Chat with ONRC/ON.Lab on creating an SDN Open Source Powerhouse
With yesterday’s announcement by the ONRC/ON.Lab that Bill Snow has joined as its VP of Engineering, we thought we’d take the opportunity to interview Guru Parulkar, executive director of the ONRC and ON.Lab, and Bill Snow, to better understand ON.Lab’s mission and what exciting things we can expect from them in the future.
SDNCentral: For some of our readers who might be unfamiliar with the ONRC, perhaps you could briefly tell them why it was formed and what it’s mission and vision are in your own words.
Guru: Open Networking Research Center is a new research center established by Stanford and UC Berkeley that is exclusively focused on OpenFlow and Software Defined Networking (SDN). Its mission is to develop a comprehensive intellectual framework for SDN and to develop, deploy, and support open source SDN tools and platforms to enable the larger network industry to build networks that offer increasingly sophisticated functionality yet are cheaper and simpler to manage than current networks.
ONRC has three parts to it: Research Group at Stanford, Research Group at Berkeley, and an independent non-profit lab called Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab). ON.Lab is responsible for open source SDN tools and platforms.
SDNCentral: Didn’t Stanford already have a Clean Slate program? Why create another organization?
Guru: We created Clean Slate Program more than five years ago with Stanford’s depth and breadth of expertise to explore what kind of Internet we would design if we were to start with a clean slate and 20-30 years of hindsight — it was meant to be an intellectual exercise but with the goal to impact the real practice of networking. Though the mission was well defined, the potential approach was not. We began with a number of small exploratory projects that led to a few flagship projects that show lot of promise.
We are pleased to report that Clean Slate Program led to the following four on-going flagship projects that have the potential to transform different parts of the Internet.
Internet Infrastructure: OpenFlow and Software Defined Networking
Mobile Internet: POMI 2020
Mobile Social Networking: MobiSocial
Data Center: Stanford Experimental Data Center Lab
As each flagship project was gaining momentum, we thought it is best to let each flourish on its own and not be constrained by Clean Slate. Nick McKeown and I were more interested in networking and Internet infrastructure and were deeply involved in OpenFlow and SDN with Scott Shenker of UC Berkeley and so we decided to establish ONRC as a new joint center with the mission and goals outlined above.
SDNCentral: So why ON.Lab? What’s the purpose? And why recruit a professional VP engineering to manage an open-source team?
Guru: There are at least a couple of ways we came to realize that we need ON.Lab:
- Since beginning of OpenFlow and SDN, Berkeley and Stanford have been developing and supporting a set of tools and platforms for the community. These include NOX, Beacon, FlowVisor, FOAM, Mininet, and others. The tools and platforms have been very useful for the community for their own SDN development and for others to see the potential of SDN. However, we found it difficult to develop, deploy, and support high quality robust tools and platforms from a university and it is not consistent with university’s primary mission of research and education. And ON.Lab seems like the answer.
- If networking is going software with SDN we need to use proven and successful recipes of the software world. These include providing high quality open source tools and platforms for the larger community and at the same time fostering a larger developer community. The promise of SDN is to make it easy for others to innovate useful network/cloud capabilities on the network infrastructure by using network as a plug-n-play programmable component. And if SDN were to offer right abstractions, the task of programming should become easy and lots of developers should be able to participate. And that is exactly what ON.Lab mission is.
ON.Lab needs an engineering leader who can recruit a strong team and deliver high quality robust SDN tools and platforms for the larger community.
SDNCentral: What attributes did you look for in a VP engineering candidate? Why Bill?
Guru: We looked for someone who could:
- Build and lead a strong engineering team
- Help build and lead an open source developer community
- Experience and track record of having delivered networking and systems products
- Ability to work at the leading edge of technology and collaborate with researchers at top universities
Bill is a veteran of network industry. He has worked in large companies and startups. He has a tremendous experience and track record leading engineering teams and delivering complex and successful networking products for different market segments. He is mature and seasoned. One of his references (who is a very successful individual himself in the valley) described Bill as one of handful engineering managers who can manage and deliver network system products.
And most importantly Bill quickly internalized the mission of ON.Lab and ONRC and showed passion for it. That is more important than anything else.
SDNCentral: Hi Bill, could you give us some idea of your background?
Bill: My background is building and leading engineering organizations to deliver high quality systems and products – primarily in the networking and security spaces. I have worked with both public and private companies leading teams that range in size from a few people to hundreds.
SDNCentral: With your accomplishments, you could have found another job in the commercial arena, so what prompted you to join the ONRC?
Bill: An opportunity to make a bigger impact on the world of networking than I could make in one company and the opportunity to work with the best academic and commercial leaders of the networking industry.
SDNCentral: What’s your view of SDN and OpenFlow?
Bill: Openflow has already had tremendous impact on the world of networking as shown by the already large and growing support behind the standard. It enabled a level of innovation in networking that hasn’t been seen in many years. It is just the tip of the iceberg and is one piece of software defined networking. The networking industry is about to undergo a revolution.
SDNCentral: What’s your goal for ON.lab? What will you be busy with in the next 3 months?
Bill: The goal for ON.Lab is to open source high quality software that helps enable software defined networks. We will harden the tools developed at Stanford and Berkeley and open source them so that many more organizations can easily contribute and benefit. In addition, we will continue to innovate in ways that are important to both the academic community as well as the commercial world. In the next three months we will set up the lab, put engineering plans in place and grow the development team.
SDNCentral: What is the development team like?
Bill: Smart people who are passionate about accelerating innovative network capabilities through software defined networking. These are technical leaders who see new ways of building and operating networks that will enable features and business models that just are not possible now.
SDNCentral: What kind of engineers are you looking for? What would be the benefit of joining the ON.lab?
Bill: Engineers who want to work with the best minds in open source software and networking and who want to develop products and systems around software defined networking. Developers who want to be early contributors to the software defined networking revolution. People who are creative, open minded and hungry to try out new ideas.
SDNCentral: What great things can we expect to see from ON.lab in the next 12 months?
Guru: Expect ON.Lab to continue to hire top talent for its open source development and the team would release cool SDN platforms and tools for the community to build on during the next 12 months. And ON.Lab would establish itself as the champion and provider of open source SDN.
Bill: An exceptional development team, high quality tools available as open source and further acceleration of innovation around software defined networks.
SDNCentral: Is there anything special you would like our SDNCentral community to know about ON.lab?
Bill: We want to hear from people interested in changing the world of networking and interested to enable new architectures and business models. We want those people to become a part of the open source community and contribute their ideas and software to benefit the entire community.
Guru: ON.Lab is continuing to hire bright talented and motivated software professionals who want to contribute to open source SDN thus open up the Internet for innovation. It represents one of the most exciting opportunities to impact future of networking and Internet infrastructure.
SDNCentral: Thank you, Guru and Bill for your time!
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