Amidst all the shuffling that’s gone on between On.Lab, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), and MEF, On.Lab wants everyone to know that its work on intent-based networking continues. Specifically, it’s still doing intent-based work in relation to its ONOS controller.
On.Lab is merging with the ONF. The two groups are already operating as one organization led by On.Lab Executive Director Guru Parulkar. The merged entity will retain the ONF name.
Dan Pitt, the former executive director of the ONF, joined MEF as senior vice president in early 2017.
Perhaps there’s a little tension between ONF and MEF.
For an SDxCentral article about intent-based networking, MEF CTO Pascal Menezes confirmed that the ONF was moving its work on intent-based networking to MEF. That work stems from an October 2016 ONF white paper entitled “Intent NBI – Definition and Principles.”
But in an email to SDxCentral, Parulkar clarified, “ONOS was probably the first SDN controller/OS platform that introduced the idea of intent in its first release in December 2014. ONOS has been supporting intent-based NBI since its first release and for the subsequent 11 or 12 releases.”
With the merger of ONF and On.Lab, ONF will continue to work on “actual open source implementation” of intent-based networking, and “it will continue to be an important part of ONOS and ONF work,” Parulkar said.
Of the ONF work stemming from its 2016 white paper, Parulkar said, “ONF was also pursuing intent-based work that was more classical standards and emphasized writing documents without actual open source implementation. That effort is moving to MEF.”
“ONOS controls a real network, not just virtual routers,” said Timon Sloane, VP of standards & membership at ONF. “All intent-based networking is working to move up from using the CLI in a number of discrete boxes to being able to say something at a network-wide level.”
Sloane said the software coders who worked on ONOS recognized early on that it would be better to use an intent-based model to configure the network. “That moved along organically from a grounds-up approach,” he said. “At this point, the intent-based work at ONOS is not theoretical. It’s an integral part of the ONOS distribution.”
Brian O’Connor, an engineer at On.Lab, said, “ONOS realizes its intent through a combination of a small amount of configuration and a large amount of flow control.”
O’Connor explained that most networking hardware devices examine incoming packets based on rules in their hardware tables. Those tables get built up based on attributes of the incoming packets. “When we say ‘flows,’ a flow rule is an entry in that hardware table,” said O’Connor. With intent-based networking, instead of following the simple built-in rules that govern the hardware table entries, ONOS gathers information at the controller level and then determines what rules should be programmed using improved visibility and more sophisticated logic.
MEF and ONOS
Sloane described the intent-based work from ONF as “that legacy ONF piece that is more a top-down, standards-based approach that is moving to MEF.” He said, “The open source work within ONOS we believe is the approach having the greatest impact right now. We’re all about practical — building things that can be deployed.”
Asked if one approach might win out over the other, Sloane said, “It’s hard to tell if the market will pick one over the other. ONOS could be viewed as lower level and there could be higher-level intent at MEF that comes out of that work.”
Thomas Vachuska, the chief architect at ONF, said, “The idea is to bridge higher-level constructs with lower-level constructs.