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On.Lab – in cooperation with AT&T, NTT Communications, Huawei, and others – recently launched Open Network Operating System (ONOS), an SDN controller that essentially goes head to head with OpenDaylight (ODL), a vendor-driven open source initiative. Several skeptics have expressed doubts about vendor legacy and influence in ODL. ONOS seeks to become a viable alternative to ODL and will in any case accelerate the development of a carrier-grade SDN controller.

Vendor influence and openness

On.Lab, a non-profit corporation started by Stanford SDN experts, recently announced the availability of Open Network Operating System (ONOS), essentially an open source SDN controller that is being developed for telecom networks. Although new, ONOS is not alone: other open source SDN controllers include OpenContrail (hosted by Juniper), Ryu (hosted by NTT Communications) and last but not least OpenDaylight (ODL). The latter has been receiving increasing interest in the telecoms industry and has been considered the controller of choice for SDN, NFV, and anything in between by many vendors. In fact, Ericsson, Cisco, and Juniper are a few of ODL’s Platinum members, and several other vendors, including HP and Huawei, are Gold members.

Some may ask why there is a need for a new open source controller for telecom networks when so many are already available. Many industry insiders consider ODL to be heavily vendor-influenced and fear its breadth is too wide to provide a consistent framework that will also be stable across several network domains.

ONOS, on the other hand, was launched by AT&T, NTT Communications, Ciena, Huawei, and others. Its academic roots may bring forth a new type of framework that is not hampered by legacy telecom network design practices and breathe fresh air into SDN/NFV network design. Indeed, ONOS is focusing on northbound interfaces to application development environments/orchestration systems and southbound interfaces to network elements.

Another major differentiation for ONOS is that it is endorsed by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which has been skeptical about – and has publicly questioned – the true intentions of ODL.

One thing is for certain: ONOS gives more choice to telecom operators and will surely accelerate the development of a carrier-grade, distributed SDN controller.


Further reading

“MWC 2015: NFV gets real,” TE0006-001035 (March 2015)

Open Source for Telecom Networks, TE0006-000957 (November 2014)


Dimitris Mavrakis, Principal Analyst, Intelligent Networks

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