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OpenDaylight Releases Hydrogen Open Source SDN Platform

Ten months after launching with the goal of creating an open source SDN platform, the OpenDaylight Project is releasing its first software.

Called Hydrogen, the software comes in three editions designed to accommodate the needs of developers, enterprises and service providers. Neela Jacques, executive director of OpenDaylight, said Hydrogen will help network engineers and architects to get hands-on experience with software-defined networking (SDN).

"For the last two to three years, anyone involved in networking has heard how SDN is a cure-all for a wide range of problems they have. Now they need to turn that into a set of practical decisions in terms of their architecture," he said in an interview.

Network architects are wondering whether they need to make sure every switch they buy supports OpenFlow, and how OpenFlow compares to other protocols, Jacques said. However, the SDN landscape is complex, with many proprietary architectures.

"It's quite difficult to figure this out. With Hydrogen, for the first time ever, people have an ability to get an experience of SDN and get exposed to the multiple models and protocols that exist in SDN to be able to make some of those decisions," Jacques said.

OpenDaylight, a Linux Foundation project, was founded by 18 companies, including IT giants such as Cisco, Dell, Juniper, IBM and Intel. The project now counts 33 members. More than 150 developers actively contributed to Hydrogen, including small and large companies and individuals contributing in their spare time, such as network architect Brent Salisbury, Jacques said.

Hydrogen was formally unveiled Tuesday at the OpenDaylight Summit in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Base Edition, which includes a controller, is the building block for the other two editions, said Chris Wright, technical director of SDN at RedHat, and a member of OpenDaylight's technical steering committee and board of directors. It also includes OpenFlow 1.3 and Open vSwitch Database implementations, which enables management of OpenFlow switches and OVSDB instances.

The Base Edition is designed for a "kick-the-tire type of scenario," Wright said. For example, a developer could run it on a laptop to and connect to a testing tool that provides a synthetic network.

The Virtualization Edition, designed for building a proof of concept in a testing environment, builds on the Base Edition by adding data center virtualization technologies. It includes Virtual Tenant Network, which includes the ability to manage physical switches via OpenFlow to provide tenant isolation, and Open DOVE, which builds tenant isolation via an overlay, Wright said.

The Virtualization Edition also features Defense4All, an open DDoS application, and Affinity Metadata Service, APIs for expressing application needs to the network.

The Service Provider Edition, designed to help service providers and carriers develop a plan to migrate to SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), includes Defense4All and Affinity Metadata Service as well as support for traffic engineering using BGP-LS and PCEP. It also has SNMP protocol support and APIs to manage legacy network equipment.

"This is a true multi-technology platform that brings together the major players in the networking industry and provides a platform for SDN that works with legacy networking technology and supports some of the newest innovations, such as OpenFlow 1.3," Jacques said.

[Read about Cisco's new APIC module that provides SDN functionality across campus and branch networks in "Cisco Pushes SDN Into Distributed Networks."]

For networking vendors, Hydrogen provides a way to overcome the interoperability challenges of a propriety SDN architecture, he said. Some vendors are integrating the Hydrogen code into their proprietary controllers, he said.

While producing code in 10 months from such a big, diverse group seems pretty speedy, OpenDaylight actually had hoped to release Hydrogen in December. Wright said members had set an aggressive goal, but realized they needed more time to provide a comprehensive software package.

Now, of course, the big question is whether organizations will actually use Hydrogen. Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, called OpenDaylight's work overall a positive step for networking and said most enterprise IT users and service providers voice interest in open source. "But at the end of the day -- especially for enterprises -- it really comes down to whether you're helping them solve a problem," he added.

If an organization isn't really committed to an open source solution, but rather is just looking to solve a problem with a technology that's fully supported, then many times that means a vendor solution, he said.

ESG research earlier this year indicated that many organizations are in some way committed to SDN as a long-term strategy, but are still in a research and evaluation phase, Laliberte said. "Anything they [OpenDaylight] can do to raise education and awareness with that evaluation aspect will be a positive step," he said.