OpenDaylight Project to Help Propel SDN into New Era

The software-defined networking (SDN) revolution is about to undergo a major transformation. Nearly every major networking vendor has joined with the major operating system vendors today under the auspices of the Linux Foundation to create a massive new SDN framework, an undertaking called the OpenDaylight Project.

The OpenDaylight Project’s supporter list includes 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 The goal of OpenDaylight is to help create a common open-source SDN platform that will advance the state of networking for everyone.

Fundamentally, OpenDaylight is about the launch of a new day for networking.

“The origin of the name is based on the concept of combining elements of light from a wide variety of companies,” Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation, told Enterprise Networking Planet.

While there are no shortage of networking standards bodies and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) in particular when it comes to SDN, OpenDaylight is being organized by the Linux Foundation.

“The Linux Foundation was approached by the companies involved due to its experience hosting and assisting projects like this, projects focused on code,” Zemlin said.

The Linux Foundation is the host for Linux, the largest open-source collaborative development effort in history. Linux FoundationThe Linux Foundation was formed in 2007 as a successor organization to the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL).

“Projects like OpenDaylight rely on essential collaborative and organizational frameworks, including developer infrastructure, for which we have experience providing a wide range of projects,” Zemlin noted. “All of this allows founders of these projects and the developer community to focus on innovation and results. “

OpenFlow and vSwitch

At the core of many SDN conversations in the last several years has been the OpenFlow protocol, which the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) helps to develop.

From a Linux perspective, though OpenFlow itself has never been directly part of the Linux kernel, the open vSwitch, which helps to enable a virtual networking switch inside of an operating system, has been in Linux since March of 2012.

Zemlin noted that vSwitch is one of the virtual devices that can be controlled by the OpenFlow protocol, but still requires a centralized controller component to manage an SDN environment. 

“OpenDaylight at its core is such a controller framework and allows OpenFlow and other legacy and emerging protocols to be used to control devices such as vSwitch and other virtual and physical devices that make up a common network,” Zemlin said.

Though OpenDaylight will support OpenFlow, it won’t be limited to that. Zemlin stressed that the project will work with any switch that project participants are motivated to support.

“That’s the essence of open source,” Zemlin said. “The best code wins and developers are motivated to develop support for the most popular technologies.”

OpenStack Quantum

Another big open source effort in the SDN space that has garnered widespread support is the OpenStack Quantum project. Quantum is a networking framework inside of the OpenStack cloud platform that enables virtual networking. The OpenStack project recently updated its stack with the Grizzly release, delivering new Load Balancing as a Service capability for Quantum.

“OpenDaylight will work closely with the OpenStack community, as many of the members and contributors are the same,” Zemlin said. “OpenDaylight provides a strong complement to Quantum by providing a central controller framework on which Quantum can rely in managing both its virtual network components and its physical components as the OpenStack’s need for advanced SDN capabilities grows.”


Though OpenDaylight is being managed by the Linux Foundation, the actual SDN framework code won’t necessarily land in the mainline Linux kernel.

“It’s an open-source project and in its early stages,” Zemlin said. “It’s hard to say where it will go technically. It is an OS-independent project and by and large will live outside of Linux. “

What is clear at this point is that much of the code being proposed for contribution by the participants is written in Java, including the controller code base. As such, at the outset the Eclipse Public License is the open-source license under which the OpenDaylight code will be made available.  

Project Management

With so many companies participating, including many competitive rivals, the strength of the Linux Foundation’s open-source development model will shine the light forward.

“Technical decisions will be made similar to most other successful open-source projects – based on the merits of the technical contribution and decided on by a community of developers who are senior experts in their field,” Zemlin said. “OpenDaylight’s operating model is based on other successful open-source projects that have built an active open community.

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

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