Cisco Clarifies SDN Controller Positioning and OpenDaylight Participation

Cisco is now focusing all of its commercial Software Defined Networking (SDN) efforts around its Cisco ONE and ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) efforts. Where does that leave OpenDaylight?

Cisco is one of the leading contributors and members of the OpenDaylight initiative, which is run as a Linux Foundation collaborative project. In fact, Cisco’s contribution to OpenDaylight ranks as the company’s largest open-source contribution ever.

“OpenDaylight is the way that we participate with the industry in an open standards-based consortium to insure that together we move towards a world with interoperability, hardware and software separation,” Rob Soderberry, SVP and GM, Enterprise Networking at Cisco, told Enterprise Networking Planet.

Soderberry explained that with OpenDaylight, APIs can be defined, but it’s not always clear if it will work without a full-reference implementation of an entire stack. That’s where Cisco’s Extensible Network Controller (XNC) comes into play. XNC is Cisco’s reference implementation of the OpenDaylight stack.

“[XNC] allows us to explore and work at the head of the curve on OpenDaylight technologies,” Soderberry said.

When it comes to the commercial enterprise-strength scale and production-ready solution, XNC is not what Cisco is putting forward. Rather, Cisco puts its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) front and center.

Soderberry said that there are common elements between XNC and APIC. The common elements include OpenDaylight interfaces as a way to work with partners for Northbound interfaces.

“We insure that we maintain an open stack approach so our customers can plug and play the components that they want,” Soderberry said.

From an interoperability perspective, there are multiple stakeholders in the OpenDaylight ecosystem. Soderberry said that the way to think about interoperability is at each layer in the stack.

“For example, on the Northbound side, if you implement the Northbound interfaces, you can plug and play any stack into that,” Soderberry said. “Think about interoperability at an interface-by-interface, component-by-component level.”

Soderberry noted that in Cisco’s view, most customers will want engineered systems for SDN that are designed to work together. Overall, Soderberry stressed that Cisco is taking a measured approach to SDN that can leverage a customer’s existing deployments.

“While our competitors like to talk a story about working on existing infrastructure, we’re seeing that virtually every one of these systems involves new hardware and new architectures,” Soderberry said. “That’s not a risk-free path for most customers.”

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

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