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What is the difference between network orchestration and SDN control?

Glen Kemp discusses the differences between network orchestration, similar to OpenStack, and SDN control, which is happening through OpenDaylight.

Editor's note: Glen Kemp is answering as an observer and is in no way affiliated with OpenStack or OpenDaylight.

What is the difference between network orchestration (OpenStack) and SDN control (OpenDaylight)?

OpenStack can be considered to be not one project but several, consisting of compute, storage and networking. All three platform components are managed by a dashboard Web application. Combined, they can provide a complete cloud network operating system.

Conversely, OpenDaylight is an SDN controller but with a number of northbound APIs that allow interaction with network application and orchestration services, such as OpenStack Neutron, and southbound APIs, such as OpenFlow, NETCONF and BGP. One goal of the project is to extend the services available and provide a de facto set of service APIs.

The projects are compatible, and OpenDaylight can be integrated with OpenStack using an OpenStack via Neutron plugin. This moves the complexity up the stack from OpenStack to OpenDaylight, completing the SDN picture.

As a series of technologies, OpenStack is relatively mature and is in use in production environments worldwide. This enables organizations to take advantage of the network orchestration features without necessarily deploying a full-blown controller-led SDN solution. The industry support for OpenDaylight is broad, and key players such as Cisco, Juniper, Citrix, HP, Microsoft and IBM are on board as Platinum members. As OpenDaylight moves beyond its version release, integration will further improve.

Network orchestration can be considered how a software defined network is deployed, while SDN control can be considered the "why." Network orchestration deals with the element management of a particular group of assets, either from open source or closed implementations. SDN control is the manager of managers and deals with maintaining consistent (as far as is feasible) policy across multiple groups of assets, be they discrete applications, a single data center or a worldwide-WAN.

This was last published in May 2014

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Hi Glen. I found your last paragraph a bit confusing. I've read that the OpendayLight Controllers have deeper network knowledge and far-reaching network element configuration skills, according to policies defined at a higher level of abstraction (Openstack). So I feel like OpenDaylight is the "How" and OpenStack the "Why". Why don't you agree with this? Cheers
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