The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is the public face of the Software Defined Networking movement, spelling out requirements and defining standards. The group's board includes Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Goldman Sachs on the data center side, and Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and NTT Communications on the service provider side.
Additionally, there are close to 150 members, from global telcos to startups. To get a sense of where the movement stands, John DIx, Editor in Chief of ComputerworldUK's sister title Network World, tracked down ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt, who spent 20 years developing network architecture, technology, standards, and products at IBM Networking Systems, Hewlett Packard and Bay Networks.
How would you characterise what the ONF has accomplished to date?
ONF has successfully championed the notion of SDN that everybody is lining up behind, regardless of their definition of it. Everyone is saluting the SDN flag. In addition, we have championed and standardised aspects of and built-out architectures for the OpenFlow protocol, which is the sole vendor-neutral way to connect the forwarding plane and the control plane.
We have also taken many steps to advance the experience of adopting and deploying SDN with our plugfests, our conformance testing, laboratory sanctioning and through the work we're doing with everyone from chip vendors to software solution architects. We feel a responsibility to drive the whole movement forward, and I think we've succeeded, with vendors wanting to abide by the same principles we have been advocating, of openness and multivendor inclusion and a real focus on software as being the center of value in networking.
Are you where you thought you would be by this point?
I didn't have explicit expectations of where we would be in three years. We had expectations of the first year and maybe into the second year. We exceeded those by every measure, including the scope of our technical work activities, the scope of our market education activities, and just the sheer numbers of both member companies and individual participants. And even in the mindshare that seems to have travelled around the world. I was at a conference in Silicon Valley and saw a terrific presentation on SDN security by a researcher from Northern Ireland, and she was totally conversant about SDN, the principles and what we're trying to do and where security comes into play. We've got these great minds all over the place working on these issues and problems, and advancing networking in this way. This is nothing we could ever imagine doing alone or ever expected to. I'm astonished every day at the caliber of the brain power that's being applied all over the place.
Anything that you didn't achieve that you had hoped to achieve by this point?
Good question. Our success measure as an organisation and my personal goal is to see SDN implemented, adopted and deployed. That's happening in lots of corners, but it's taking longer than I wanted. But it's not longer than I expected. What I've come to understand is that it is way more than just a technical change. We knew it was a new way of thinking about networking and computing combined, but it is also an organisational and a human challenge, because the roles of IT organisations and the people therein are changing. We're very interested in the training aspect, the skills aspect, and helping organisations get there from here.
Version 1.4 of OpenFlow is out now, and some analysts call it the first version that's ready for prime time, but would you agree with that statement?
I think 1.3 was ready for prime time. That's why we declared it a stable target for implementers anywhere. Software people are implementing it and deploying it. But 1.4 continues to improve on it and we're working on 1.5 beyond that. Prime time very much depends on your application. We have people that are thrilled with OpenFlow 1.0. I think the diversity of applications and requirements, and the diversity of value for the different kinds of businesses that will benefit from SDN, is so wide it's hard to say "this is the ultimate answer for everybody."
When does 1.5 come out?
We're looking at about one a year. And every time we do a new release we are taking the new features and bundling them as an extension package to OpenFlow 1.3, so people who made use of that as a stable target will find it easy to adopt.
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