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New-Age Networking Predictions for the New Year: Open Source

As software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and other new-age networking initiatives mature, we'll be taking a look at what's in store for some of the most promising projects in the new year, now examining the open source movement.

Modern networking techniques such as SDN and NFV are closely tied to the open source phenomenon. As they've originated, evolved and matured, such approaches naturally have gravitated to open source, which itself is in the midst of a rising popularity trend.

As a Gigaom Research article noted last year, "As has always been the case with successful networking technologies, industry standards and open systems will play a strong role in the timely widespread adoption and ultimate success of both SDN and NFV solutions. Open source is poised to play an even more critical role in delivering on the promise of standardized and open networking."

Indeed, the SDN/NFV space is filled with open source projects covering everything from individual tooling to full-blown frameworks, all under the direction of various management/stewardship organizations.

Three Types of Standards Organizations
[Click on image for larger view.] Three Types of Standards Organizations (source: IEEE).

According to IEEE, such organizations usually come in three types, as illustrated in the graphic above: Standard Organizations that typically define standard specifications; Open Source Organizations that implement open source code; and Hybrid Standard/OpenSource organizations that both define standard specifications and implement open source code.

Some of the main players in the industry include:

  • Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). It facilitates the development and evolution of NFV components across various open source ecosystems.
  • ONOS. Originally standing for Open Network Operating System, it's described as "the only SDN controller platform that supports the transition from legacy 'brown field' networks to SDN 'green field' networks."
  • OpenDaylight (ODL). It's "a modular open platform for customizing and automating networks of any size and scale," arising out of the SDN movement with a focus on network programmability.
  • OpenContrail. This is described as an open source network virtualization platform for the cloud, originated by Juniper Networks and subsequently moved to The Linux Foundation.
  • Open vSwitch. Described as "a production quality, multilayer virtual switch ... designed to enable massive network automation through programmatic extension," this project comes from The Linux Foundation.
  • ONAP. Standing for Open Network Automation Platform, this reportedly "provides a comprehensive platform for real-time, policy-driven orchestration and automation of physical and virtual network functions that will enable software, network, IT and cloud providers and developers to rapidly automate new services and support complete lifecycle management."
  • Open Networking Foundation (ONF). This operator-led consortium says it leverages the SDN disaggregation approach (separating networking devices from proprietary software control solutions) to build innovative open source solutions for operator networks, transforming them into agile platforms for service delivery.

Speaking of the ONF, that organization last year attempted to rein in some proprietary offshoots in the industry, publishing an Open Innovation Pipeline resulting from the merger of the ONF and the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab).

"Now that the SDN movement, first initiated by the ONF, has successfully set in motion the disaggregation of networking devices and control software and fostered the emergence of a broad range open source platforms, the industry needs a unifying effort to build solutions out of the numerous disaggregated components," the ONF said.

"A trend has emerged where vendors leverage open source to build closed proprietary solutions, providing only marginal benefit to the broader ecosystem," the ONF continued. "The ONF's Open Innovation Pipeline intends to counteract this trend by offering greater returns to members who participate in the ONF's collaborative process. Through making active contributions to the Open Innovation Pipeline, vendors benefit from inclusion in CORD and ONOS solutions, thereby gaining access to operator deployments."

Many SDN/NFV-related projects are started by proprietary companies and then moved to open source, however, following the model of Juniper Networks' OpenContrail.

AT&T, for example, built its own homegrown technology into the ECOMP project (standing for Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy), which was combined with the Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O) to form the ONAP, described above.

In another case, mobile carrier Sprint last year culminated four years of research into NFV and SDN to produce a new open source offering designed to make core networks more efficient through new-age virtualization techniques.

The research, conducted with partner Intel Labs as Sprint moved to a virtualized environment, resulted in the open source project called Clean CUPS Core for Packet Optimization (C3PO).

"C3PO is an open source NFV- and SDN-based mobile core reference solution designed to significantly improve performance of the network core by providing a streamlined, high-performance data plane for the packet core, tightly coupled to an efficient, scalable SDN controller implementing IETF Forwarding Policy Configuration (FPC)," Sprint exec Dr. Ron Marquardt said.

For a couple other examples, see these noteworthy projects on GitHub:

  • Microsoft SDN: "This repo includes PowerShell scripts and VMM service templates for setting up the Microsoft Software Defined Networking (SDN) Stack using Windows Server 2016."
  • Floodlight OpenFlow Controller: With backing from Big Switch Networks engineers, this project provides an SDN controller designed to work with switches, routers, virtual switches, and access points that support the OpenFlow standard managed by the ONF.

Along with such tools and other implementations, plenty of instructional material, tutorials and other guidance is available on GitHub for SDN and NFV, with some popular repos including:

  • Awesome SDN: One of those "awesome" lists, just about SDN.
  • Coursera-SDN: This is Coursera coursework is provided by Princeton University.
  • SDNHub OpenDaylight Tutorial: This provides the project source code for an SDNHub tutorial intended for developers new to SDN application development with OpenDaylight.
  • SDN-NFV-Hands-on-Samples: Coming from Intel, this provides scripts and source code for SDN NFV Hands-on Labs.

Suffice it to say that based on all of the above, open source resources should be the first stop for enterprise IT and dev teams tackling new SDN and NFV initiatives in the new year.

"Open source, open standards, and open protocols are all important to software-defined networking," noted OpenSource.com. "Since networking is, by definition, an activity which connects related system, it is important that standards exist to manage this communication."

However, the Red Hat-backed site also provides a caveat: "The landscape of projects, standards, organizations, and companies involved with the effort to build open source solutions for software-defined networking and network functions virtualization can be a little complex."

With help from the above-referenced organizations and guidance, this complexity hopefully can be simplified in 2018.

Previous Predictions:

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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