The world of SDN and NFV is moving fast and furious, and the creation of industry groups to further the progress of these technologies continues to move apace.

Earlier this month the Open Network Operating System – or ONOS – backed by ON.Lab and several network operators and vendors (including Ciena), became the latest new industry effort to burst onto the scene (here’s the press release).  It was just over a month ago that we were talking about the new OPNFV group and how it fit into the growing list of open consortia.

The new ONOS effort is aimed at building an open framework for the development of SDN controllers. Some have tabbed ONOS as a direct competitor to OpenDaylight.

To find out if that’s the case, and to get additional details about ONOS, I talked to Chris Janz, Ciena’s VP of Market Development for the SDN/NFV space. Chris was one of the featured speakers for the November 11th ONOS webinar where the project’s goals and scope were unveiled.

Q: What is ONOS and who is responsible for it?

Chris: ONOS is an SDN controller framework that vendors and operators may use to build up an SDN control system.  The project’s goal is “to build an open source distributed network operating system for service provider networks with performance, scale-out design, high availability, and core features that the larger vendor, provider, and research community can use.”

Q: Who is involved?

Chris: ONOS is managed by ON.Lab. Founding members who are funding and contributing to the ONOS initiative include AT&T, NTT Communications, Ciena, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, NEC; and members who are collaborating and contributing to ONOS include Infoblox, SRI, Internet2, CNIT and Create-Net. 

Q: Comparisons have been made between ONOS and OpenDaylight.  What’s the difference between the two?

Chris: While ONOS and OpenDaylight have some overlap in scope, the two are distinct and separate organizations, with no current agreement or alliance.  ONOS is currently a “private” development effort (managed by ON.Lab), whereas OpenDaylight is a broad open source project administered by the Linux Foundation. That said, ONOS intends to become an open source project and to build an open source community.

ONOS is focused particularly and squarely on SDN control for carrier and cloud provider networks and applications. OpenDaylight is a more generic SDN framework that serves a wide range of application contexts.

The two groups are at different stages of their life cycles. OpenDaylight has garnered considerable industry support over the past year, and now has more than 40 members, along with over 200 active contributors. OpenDaylight is days away from its second major release; ONOS is coming up on its first.

[White paper: SDN Ecosystem, Not Ego-Systems]

Q: Is ONOS open source software?

Chris: ON.Lab has announced that ONOS will be made available as open source on Dec 5th, 2014.

Q: What is Ciena’s position on ONOS?

Chris: Ciena is a sponsor of ON.Labs and a founding member of the ONOS project. Over the years, Ciena has worked closely with the ON.Lab leadership on various projects.  The interest and participation of key network operators like AT&T and NTT Communications, the particular focus on the wide area networks that power service providers, and the community of expertise involved – including some of the inventors and early visionaries in the SDN field – was irresistible to us. 

Q: Does that mean Ciena is adopting ONOS for our Multilayer WAN Controller?

Chris: The Multilayer WAN Controller, on which Ciena and Ericsson are collaborating, has been built on the OpenDaylight framework and code base.  But we’ve always said that we see operators’ future network control systems as modular and customizable structures – and our key interest is making sure that all of our customers are able to deploy and benefit from the software we develop to deliver value in such structures.  So we need to keep a close eye on the open frameworks that the industry is producing, their potential adoption by our customers, and to adapt and react in consequence. 

It’s too early to say – and perhaps ultimately unlikely – that one single framework will see universal adoption.  And of course innovation and insights are not happening in any single place – and we don’t want to miss any.  So while it’s very early days for ONOS from any potential product perspective, we – along with our partner Ericsson – are not only keeping an eye on, but participating actively in, both the OpenDaylight and the ONOS projects.