OpenDaylight debuts Hydrogen SDN software

First version of open source SDN/NFV software debuts amid debate about OpenDaylight's aims, Cisco's participation in the project

The OpenDaylight Project, the software-defined networking industry consortium that features IBM and Cisco among its roster of members, has released the first version of its SDN and NFV (network functions virtualization) software, Hydrogen.

OpenDaylight aims to be a virtual networking system that uses existing standards, mainly OpenFlow, so that switches of all kinds -- whether virtual or physical -- can be software-controlled via an open source platform. But the consortium raised a few eyebrows when it first appeared, in big part because of the people involved and questions about what it represents for the networking industry in general.

Hydrogen, which is Eclipse-licensed, comes in three editions: Base Edition, Virtualization Edition, and Service Provider Edition, each aimed at different markets. Base includes the core controller software, plug-ins and protocol libraries for OpenFlow, and configuration databases and tools for Open vSwitch servers and YANG projects. The other two editions include tools for things like DDoS detection, multitenancy, traffic engineering, and SNMP support for managing commodity Ethernet switches. In short, Hydrogen is not intended as a one-size-fits-all solution.

One major measure of OpenDaylight's success will be whether it becomes a developer's target -- in other words, if the software and APIs, rather than the switches or standards, are the new focus of attention. If Hydrogen becomes widely adopted it would also stand as an example of how innovation in IT is moving from abstract standards to concrete applications and APIs.

When the consortium was founded in April 2013, InfoWorld's Eric Knorr drew parallels between OpenDaylight and other open source projects like Linux, Hadoop, and OpenStack. Instead of collaborating on a standard -- which everyone would then go off and implement in their own software products -- collaboration is done directly in software, so to speak.

"The future is now being hashed out in open source bits rather than standards committees," Knorr wrote. "The rise in the importance of open source in the industry is simply stunning, with OpenDaylight serving as the latest confirmation."

But he also noted that "the politics of [the project] are mind-boggling," not least of all because of the presence of outfits like Cisco.

It's been argued that at least one other hardware vendor, Big Switch, left OpenDaylight's fold because its contributions to the project were shoved out by Cisco's -- and that Cisco in turn is going with OpenDaylight because it provides the company with a way to continue selling its custom ASICs over generic white-box switches via the ONE Controller code it contributed to OpenDaylight.

The more the hardware becomes abstracted, the more it becomes a commodity. Cisco may be indeed using its presence within OpenDaylight to rein things in (Knorr's idea), or to simply suss out where else it can provide proprietary solutions without losing its shirt -- much as Cisco's been attempting with its ACI initiative.

If OpenDaylight enjoys the same kind of long-term and broad adoption that, say, Hadoop has for big data users, it stands a chance of becoming a success, both as a technical achievement and as a triumph of practicality over politics. But whether open source alone, even the communal variety, is the best counterstrategy for this particular proprietary market remains to be seen.

This story, "OpenDaylight debuts Hydrogen SDN software," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.