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Delivering Policy in the Age of Open Source

This is an exciting time in the history of datacenter infrastructure.  We are witnessing the collision of two major trends: the maturation of open source software and the redefinition of infrastructure policy.
The trend towards open source is self-evident.  Platforms such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight are gaining huge developer mindshare as well as support and investment from major vendors.  Even some newer technologies like Docker, which employs linux kernel containers, and Ceph, a software-based storage solution, offer promising paths in open source.  Given the fundamental requirements of interoperability in architecturally diverse infrastructure environments, its no surprise that open source is gaining momentum.

The second trend around policy is a bit earlier in its evolution but equally disruptive.  Today, there is a huge disconnect between how application developers think about their requirements and the languages and tools through which they are communicated to the infrastructure itself.  For example,  just to handle networking, a simple three tier app must be deconstructed into an array of VLANs, ACLs, and routes spread across a number of devices.  Storage and compute present similar challenges as well.   To simplify this interaction and create more scalable systems, we need to actually rethink how resources are requested and distributed between different components.  This really boils down to shifting the abstraction model away from configuring individual devices to focus on separately capturing user intent, operational, infrastructure, and compliance requirements.

At Cisco, we’ve really embraced both of these trends.  We are active contributors to over 100 open source projects and were founding members of OpenStack Neutron and OpenDaylight.  We’ve also made open source a successful business practice by incorporating and integrating popular projects with our products.  In parallel, Cisco has accumulated a lot of experience in describing policy through the work we’ve done with Cisco Unified Computing (UCS) and most recently with Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

Building on this foundation, we see a unique opportunity to collaborate with the open source community to deliver a vision for policy-driven infrastructure.  This will enhance the usability, scale, and interoperability of open source software and benefit the entire infrastructure ecosystem.

This vision includes two initiatives in the open source community:

GroupBasedPolicy

  1. Group-Based Policy: An information model designed to express applications’ resource requirements from the network through a hardware-independent, declarative language and leave a simple control and dataplane in place.  This approach replaces traditional networking constructs like VLANs with new primitives such as “groups”, which model tiers or components of an application, and “contracts” describing relationships between them.  Group-Based Policy will be available in the context of OpenStack Neutron as well as OpenDaylight through a plug in model that can support any software or hardware infrastructure.
  2. OpFlex: A distributed framework of intelligent agents within each networking device designed to resolve policies.  These agents would translate an abstract, hardware-independent policy taken from a logically central repository into device-specific features and capabilities.

 

Let’s look a bit more closely at each of these initiatives.

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OpenDaylight: Building an Open Source Community around SDN

It’s great to see Cisco and many companies across the industry make a major change in the use of Open Source via the newly form project hosted by the Linux Foundation called OpenDaylight. This consortium is an industry-wide, open and transparent effort to catalyze innovation and accelerate an application ecosystem for software-defined networking. With all the partners involved we are working to not only further development and adoption of SDN but also to foster a new developer community. A consortium like this has been long overdue and it’s great to finally see it come to fruition.

We are incredibly pleased to partner with Arista, Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Citrix, Dell, Ericsson, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Nuage Networks, PLUMgrid, RedHat and VMware on the Project. This is the largest effort to date to drive Software-Defined Networking across the industry and into new markets.  While the initial goal is to build a common, industry backed SDN Platform, the broader objective is to give rise to an entire ecosystem of developers that can freely utilize the code, contribute to the project and commercialize the offerings. I further expect the ecosystem to expand into areas like tools and services.

Cisco has donated our core “Cisco ONE” controller code to the project and has officially open sourced the code under the Eclipse Public License. The community has come together around this code to form the architecture (see below) for the Open SDN Framework. Beyond donations of code, Project members are supporting the project via both financial investment and via developers we are committing to work full-time on the project overall. Donations from other members of the Project can be seen here and we expect this list to only grow.

As Open Source increasingly becomes a standard for customers and developers, we look at this as a new way to meet our customer needs and also help developers innovate in new ways without the barriers of vendor lock-in. Open Source is increasingly important for our customers and developers as well and as they evolve, we evolve. Cisco to date has supported Open Source through efforts such as OpenStack and now OpenDaylight and we look at Open Source as a critical pillar in our software strategy moving forward. By allowing developers to freely use these solutions we hope to enable a new developer ecosystem for software-defined networking and more. We are fully committed to enabling developers, both current and new, to deliver innovating applications and services that will help customers across the board realize the value of SDN faster than before.

The OpenDaylight architecture and code offering to date includes a modular southbound plugin architecture for multi-vendor environments. In addition, OpenDaylight offers an extensible northbound framework with both Java & REST APIs to ensure multiple developer skill-sets can build applications to the platform. We are also planning to build a onePK plugin for OpenDaylight to enable multiple users to drive network intelligence into their SDN applications. As you can see from below we will also be supporting key standards with this effort, including OpenFlow.

 

OpenDaylight

 

It’s important to note that you don’t launch a community; you build one. By investing in OpenDaylight we hope that our customers, partners and developers across multiple industries will now have the ability to build applications that frankly make the network easier to use and more automated. As an industry we are moving in a new direction and further up the stack and OpenDaylight offers new opportunities for application creation and monetization beyond the networking layer.

It’s a true rarity when you see both partners and competitors come together for the good of the community, and contribute code for the universal good of the customer. All OpenDaylight participants have committed to open source guidelines that include open communication, ethical and honest behavior, code and roadmap transparency and more. An Open Source project is only as successful as the community of developers and the level of code quality, and OpenDaylight’s Board of Directors (which includes multiple parties cross-industry) will be ensuring that partners, code contributors and project committers all abide by the same guidelines for the success of the project over the success of their own company’s offerings.

For more information, please see www.opendaylight.org. Code will be available for download soon, and we are looking for interested individuals for commitments across the board – from technical offerings to application development, and we welcome contributions from both individuals and other organizations. All ideas are welcome, and we look forward to multiple new innovative solutions coming from this.

Congratulations to all our partners and individuals who helped to make this happen, including the hard work done by the Linux Foundation. It’s truly an amazing accomplishment and we expect to see much more in the near future.

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