How Open is the Open Networking Foundation?

Time for some more of that fashionable “open” goodness: Six companies that own and operate some of the largest networks in the world — Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo! — announced today...

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Time for some more of that fashionable "open" goodness:

Six companies that own and operate some of the largest networks in the world — Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo! — announced today the formation of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a new approach to networking called Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Joining these six founding companies in creating ONF are 17 member companies, including major equipment vendors, networking and virtualization software suppliers, and chip technology providers.

And what might this SDN stuff be, pray?

The SDN approach arose out of a six-year research collaboration between Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Essential to SDN are two basic components: a software interface (called OpenFlow) for controlling how packets are forwarded through network switches, and a set of global management interfaces upon which more advanced management tools can be built.

Well, that sounds fine and dandy, but the news that companies operating "some of the largest networks in the world" are banding together does not immediately conjure up images of openness and sharing. But perhaps I'm being unfair:

The first task of ONF will be to adopt and then lead the ongoing development of the OpenFlow standard (www.openflow.org) and encourage its adoption by freely licensing it to all member companies.

Here's what the corresponding OpenFlow Switch Consortium (not to be confused with the Open Networking Foundation, of course, even though their respective home pages look almost identical) has to say about its licensing policies:

The OpenFlow Switch Consortium publishes a specification of the OpenFlow Switch and the OpenFlow Protocol – it essentially provides a means for a flow table inside a switch to be controlled remotely. While the specification doesn't describe the controller, it is expected to be an open development environment, such as a PC running Linux. The OpenFlow Switch specification is available under a BSD-like license, and will be free for implementation by anyone. Switch vendors who implement the base requirements of the OpenFlow Switch Specification Version 1.0 will be free to describe their switch as "Conforming to the OpenFlow Switch Specification (Version 1.0)", so long as the switch supports the OpenFlow Protocol. Switch vendors will be free to implement additional features over and above those specified by the Consortium, and may wish to limit use of OpenFlow to "educational and government use only". OpenFlow is a trademark of Stanford University, and with the written permission of Stanford, may be used to describe switches that conform to the OpenFlow Protocol.

So, basically, BSD licence, which is eminently acceptable.

If the underlying standard seems fine from this point of view, I'm still slightly worried by the following phrase in the main Open Networking Foundation press release, which says that after promoting the OpenFlow standard, it "will then begin the process of defining global management interfaces." I wonder whether all this will be under a BSD or similar licence too? We shall see...

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