OpenDaylight Open Source SDN Project Loses Big Switch

When you don't get your way in an open source group, do you leave or do you stay? Big Switch left.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jun 5, 2013
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The open source OpenDaylight SDN collaborative project is now in the midst of its first organizational challenge. One of its founding members is crying foul and exiting the group.

OpenDaylight got started in April of this year as a multi-stakeholder open source group run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. The initial group of members included Arista Networks, Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Nuage Networks, PLUMgrid, Red Hat, and VMware. Now, after not getting its way in a technical discussion, Big Switch is pulling out.

David Meyer, chief scientist at Brocade Networks and chair of the OpenDaylight Project Technical Steering Committee, noted in a blog post that there were two codebases submitted to the project to be used as the base for the OpenDaylight platform. One was submitted by Big Switch Networks, which pioneered the open source Floodlight controller. The other was the largest open source contribution ever made by Cisco.

"A community bringing forward multiple options and approaches to the same functionality happens all the time in open source communities, and the OpenDaylight community worked together to surface the best of the best code to address the needed controller functionality," Meyer said.

A proposal known as the Dickson-Erickson proposal was devised to merge the two codebases and move the community forward. While the OpenDaylight project leadership accepted the proposal, Big Switch did not.

"In the end, the leadership of ODL claimed 'consensus' was reached to start the project with the Cisco controller as the base repository, despite broad community advocacy to start from a neutral repository – not an incumbent vendor's," Big Switch founder Guido Appenzeller said.

In Appenzeller's view, the Floodlight controller had a 1-2 year head start, and he doesn't want to port applications over to the new base. He also noted that he doesn't "want to play politics with the incumbent vendor community."

The OpenDaylight Project isn't all that happy about Big Switch's exit or the rationale behind it, either.

In a statement sent to Enterprise Networking Planet, the project noted that as much as Big Switch Networks would like to paint this as some sort of David vs. Goliath struggle, the facts simply don't support it. "It's more accurate to say this is open source vs. the goals of a single, for-profit startup," the project stated. "In this case, the developer community combined technology from multiple sources (including BSN), which the company obviously didn't like. Open source is based on compromise and working together. Sometimes strong motivations and investor goals can get in the way of that. In the spirit of open source, we fully expect BSN to honor its commitments to this project."

Appenzeller is adamant that the the OpenDaylight approach that includes the Cisco controller is not the right way to move forward, however. That said, he noted that he is still favor of the general idea behind OpenDaylight.

"We still hope that ODL evolves into a user-oriented community instead of one controlled by a few large incumbent vendors," Appenzeller said. "If these things happen, then we will be back."

But the OpenDaylight Project doesn't see itself as limited by individual vendors and emphasizes that the open source model will triumph in the end. "We also hope Big Switch Networks will continue to engage in the community discussions as more eyes on code and more suggestions and alternative approaches in the long run produce the strongest code," the OpenDaylight Project stated. "We've said many times before that the beauty of the open source software development model is the best code always wins - we never said one company had the best, entire codebase."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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