The Open Networking Users Group (ONUG) has grown from a small meeting of interested individuals in 2012 to become one of the premier events in the networking industry. End users love to hear about emerging technologies and how they can take advantage of them, while networking vendors enjoy the ability to showcase their products.
The ONUG Fall 2015 meeting, held earlier this month in New York, highlighted the major trends reshaping the industry. It also illustrated that while ONUG has made great strides, the group can do more to advance open networking.
The key message from this ONUG meeting came from ONUG Co-Founder and Co-Chairman Nick Lippis in his opening keynote. He told the packed room that IT skill sets need to change in order to embrace the shift toward software-based IT.
Certainly, the industry is starting to move toward consumption-based models for compute, storage, and networking; it doesn’t matter whether those resources are located on-premises or with a cloud provider like Amazon or Microsoft. IT organizations need to train their members to recognize the new way in which IT will be provided.
The shift in thinking also means that end users are changing the way they view IT. Instead of being a cost center or a department in the basement of the organization, IT has shifted toward being a provider of services. This means that the focus of IT needs to shift toward a service provider model, even for internal customers. I spoke with several networking company executives at the event who said they are seeing this shift. Kumar Mehta, founder and CEO of Versa Networks, told me that the IT model in large enterprises is already starting to resemble the one we think of in a traditional service provider.
Another important concept highlighted at ONUG was the disconnect around the meaning of “open” in open networking. Some members of the IT community may equate open with the open source model of software development, Tsvi Gal, enterprise infrastructure CTO at Morgan Stanley, said in a keynote. Gal was quick to point out that open doesn’t always mean free of cost.
Indeed, the original meaning of open even in open source development centered more around the idea that software code could be seen, modified, and distributed without restriction. Applying this idea to networking means that IT departments should be able to freely modify, change, or update their networking designs and configurations without fear that a protocol or feature will no longer be supported by new software.
Some in the open networking industry would like to see ONUG push even harder to embrace open networking concepts in all facets of the network. Neela Jacques, executive director of OpenDaylight, said in a tweet that he has hundreds of developers working to drive open networking and software defined networking (SDN) projects, but that he doesn't get invited to talk about them at ONUG.
I think hearing about these initiatives at an end-user focused meeting like ONUG would be a great boon to the community to let consumers of IT know that there is a great amount of work going on behind the scenes to embrace open networking, even if it isn’t plainly visible in the final product.
Clearly, the momentum that ONUG enjoys in the networking community can be put to even greater use. ONUG already recognizes the need to drive change in IT skill sets and define what an open network truly means. But it can leverage that momentum to help drive other open networking projects and to highlight how the greater networking community is doing its part to answer the challenges put forth at ONUG.
By embracing even more projects in the open networking space, ONUG can be seen as a leader to organizations and end users when it comes to every facet of networking opening up to include many different architectures and ideas. Being a force for ideas like this is important, but sometimes it’s just as important to recognize others' work and promote them with your platform. ONUG has the right platform and should use it to help further the goals of all the important open networking projects contributing to the networking community.