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Tencent Reenvisions DCI Network with SDN and OpenDaylight

By: Neela Jacques, Executive Director, OpenDaylight

I recently had the opportunity to attend Huawei Network Congress and met there with Tom Bie, Vice President of Tencent Technology and Engineering Group. I was particularly impressed to learn more about Tencent and their innovative approach to SDN, which they are building out and deploying on the OpenDaylight platform.

Tencent is one of the world’s largest internet companies, focused on social networking and gaming, has over 500M monthly active accounts for its WeChat and QQ messaging apps and is generating in excess of $13B per year in revenue. Tencent’s scale is extreme in every way – and it is therefore not surprising that they are at the forefront of innovation with regards to enterprise networking.

For over a year, Tencent has been using OpenDaylight. While this work has already borne fruit for Tencent, they have already started to give back, investing significant effort to building and expanding the ODL community in China and sharing their valuable insights and learnings worldwide. One example of this is a recent case study Tencent completed with Huawei, sharing incredibly valuable insights into their efforts.

Tencent has been a tremendous catalyst for OpenDaylight, and when I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Marty Ma, Senior Director of Tencent’s Technology and Engineering Group, he offered to share even more insights into their work in an effort to help the broader community on their own paths to SDN.

Tencent’s Journey to SDN

In 2013, Tencent embarked on a project to re-envision their DCI network with SDN. In an effort to share their learning experiences with the community, Tencent provided the following summary of the key inflection points on their journey to SDN:

  • June 2013, SDN for Data Center Interconnection networks (DCI) project kicked off. By using emerging SDN technologies in an innovative architecture, this project aimed to solve the problem of low bandwidth usage of the expensive WAN connections, and the problem of low service redundancy scheduling efficiency. The two key elements in this solution are the SDN Controller system and the network services orchestrator system.
  • December 2013, as the network virtualization requirements became more and more imperative, and with overlay network technologies maturing, we started an SDN solution project named CODENET which was composed by three key components: OVS, VxLAN Networking, and SDN Controller. This solution could provide flexible network resource scheduling and orchestrating, to support the complex data center networking virtualization scenarios.
  • December 2013, to fulfill the requirements of CODENET we needed to continually improve service for our users, including high availability, high performance, and high capacity to the SDN controller, we started a project named Apollo, to research and develop a distributed cluster SDN controller system.
  • In May 2014, the Apollo controller project delivered an internally developed prototype, and the high availability, performance and capacity met the design criteria. But the Apollo team was facing more challenges: new different SDN solutions were emerging and there were too many different requirements, such as different southbound protocols, different SDN applications, and different distributed controller models. So we needed to review the strategy and decide whether to invest more resources in a self-developed SDN controller, or to combine with the SDN industry, and develop a strong SDN controller based on open source community. After careful discussion and consideration, we made the decision, and started planning to develop a SDN Service system based on the OpenDaylight platform. 
  • March 2015, Tencent, joined with Baidu and Alibaba, to found the ODL Practice Committee of China, to improve the sharing of ODL practice experiences. ODL User Groups have been established in 5 cities across China, with Tencent hosting the Shenzhen ODLUG.
  • April 2015, the first “ODL practice in action and hacker marathon” was held in Beijing, sponsored by Cisco. 59 students, including 20 visiting students, attended the week-long ODL hackathon. This activity was very successful, and received universal response in China.
  • April 2015, Tencent released DCI SDN project’s solutions and achievements, showing Tencent’s central scheduling solutions and technologies for traffic inter-data centers. Used the centrally deployed SDN controller, calculating the forwarding path centrally, and controlling the data path by PCEP protocol, and then achieved great bandwidth usage improvement and network service quality enhancement.

Additionally, Marty offered the following key points on why they chose to work with OpenDaylight:

  • Great scalability of the architecture: ODL’s use of the Model-Driven SAL to develop features and interfaces makes developers focus on service delivery rather than ODL’s internal implementation. The OSGi framework provides great scalability for the service, and provides a high performance distributed environment and large scale controller cluster capability, making it possible to construct a large scale network controller system.
  • Rich southbound protocols: ODL supports many SouthBound Interfaces (SBI) such as OpenFlow, PCE, NETCONF, and is very extensible, allowing us to add new SBI protocols which meet the range of Tencent’s existing and future SDN scenarios.

Ma noted further, “Tencent, a leading provider of internet services in China, is committed to enriching the lives of internet users. As the scale of the network infrastructure grows larger and service requirements become more complex every day, Tencent is taking a proactive stance to roll out our vision of SDN in data center networking and data center interconnection, with the purpose to schedule and use the network resources rationally and efficiently.

Tencent has used the OpenDaylight platform for more than one year and have requested that all SDN controllers built by our partners become compatible with OpenDaylight by end of 2015. The healthy ecosystem, resilient architecture, increasingly rich features and southbound protocols, clear version evolution rhythm and its reputation in the open source community ensure that we continue to benefit from and use the ODL platform. Tencent hopes to collaborate with the SDN industry, to create an open, healthy, virtuous circle ecosystem, to deliver a robust, feature rich, high performance SDN controller platform to provide better internet service to users.”

I’m am so excited to see end users engage with OpenDaylight, learn the technology, test and deploy the platform and then immediately begin to offer value back to the broader community. Tencent’s engagement with the community has been exemplary and I am proud to be working with them.