Building a common foundation is crucial to SDN's success, according to analyst Mike Spanbauer of Current Analysis. Without it, enterprises and service providers are limited in how much they can simplify management across their networks, which in most cases contain equipment from more than one vendor, he said. In addition, developers of third-party software have to work with each networking vendor separately, which raises their costs and keeps some developers out, Spanbauer said.
For example, SDN could allow an application accelerator to make changes to the switches in a network to speed up performance, Spanbauer said. But today, that couldn't happen unless the accelerator and switch were made by the same vendor or there was software written specifically to work between those products, he said. A cross-vendor SDN platform could open up the field to more outside developers.
Spanbauer believes the participating vendors are committed to OpenDaylight. The membership requirements seem to guarantee that: In addition to financial contributions, Platinum members have to contribute the equivalent of 10 full-time engineers to the project, and Gold members have to contribute three engineers.
"Everybody would like to see something like this work," Spanbauer said. "The question is, how much of the innovation will they be contributing back to the open-source component versus keeping to themselves as secret sauce?"
Another unanswered question is how IT managers charged with buying network gear, some of whom are still trying to understand SDN, will get their heads around yet another acronym, he said: "It may dilute the energy some."
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