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ON.Lab Launches Open-Source Network Operating System

November 04, 2014

It's essentially one of the great foundations on which most technological advances are predicated, particularly those in electronics: the operating system. Operating systems can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how such are laid out, and one new such piece comes our way from the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab), which launched the SDN Open Network Operating System (ONOS), on behalf of the community of contributors and partners—as well as the end-users—that helped make it possible for ONOS to be released in the first place.

The system was launched today, but won't actually be available for download until December 5. When it is available, however, it will bring a pretty potent operating system along with it. ONOS represents a complete software-defined networking network operating system, all developed and offered in open source. This allows for rapid service creation, as well as quick deployment on a variety of different hardware platforms; at last report, even white boxes could get in on the action, a development that will no doubt prove welcome on several fronts. The system boasts both northbound and southbound open application programming interfaces (APIs), allowing for a wide array of applications to be put to work in the system itself.

ONOS actually has several major backers involved in its operation, including names like AT&T, Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel and several others. Reports suggest that ONOS' availability is a widely-anticipated development, and one that's set to offer significant growth to the ecosystem as well as driving further development therein. Some, like AT&T technology and operations senior vice president John Donovan expect that the use of SDN—and by extension, ONOS—can play a major part in reshaping how wide-area networks are built. With this new tool in hand, there are more options for service providers to offer up, making the resulting offerings more attractive to potential buyers. Additionally, University of California at Berkeley professor of computer science Scott Shenker noted that SDN is already seen in a variety of data centers worldwide, though in most of those deployments, it's being run with proprietary software. An open source offering like ONOS, meanwhile, would serve as a way for those data centers to make differentiation between other services, which in turn would make these better able to compete in open markets.

ON.Lab's executive director, Guru Parulkar, offered up some further commentary on the release, saying “ONOS is created with the idea of bringing a solid open source SDN platform to meet the needs of service providers and enterprises. We have achieved our objective of bringing, for the first time, a complete open source SDN OS that not only addresses the mission critical needs of service providers and enterprises but also delivers capabilities that enable developer and DevOps communities to create, operate and innovate on legacy networks and white boxes. ON.Lab is committed to driving the ONOS project based on open source best practices and bringing innovation and true SDN value to the community.”

A lot of work has clearly gone into this project, and with it is likely to follow several applications that will help drive the fields of SDN, wide area network development and beyond for some time to come. An open source tool like ONOS, meanwhile, could have some wide-reaching effects, and though only time will tell what those ultimately are, there's certainly enough potential to go around. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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