|By Maureen O'Gara||
|March 15, 2013 03:49 PM EDT||
When Cisco recruited IBM, HP and NEC for its hush-hush software-defined networking (SDN) consortium code-named Daylight sources say it talked them into signing a non-disclosure agreement forbidding them to join any other similarly minded consortia.
Then Cisco twice missed the deadline set to give them the proprietary code it said it intended to open source as part of the SDN standard it was proposing - and it still hasn't turned the code over to them.
They got scared that Cisco was pulling a bait and switch and that even if the proprietary code was open sourced it was still going to include closed, proprietary links back to Cisco's very proprietary OnePK widgetry, its SDN toolkit, and other Cisco mojo.
Then it started to become clear that Cisco had spun out a stealth effort called Insieme to knock off the Nicira SDN technology that VMware bought for $1.26 billion last year. Cisco reportedly has 25-30 of the boys who created its UCF servers working on it.
Insieme is what they deliciously call a "spin-in," a scheme supposedly unique to Cisco.
Cisco or Cisco CEO John Chambers in his arbiter as venture capitalist is backing Insieme - reportedly to the tune of $50 million - and once it's got a proprietary product that Cisco can import into the Daylight "standard" Cisco will buy it back.
Insieme is reportedly valued at $700 million so roughly $750 million could ultimately shower on the start-up.
Dell has a small networking business and because it's small needs a level playing field, besides its stock-in-trade is commodity widgetry.
Hearing the story just told, never mind from whom, it was persuaded to start a counter-consortium. The only trouble was that companies like IBM being gentlemen - at least on the surface - were hobbled by that darn NDA they signed.
So on Wednesday Dell joined the Object Management Group - an international open standards organization that's always been a little bit over its head - and proposed an SDN standardization working committee that it will chair within the OMG technology working groups.
The companies that are already secretly backing it or are likely recruits already belong to OMG and Cisco's NDA doesn't say anything about using an existing consortium as a counter-measure.
In fact both HP and IBM belong to OMG.
Anyway, the plan is to take the specification and Northbound API that the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) refused to embellish - which may be why Cisco got traction for Daylight to begin with - and add all the stuff the industry thinks is missing.
Sam Greenblatt, now Dell's chief architect - who in previous lives as CTO at HP and CA was on the board on OMG for 11 years - figures it will take four or five month to knock the ONF spec into shape. Then he intends to get it on the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) fast track.
Sam will reportedly return to the OMG board and chair the working group. He means to make sure it's an open process and a meritocracy. Its first meeting will be April 4, a Thursday, probably days before Cisco trots out Daylight at the Open Networking Summit later in the month.
Six OMG members are reportedly ready to join Dell's effort as soon as it's sanctioned by the OMG board next week. It could presumably get all 31 OMG companies, which is supposedly way more than Daylight's got. It also expects end users, government agencies and research institutes to kick in.
The ONF, which is open source-oriented, is supposed to join OMG, which is open standards-oriented, in an arrangement that's happened before with industry standards groups.
Daylight is supposed to produce an open source SDN controller with Cisco as the reference architecture for OpenFlow and SDN and disenfranchise VMware for its temerity in buying Nicira by not allowing it any gateways for VXLAN or VMware/Nicira.
In its OMG announcement Dell pointedly said that "SDN goes beyond the network. This solution should look beyond the data center, in fact across the entire enterprise. A ‘controller' which drives disruption on how enterprises operate and is jointly developed, commercialized and promoted, using open standards as a principal, needs to take all infrastructure into consideration."
It went on to say that "open standards are required to build an SDN controller and anything short of that is in fact contrary to the goals of OMG and could lead to a closed or proprietary solution, minimizing customers' choice."
OMG CEO Richard Soley said in a statement that ""Networks are the last bastion of unvirtualized computing infrastructure. The growing interest in software-defined networks needs to be met as early as possible with flexible, transparent, powerful standards that help the industry grow rapidly and allow interoperable and portable solutions, and give customers real choice."
Privately he said he was going to try to get Cisco to join if someone at Cisco will please pick up the phone.
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