OpenDaylight Ships ‘Lithium,’ Updated SDN Controller (Mitch Wagner, Light Reading)

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Source: Light Reading

The OpenDaylight Project today introduced Lithium, the latest version of its SDN controller, positioning the software as the “path from the network you have to the network you want.”

The software focuses on improved performance and changes to reflect the changing needs of the ODL community, Neela Jacques, OpenDaylight Project executive director, told Light Reading.

“It’s a pretty critical release for us,” Jacques says. “I view it as us turning the corner from a focus on technology to a focus on users.”

The first release of OpenDaylight, Hydrogen, in February 2014, was simply focused on proving the technology could work. Helium, the next version, in September, saw “a huge range of people” adopting the controller, including small startups, big companies such as Brocade Communications Systems Inc.(Nasdaq: BRCD), as well as research institutions and companies includingAT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) putting OpenDaylight into production for its Network On Demand services. (See OpenDaylight Unveils Open-Source SDN Controller,OpenDaylight Releases Major ‘Helium’ Upgrade, Brocade Debuts OpenDaylight SDN Controller and SDN Powers AT&T’s Rapid On-Demand Expansion.)

Increased adoption benefits the OpenDaylight community, but increases “the pressure in the pressure cooker,” Jacques says. ODL needs to invest in scalability, performance, stability and improved documentation. Fortunately, the community is growing with resources to meet those challenges, with 43 projects and 460 developers.

During OpenDaylight’s short lifespan, the industry has changed a great deal. OpenDaylight must adapt to meet those changes, including supporting NFV, which has gone from a white paper to maturing technology, Jacques says.

The default stack for new carrier networking deployments is the KVM hypervisor, Open vSwitch for the switch, OpenDaylight SDK controller and OpenStack for the cloud, Jacques says. Although some carriers use other software, most are turning to that stack. For OpenDaylight, that means the community needs to invest to work with OpenStack and Neutron.

OpenDaylight is emerging as a “path from the network you have to the network you want,” Jacques says. In some cases, network operators build greenfield networks based on OpenFlow, with OpenDaylight as the OpenFlow controller.

But all network operators — other than cloud newcomers like Inc.(Nasdaq: AMZN) — also have brownfield networks they need to keep running, with a mix of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Arista Networks Inc. , white box switches and other equipment. OpenDaylight, with support for multiple southbound interfaces, can help a brownfield network grow and adapt, Jacques says.

Overall, OpenDaylight’s goal is to build a general-purpose SDN controller adaptable to all use cases, rather than specialized software, Jacques says.

So what’s in Lithium?

“The main focus for Lithium has been that platform’s quality improvements,” says Mathieu Lemay, CEO of Inocybe, a major contributor to the OpenDaylight code base and a director of OpenDaylight representing the technical community. Inocybe provides training and a commercial distribution of OpenDaylight, and helps leveraging real-life deployment, similar to the role Mirantis Inc. plays with OpenStack.

The community also improved usability, configurability, scalability and integration testing, as well as creating a dedicated group for improving performance in a variety of use cases.

Lithium also enhances security, in the wake of an embarrassing vulnerability exposure late last year.

A security consultant reported a flaw in OpenDaylight in August that could allow an attacker to take over an SDN network. Gregory Pickett, part of the managed security services group for Hellfire Security, was unable to get anyone at OpenDaylight to listen to him, until the OpenDaylight Project finally patched the flaw in December. Subsequent to that, the OpenDaylight Project put in place procedures to tighten security. (See OpenDaylight Patches ‘Serious Vulnerability’ – After Four Months and OpenDaylight Looks to Get Ahead on Security.)

“We were lucky enough to have someone call us out and say, ‘Hey, you guys, you suck.’ And I’m so proud of OpenDaylight, because we said, ‘Can you help?'” Jacques says. “We were able to leapfrog ourselves from infancy to one of the most mature security processes out there.”

SDN and OpenDaylight solve a huge security problem, by replacing manual processes with programmatic interfaces. Manual processes are prone to error that can be exploited by an attacker, Jacques said.

Other key areas of focus have been integration with NFV and OpenStack. For NFV, OpenDaylight supports Service Function Chaining (SFC). For OpenStack, OpenDaylight supports group-based policies for more complex networking scenarios, Lemay says.

Lithium supports Open vSwitch Database Management Protocol (OVSDB) integration for improved network virtualization, and the Virtual Tenant Network (VTN) standard for shared network infrastructure.

Lithium adds extensions including the Time Series Data Repository (TSDR) to collect information for analytics, as well as Control and Provisioning for Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP). Lithium supports Internet of Things Data Management (IOTDM) for machine-to-machine data exchange.

As part of the goal of building a bridge from current networking to future networking, Lithium supports Device Identification and Driver Management (DIDM), for discovering and managing legacy, non-OpenFlow devices and drivers, to bring older devices into the OpenDaylight ecosystem.

Jay Turner, project lead at CloudRouter, an open source project that packages and distributes OpenDaylight, says the maturing of the OpenDaylight development process is as important as the software itself. (See Open Source ‘CloudRouter’ Aims to Simplify Cloud Migration.)

“That’s where my excitement is, seeing the OpenDaylight Project itself stabilizing and becoming more mature,” says Turner, who is also senior director of DevOps at IIX, which is a member of OpenDaylight.

OpenDaylight “really took an effort to make sure the mistakes and corrections that were made in Helium and Hydrogen did not make it into Lithium.” The community set a pace for development to give individual components more time to stabilize, ensured project leads were more aware of responsibilities, and made sure that components were frozen first, then the APIs, then total code.

As for features, Turner says he’s excited about incorporating Layer 3 VPN into the networking stack, “so you don’t have to cobble together” a VPN. Inclusion of Level 3 VPN is a security improvement. “You won’t see these kinds of weird situations going forward where a rev of OpenDaylight comes out and suddenly you can’t get into your network anymore in any sort of safe and secure manner,” Turner says.

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