What is Cisco's Biggest Open Source Contribution Ever?

Cisco bets big on SDN with its ONE Controller.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Apr 12, 2013
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Networking giant Cisco Systems is no stranger to the world of open source software. In 2009, Cisco was identified as one of the top contributors to the Linux kernel; its core IOS XE operating is based on Linux as well. But it has only been in this past week that Cisco has made its largest open source contribution ever.

 

"We have contributed our ONE Controller as perhaps the termination point of OpenDaylight," David Ward, CTO of engineering and chief architect at Cisco Systems, said during an investor call on Thursday. "This is Cisco's largest contribution into open source in the history of the company."

The OpenDaylight project is a multi-stakeholder effort being run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. In addition to Cisco, other vendors participating in the effort include Arista Networks, Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Nuage Networks, PLUMgrid, Red Hat, and VMware.

At the core of OpenDaylight is the goal of creating an open source Software Defined Networking (SDN) opendaylightframework. Part of that framework will be some form of SDN controller, which is where Cisco might have a big impact.

Cisco ONE (One Network Environment) is a broad effort from Cisco, first announced in June of 2012. The Cisco ONE Controller technology was announced in February of this year.

Ward said that the OpenDaylight effort is a new tool for Cisco to help build a developer community around SDN.

"It's a great sign that Cisco is embracing open source to be able to help transition the industry into one of very clear openness," Ward said.

OpenDaylight has a preliminary architecture approach that Ward said the community has agreed on at a high level. At the base level, routers and switches all will speak open protocols such as OpenFlow. The architecture also includes a service abstraction layer, which removes the need for an application developer to understand anything about the underlying switch protocols.

"It causes my eyes to tear up to say this, because I have worked on protocols for so long, but current application developers want to be able to build applications where the network can be orchestrated by itself," Ward said.

Commoditization Threat?

Ward was quick to deflate the notion that with SDN there is a potential risk of commoditization, which could impact Cisco's business. Ward stressed that Cisco has new hardware ASICs that provide non-commoditized capabilities that add value.

Cisco is also an active participant in the OpenStack effort and even has its own OpenStack distribution.

The contribution to the OpenDaylight project furthers Cisco's commitment to open source and open standards.

"We have this contribution into open source and we will continue to build and develop the OpenDaylight controller," Ward said. "We understand that we can also use this controller within our own product portfolio to be able to port applications directly on top of it and continue to enhance in a commercial offering, what we have also open sourced as a generic controller."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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