Featured Interview: ONF Encourages Entries for $50K OpenFlow Driver Competition

ONF Dan Pitt Interview

Open Networking Foundation (ONF) Executive Director, Dan Pitt, has advised and served in executive operational roles in startup companies in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Prior to those positions, he spent more than 20 years developing networking architecture, technology, standards, and products at IBM Networking Systems, IBM Research – Zurich, Hewlett Packard Labs, and Bay Networks.

In the hubbub around ONS in April, it was easy to miss a significant announcement by the ONF around the launch of an open-source  software competition around the creation of an “OpenFlow Driver.” We had a chance recently to catch up with Dan Pitt and wanted to learn more about the competition.

SDNCentral: ONF currently is sponsoring a competition to create an open source “OpenFlow Driver.” Can you tell our readers more about it?

Dan Pitt: “We recently announced the industry’s first competition to create an open source “OpenFlow driver.” The winning driver will be the best module that any developer can use in a controller or switch to handle the syntax and semantics of the OpenFlow protocol, maintain compatibility among switches and controllers, and concentrate on value-added software (and hardware) above and below it.

The competition is open to all organizations and individuals worldwide. It is expected that the OpenFlow driver will be a relatively small fraction of the total code for a controller or switch.”

SDNCentral: What are the goals and intent of this competition?

Dan Pitt: ”We want to encourage the development community to create an open source implementation of the latest OpenFlow standard in a form usable by all. The driver would be something everyone from network equipment vendors and ISVs to operators and larger open-source projects can use for easy transitions between different implementations of the OpenFlow protocol.

Creating a reference implementation of the OpenFlow protocol that’s usable for both network devices and software controllers will dramatically reduce the amount of time and money required to create OpenFlow-compatible networking products. Having that driver available will free developers to apply their software resources to applications and tools that directly meet customer needs.

We also expect the competition will aid interoperability between equipment vendors, reducing the time and cycles spent on troubleshooting different implementations.”

SDNCentral: Why did ONF feel there was a need in the marketplace and the SDN community for an OpenFlow driver?

Dan Pitt: “Right now, the OpenFlow open source model is dominated by vendors, which is slowing development of the whole OpenFlow ecosystem because it makes OpenFlow development a risky proposition for everyone else. Network operators need to be able to build and operate heterogeneous, multi-party networks without the burden of potential vendor lock-in. The OpenFlow Driver competition will encourage interoperability of OpenFlow products.

We also know there’s frustration around the amount of effort and money it takes to track and implement the OpenFlow standard. The driver will make it much easier to keep the OpenFlow component up to date with current ONF specifications as they evolve.”

SDNCentral: With OpenDaylight and ON.Lab, why would we still need an OpenFlow driver competition? Why is the ONF the right organization to be organizing this?

Dan Pitt: “ONF is the steward of the OpenFlow standard. Our whole mission is focused on fostering implementation, deployment, interoperability, and conformance for the OpenFlow protocol because of its foundational importance to all of SDN. Its open interface is what allows the network control plane to be physically separate from the forwarding plane.

We are committed to practical solutions for market needs. Right now, there are a number of open source options in the SDN ecosystem, but by and large, they are technically and commercially insufficient. ONF expects the competition for an OpenFlow driver will inspire innovation in SDN by encouraging development in more open source technology solutions.

We hope the ongoing code base will be useful to all implementers, including consortia like OpenDaylight, experimentation laboratories, and private enterprises.”

SDNCentral: What kind of effect do you think the competition will have on the overall community?

Dan Pitt: “SDN is in the early stages of market maturity. Now, while platforms are being built, open source has the potential to provide incredible value and shape how the market will look in the future. This competition will drive adoption of interoperable solutions in the OpenFlow substrate, innovation in the applications built upon that substrate, and customer benefit from OpenFlow-based SDN solutions.

The timing of the contest should be of big benefit for the SDN community because most vendors have finished and refined their 1.0 implementations and are trying to plan where to go next. An OpenFlow driver will help developers go forward more efficiently and cost-effectively.”

SDNCentral: Why should developers participate in this competition? What benefits will they get?

Dan Pitt: “A foundational tool like this driver will accelerate the build-out of the SDN ecosystem as a whole. We want the OpenFlow Driver to be of use for global developers of OpenFlow products, making it easier for them to build value around and easily update the OpenFlow protocol component with the latest ONF specifications as they evolve.

Plus, the OpenFlow ecosystem is growing and it’s arguably one of the most important protocols in SDN today. The winner will not just get bragging rights, also a nice $50,000 check from us.”

SDNCentral: How do developers get started? What’s your best advice to teams looking to join the competition?

Dan Pitt: ”Organizations and individuals interested in participating should register and submit an entry online at www.opennetworking.org/competition (the “OpenFlow Driver Competition Website”) in accordance with the instructions posted there. Registration and submissions will be accepted only through the OpenFlow Driver Competition Website.

Before submitting, we encourage all interested parties to read about the submission process, guidelines, and judging criteria to learn more about the competition and to increase their chances of being selected as the winner.

The contest is now open and will close on August 15, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. PDT. The winner will be announced on September 30, 2013.”

SDNCentral: Thank you for your time, Dan!

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