been critical of OpenDaylight for this as well.

Service Provider Focused

Given the AT&T investment, its not surprising that they’re initially targeting carriers and organizations running really big networks. So this is a vertically focused offering which is a good thing (less overlap with ODL) and reduces the potential for fragmentation. Who knows; maybe ONOS becomes the de-facto carrier SDN controller while ODL becomes an enterprise-centric controller….as long as they share the NB-API…(I can dream).

Related SDN Research:

The links below include Gartner’s SDN taxonomy, success stores from early adopters, and guidance for mainstream enterprise.

Regards, Andrew


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Category: in-the-news  networking  product-annoucement  sdn  

Tags: att  big-switch  ciena  contrail  ericcson  floodlight  fujitsu  hp-huawei  infoblox  internet2  juniper  midokura  ntt  on-labs  onos  opendaylight  ryu  

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

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