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Midokura open sources its software to align with OpenStack Neutron

Midokura open sources its network virtualization software in a bid to gain mindshare in the OpenStack community, where Neutron plugins remain complex and imperfect.

SDN overlay vendor Midokura is open sourcing its core product, MidoNet, in an effort to align itself more closely with the OpenStack project.

While OpenStack gains momentum among cloud providers and enterprises, the ecosystem around the OpenStack Neutron networking APIs remains fragmented, said Adam Johnson, Midokura's general manager of technical services. By open sourcing MidoNet and making it freely available to organizations experimenting with OpenStack, Midokura hopes the OpenStack community will gravitate toward its software. Many engineers have experimented with an open source and Open vSwitch-based implementation of OpenStack Neutron, but Johnson said Open vSwitch isn't stable enough for production.

"The observations we've heard from OpenStack users is that networking is the hardest part and has lagged behind storage and compute as far as having a stable-production quality component," Johnson said. "There is a fragmentation of network drivers. The community hasn't really decided what to use as a plug-in. You have a bunch of vendors trying to sell proprietary solutions around OpenStack Neutron, including ourselves. We feel [OpenStack] could move a lot faster and have a lot less friction if there was a more solid, open option that just works. So we're giving [MidoNet] to ... the OpenStack community."

"I'm overwhelmed by OpenStack in general," said Nick Buraglio, a network engineer with a global research network. "It reminds me of the way the OpenFlow Wild West was, with lots of hand-waving. [Open source MidoNet] gives people an opportunity to use something without a whole lot of risk. On the other side of the coin, you'll get enterprises that will wait … to buy [a commercial product] because they need the ability to point the finger at somebody if something goes wrong."

MidoNet is now available under an Apache 2 license. The entire Layer 2-4 overlay will be open sourced, along with the product's APIs, command line tool sets, deployment and testing tools, and documentation.

Midokura's Enterprise MidoNet will offer usability, integrations

Midokura will hold back some elements for a commercial package that it will call Enterprise MidoNet. Those elements will include its graphical user interface, which is designed for use by mid-level cloud administrators. Midokura will reserve its partner ecosystem integrations for its commercial product, including integration with vSphere. The company will also adopt the standard open source vendor approach of deriving revenue from support services.

"The OpenStack integration [Midokura] has is quite solid," said Eric Hanselman, chief analyst with 451 Research LLC. "Taking this step toward open source is not a big shift. I suspect they were having these conversations with customers already."

The open source decision also gives engineers more visibility into Midokura's code, something that customers were probably demanding already, he said.

To build some momentum around aligning open source MidoNet with OpenStack, Midokura will partner with some of the leading vendors of OpenStack distributions, such as Eucalyptus Systems Inc., Red Hat Inc., Canonical Ltd. and Mirantis Inc.

Open source MidoNet could help address two issues with OpenStack Neutron, said Andrew Lerner, research director at Gartner Research. The technology's implementation is complex and it doesn't scale. "It's difficult to scale beyond 50 nodes in your network [with OpenStack Neutron]," he said. "Others say they can get to 500. Any time you can apply commercial software heritage [to those problems], that can help."

Midokura isn't the first vendor to use open source network software with an OpenStack Neutron plugin, however. Juniper Networks did it with Contrail, although Juniper had its sights set on more than OpenStack when it did so.

Next Steps

Midokura partnered with bare-metal switch vendor Cumulus Networks for VXLAN gateways

Midokura joined the OpenDaylight Project

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What has your experience been like with OpenStack Neutron? Do you think open source software like MIdoNet will improve OpenStack Neutron?
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We dipped a toe into the OpenStack Neuron waters about six months ago. So far, it's has been more of a nuisance than a help (cluttered and confusing interface for one thing).
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