New in SDN: OpenDaylight Hydrogen Release and IBM SDN OpenDaylight-based Unified Controller

There are some important new developments that have taken place recently in software defined networking that are worthy of closer scrutiny.  They are:  1) the release of OpenDaylight “Hydrogen” downloadable software code; and, 2) the announcement of IBM’s Unified SDN (software defined networking) controller.  The reason that these announcements are important are that: 1) Hydrogen provides a common open source programmable networking framework that allows users and vendors to create new interoperable SDN solutions; and, 2) IBM’s Unified SDN Controller supports both network virtualization technologies and OpenFlow (an open SDN protocol that allows developers to take control of the control plane of internal switches – enabling developers and users to modify those switches to change switch functionality or to implement custom solutions).  Each bears closer scrutiny.

OpenDaylight Hydrogen Release

OpenDaylight, a consortium formed with the goal of promoting SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualization) technology released its first software download, “Hydrogen” on February 4.  Enterprises, service providers, equipment providers and academics can download Hydrogen for evaluation, commercialization and deployment with the goal of producing interoperable network services and applications.

The Hydrogen open-source software is a combination of components including a fully pluggable controller, interfaces, protocol plug-ins and applications and comes in three editions.  The Base Edition includes the Controller, the OpenFlow Plugin and Protocol Library, and the Open vSwitch Database (OVSDB) configuration and management protocol support. The Virtualization Edition adds the Virtual Tenant Network (VTN) multi-tenant network virtualization application using OpenFlow, and IBM-contributed Open DOVE ( Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet) overlay technology for network virtualization, as well as security features,  while  the Service Provider Edition includes features targeted specifically for service providers including a southbound plug-in for SNMP-based devices.

IBM Unified SDN Controller

On February 4 at the OpenDaylight Summit, IBM announced a unified SDN controller for network virtualization (using Open DOVE technology described above) and OpenFlow. With this announcement, IBM is providing a single architecture for both overlay networks and OpenFlow-based networks by offering a unified controller that supports multiple technologies: network overlay (virtualization) for VMware and KVM hypervisors (additional hypervisors in the future) and OpenFlow networks.  From a single management console clients will be able to deploy large fabrics, program OpenFlow devices and build integrated overlay networks across hypervisors.

IBM SDN VE is one of the first products to be built using open source components from Open Daylight. Through the OpenDaylight Project, IBM is working closely with its partner ecosystem  including  A10 Networks, ADVA Optical Networking, Brocade, Citrix, F5, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Plexxi, Radware, SilverPeak, vArmour, VSS Monitoring and others to offer network applications including load balancing, firewall, intrusion detection, routing and other services.

The IBM SDN VE KVM Edition and IBM SDN VE OpenFlow Edition join the original IBM SDN VE which is known as IBM SDN VE VMware Edition.  All of these products now ship with the underlying IBM unified SDN controller functionality enabling them to share a common management platform and a common set of applications and services. With IBM SDN VE, customers get the benefits of SDN’s ability to manage network resources through software: improved server utilization, management of multiple networking devices simultaneously requiring fewer administrative resources, better scalability, faster application provisioning and multi-tenancy. Both versions support the OpenStack platform which will enable customers to integrate SDNs into cloud environments.

By providing a unified solution, customers can more easily adopt SDN technologies today using existing infrastructure and seamlessly embrace OpenFlow-based solutions in the future. Not only that, higher-level services and applications from IBM and their partner ecosystem will work in both environments.


These announcements are good news for customers who are evaluating and/ or using SDN technologies. The OpenDaylight Hydrogen release offers vendors, enterprises, service providers and academics the opportunity to build and deploy open-source SDN solutions that will provide customers with a range of interoperable network services and applications based on a common platform.  IBM’s unified SDN controller enables customers to get the benefits of SDN with existing networking infrastructure via network virtualization today, while providing a future transition to OpenFlow and the OpenStack cloud for a new data center or to extend an existing one.  Last week, I heard rumors that IBM was going to exit the SDN business entirely. I find this hard to believe given IBM’s leadership role in the OpenDaylight Project, SDN-related product announcements to date, and aggressive marketing around software-defined environments (SDE).  I see networking as a key element for building software defined environments (SDEs) – and IBM’s SDE strategy to date has focused on software defined networking; software defined storage and software defined systems environments.  I sincerely hope that these rumors are incorrect – IBM needs to retain its investment in SDN in order to build more cohesive software defined environments in the future.