ONUG Fall 2015: The Emergence of Open Software-Defined Infrastructure Ecosystem

ONUG Fall 2015 may be finished, but the implications and themes from the show will be with us for years to come. Center stage was the evolution of network infrastructure to software and the emerging open IT Frameworks. Software defined networking (SDN) is part of a broader IT transition toward open Software-Defined Infrastructure in the context of open IT Frameworks for enterprise systems. Keynotes and sessions explored how IT consumption models are changing IT service delivery and supply chain systemically throughout the IT industry.

ONUG co-founder and co-chair Nick Lippis set the stage for this conversation in his opening keynote, highlighting the relationship between IT consumption models, skill sets, and software-defined networking (SDN). “The biggest drag on IT is the lack of automation network orchestration,” said Lippis, “Networking represents 10 percent of the total cost of ownership (TCO), but drags down the other 90 percent of IT investment.” This shift to software is leading to increased infrastructure abstraction, which is driving an “exponential increase” in demand for new IT skill sets. The conflict between infrastructure DevOps wanting to hide the nuances of network operations and networkers who value deep infrastructure knowledge is driving demand of a new IT skill set – the full stack engineer.


ONUG Spring saw SD-WAN take front and center and the focus this fall was no different. SD-WAN seemed to dominate exhibition floor where every major SD-WAN player exhibited their products. The SD-WAN PoC demonstrations were also more sophisticated than last year, reflecting the maturing nature of the market:

  • 13 vendors demonstrated in the SD-WAN PoC with many showing some kind of interoperability.
  • The vendor of at least one SD-WAN PoC claimed 5,000 SD-WAN nodes.
  • The virtual overlay PoC showed by six vendors demonstrated a multivendor PoC where controllers interoperate with orchestration systems and are supported in the underlay by multiple vendors via VXLAN and Layer 3.
  • Service insertion featured prominently. A number of vendors showed how network services, such as load balancing and firewalls, could be inserted into the path of traffic and attached to applications, leading to the elimination of hardware appliances.


The sessions saw IT leaders explore the facets and implications of shifting to a more open software driven networking world.

  • Tsvi Gal from Morgan Stanley provided a strategic view on open systems discussing the importance of open technology frameworks. These are not open source, but rather systems with a clean separation between technology components. IT is then able to exchange and replace one vendor’s component for another.
  • As compelling as a shift to software is for IT infrastructure, not everyone is convinced that software represents a brighter world. This point was hotly debated by Brighten Godfrey, assistant professor in the department of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Douglas Comer, distinguished professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Not surprisingly, the ONUG crowd was split nearly evenly on the winner of the debate.
  • – Significant discussion explored the implications of application developments on the network including containers, microservices, library OSs, unikernals and micro-segmentation have on the network. The above plus mobile device, VM, and container proliferation are contributing to the demand for IPv6 addressing along with the clear fact that IPv4 addresses are exhausted. They also bring an additional set of security challenges.
  • – Full stack engineering, introduced in the keynote, was a common subtheme in many of the sessions.
  • – Hybrid Cloud is here to stay. While most, if not all, enterprises, support a myriad of legacy applications, all will start to use hybrid cloud on one or two applications, which was encouraged during the town hall meeting on “How to Use Hybrid Cloud Services with Split Application Architecture.”

The Future

What makes ONUG so unique is that it’s 100 percent IT business leader driven. It’s, in large part, about enterprise IT leaders rolling up their sleeves and working together to solve some of the biggest problems that they are confronting within IT. The ONUG working groups are a great place to see that happening and maybe one of the best examples this year was the work that went into the ONUG Service Lifecycle Management Automation Framework.

Today provisioning products/services can still take days, sometimes even months. Based upon ONUG community data, the time to install a physical server is approximately 200 days starting at the time the order is sent to procurement and 42 days to configure a workload’s dependency map after the physical service has been installed.

There are other problems as well. Quotes from vendors may also not necessarily compare apples to apples in part because of the lack of a common IT process map and application mapping. Migrating compute loads to the cloud or requesting services on demand are more challenging than existing data center-based workloads.

Four working groups presented their progress in developing the “ONUG Service Lifecycle Management Automation Framework” for tackling these issues: Common Tools for Automated Configuration and Change Management, SDN Federation, Network State Collection, Correlation, and Analytics, and

Traffic Monitoring/Visibility. The groups defined a service based consumption model for IT and mapped working groups into the lifecycle model.

In addition, attendees voted upon four new use cases they are interested in seeing ONUG tackle as a part of existing and new working groups: virtual routed networking, automated dashboards, network services broker, and one non technology-focused group defining the requirements for a full stack engineer. All ONUG Working Groups will continue their efforts together over the ensuing months and present their findings at ONUG Spring in May on the west coast.

Author's Bio

Guest Author