Comparing SDN Controllers: Open Daylight and ONOS


Over the last few months, we have been doing testing of the SDN controllers Open Daylight Helium SR3 (mostly via the Brocade Vyatta Controller v1.2) and ONOS Cardinal v1.2.  In this initial article we will start to compare the controllers, focusing on scale, specifically the number of switches that can be handled, by running both OpenFlow 1.0 and 1.3 switches emulated via IXIA and using physical via Pica8 switches.

Note: In the latest version of ONOS (Cardinal) v1.2, there is an issue ONOS handling emulated OpenFlow v1.3 from IXIA, so all scale testing in ONOS was done using OpenFlow 1.0.  Also, in ONOS the term “node” references a copy of ONOS (we run two nodes in our tests) while in Open Daylight, the term “node” refers to a OpenFlow switch.

User Interface

One of the main differences between the ONOS and Open Daylight/BVC is in the controls and information available directly from the Graphical User Interface (GUI).


The ONOS GUI has multiple panes including Summary, Node(s) and Controls.

ONOS 1.2

ONOS GUI With 300 Switches

The ONOS GUI displays end hosts in a well defined fashion, you can see them spanning out from the switches.


ONOS 96 Hosts Visible

Open Daylight

The default Open Daylight GUI is defined by the features installed and can include features such as a pane to display Nodes, a Yang UI and Yang Visualizer.

Open Daylight

Open Daylight GUI

When attempting to display end hosts, the Open Daylight GUI is not as clean as ONOS as the hosts are interlaced with switches.

ODL Nodes

Open Daylight with 400 Nodes

In the above screen capture of Open Daylight you can see both Nodes (Switches) and Hosts.

Brocade Vyatta Controller

The GUI for the Brocade Vyatta Controller (BVC) is cleaner than the default Open Daylight GUI and in this screen shot has extra modules for their Vyatta vRouter 5600 EMS and their “Path Explorer” application.

BVC 1.2 With EMS 5600

Brocade Vyatta Controller GUI

The current way of displaying Hosts and Switches in Open Daylight/BVC is not easy to work with nor does it scale well.


In scale testing, we started with 100 Switches and scaled up to 400 Switches, each switch holding 12 hosts.  While Open Daylight (via BVC) was able to scale to 400 switches, ONOS stopped functioning before 400.

Here is BVC with 400 Switches, 800 links and multiple (96 out of 4800) hosts sending traffic to each other.

BVC with 400 Switches

BVC with 400 Switches and Multiple Hosts

BVC 400 Switches Building

BVC 400 Switches Installing Hosts

Here is ONOS when it has reached capacity and is no longer able to handle the number of switches/links/hosts that are being sent to it.

ONOS With 400 Switches

The above screen shot shows two ONOS nodes with 400 switches, 800 links and 0 hosts (we are attempting to send traffic between 48 hosts).  While the devices (switches) are in the database, the hosts are not in the database and the GUI has become unstable and no longer shows any information.


Both ONOS and Open Daylight are solid products when acting as SDN controllers with multiple southbound and northbound interfaces.  The testing done here only focuses on OpenFlow and specifically on scale.  The Brocade version of Open Daylight is well packaged and has some nice extras such as the EMS application which ties in the Brocade Vyatta vRouter 5600.  ONOS continues to focus on providing tools and information in their GUI and 300 switches is a perfectly reasonable amount and certainly more than anyone should put on one or two controllers.

Using the Brocade Vyatta Controller EMS App

As part of our continuing work for NetDEF, we continue to install, setup and test the latest SDN controller tools from companies such as Brocade.

The Brocade Vyatta Controller (BVC) v1.2 is based on OpenDaylight Helium SR2 (the current release is SR3) and comes enabled with certain features that are not enabled by default in OpenDaylight such as OpenFlow and a GUI interface.

For our testing we utilized BVC, a pair of Brocade Vyatta vRouter 5600s, and the Brocade vRouter 5600 EMS App for BVC.

In the diagram you can see that we have attached a 5600 to each of the OpenFlow switches.

We followed the installation documentation from Brocade without issue, first installing BVC 1.2, then adding the Path Explorer app and finally the 5600 EMS app.

Once installed you can log into the controller on port 9000 and you should see the following toolbar on the lefthand side


Note the addition of the Vyatta vRouter 5600 EMS link.  Clicking on the link gives you the following display:

Screenshot 2015-04-27 09.05.39

Here you can see that we have already added the two vRouter 5600’s show in our diagram.  The main configuration change we needed to make on the vRouters was to enable netconf and add the netconf-ssh port of 830 to the configuration

We then selected the two vRouters (R1 and R2) and clicked on the “Create Tunnel” box and waited for about two minutes while the system built the tunnels.

Screenshot 2015-04-26 19.09.57


Screenshot 2015-04-26 19.16.38


Looking on the vRouters we saw the following configuration had been added

Obviously the pre-shared-secret being “vyatta” is a bit concerning but since we are aware of it, we can fix it manually.

The EMS app does exactly what it says it will do, configure tunnels between multiple vRouters.

One thing to note is that the EMS app is still limited, for example it does not allow us to configure which interfaces are used for the tunnel interfaces, configure a pre-shared-secret, etc.  We found the EMS app useful for creating the configurations for the vRouters that can be modified to fit your needs.

Also, just like the standard OpenDaylight dlux GUI, the Brocade GUI appears to still use the D3 gravity javascript code to display the network topology, which is pretty but can be hard to work with.

Thank you as always to Brocade and especially Lisa Caywood for being our contact and providing the software (BVC, vRouter 5600’s) necessary to do the testing.

Network Function Virtualization and SDN

Network Function Virtualization or NFV for short is a call to action that looks to aggregate resources across networking, compute and storage.

A collaboration of many of the large players in the telecommunications space, the original NFV call to action focused on lowering the amount of proprietary hardware necessary to launch and operate services.  The solution as discussed in the paper, already exists: high-end, virtualized computing resources.

With the addition of SDN, the combination of virtualized computing resources with storage and programmable switches allows Network Operators to add to their solutions portfolios while avoiding vendor lock-in and forced upgrade cycles. Bringing to life Software-led Infrastructure.

Values of the NFV concept.

Some of the values to the NFV concept are speed, agility and cost reduction.  By centralizing designs around commodity server hardware, network operators can:

  • Do a single PoP/Site design based on commodity compute hardware.
    • Avoiding designs involving one-off installs of appliances that have different power, cooling and space needs simplifies planning.
  • Utilize resources more effectively.
    • Virtualization allows providers to allocate only the necessary resources needed by each feature/function.
  • Deploy network functions without having to send engineers to each site.
    • “Truck Rolls” are costly both from a time and money standpoint.

Generic processors can be repurposed.

Another key point brought up in the NFV call to action paper is the availability of network optimizations in current generation CPUs.

The throughput and functionality of software based routers, switches and other high-touch packet processing devices is constrained by having to send each packet through the processor.  With tools such as Intel’s DPDK and the Linux based NAPI, Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors can be optimized to provide high-speed forwarding paths allowing for much higher throughput rates.

Programmable switches can move packets for lower costs

While not called out in the NFV call to action, programmable switches are a gateway to NFV nirvana.

OpenFlow, a standard for programming data paths into networking equipment, provides one way to separate the control and data planes.  OpenFlow allows for the use of commodity hardware for control plane decision making and inexpensive programmable switches for packet forwarding.  Other benefits to the separation of the control and data planes are:

  • The addition of new features and data sources without changing hardware.
    • The availability of northbound APIs in OpenFlow controllers allow you to plug in features as necessary.
  • Ease of scaling the control plane.
    • Since the control plane is run on commodity hardware and has the ability to be virtualized, you can add or subtract resources as needed.
  • Programmable hardware allows for better accuracy in the planning of future features.
    • Programmable hardware allows the end user to design and deploy a feature or function themselves, rather than relying on the roadmap of the equipment provider.


Network Operators have realized that solutions to their current issues are available today.  The combination of key parts of both SDN and Virtualization allows Network Operators to deploy features and functions in a timely and cost effective manner.  By using commodity hardware,  costs can be managed and resources allocated effectively.