The Open Networking User Group (ONUG) is a community of IT executives that are using their combined buying power to influence the networking industry. Members hail from companies such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Fidelity Investments. ONUG’s goal is to specify requirements and reference architectures for products that are open, more affordable and more agile than what vendors traditionally offer.

Over its first two years of existence, ONUG has focused on software-defined WAN (SDWAN), network virtualization overlays and network service virtualization (also known as network functions virtualization or NFV).  Last week, ONUG convened its spring meeting at Columbia University, where its focus expanded into network management and operations. ONUG introduced three new working groups that will specify open networking requirements and begin testing vendor solutions in various management areas.

One of the new working groups is focused on traffic monitoring and visibility across both physical network underlays and virtual overlays. The Traffic Monitoring/Visibility Working Group will specify requirements for open network visibility fabrics that are based on white box switches, software-defined networking (SDN) and open source software. The industry has already seen some commercial technologies that address aspects of this working group’s mission. Big Switch Networks’ Big Tap solution comes to mind, as does Ixia’s use of OpenFlow to incorporate white box switches into its fabric of network visibility controllers. Gigamon has introduced a version of its GigaVUE operating system that can run on white box switches as the leaf layer of a visibility fabric. I imagine all those vendors will engage with ONUG. In fact, Dominick Cafarelli, a technology strategist at Gigamon, is already a member of this visibility working group.

A second working group focused on network state collection, correlation and analytics will specify a mechanism for sharing network state across network hardware and software. An SDN controller or network service orchestrator could query such a network state mechanism for guidance on a wide range of issues, such as the optimal place to insert a virtual load balancer. It could provide analytics on how configuration changes would affect application performance or it could do real-time fault isolation based on network state changes. This working group is chaired by Neal Secher, managing director of network architecture at financial services company BNY Mellon, but its membership also includes representatives from F5 Networks and two software-defined network services startups with very similar names – Avi Networks and Avni Networks.

The final new working group is exploring the idea of common management tools across networking, storage and compute. This project will define a reference architecture and specify requirements for an open toolset that can monitor, manage, orchestrate and troubleshoot across those three domains. Chaired by Carlos Matos, director of global network architecture at Fidelity Investments, this working group has an extremely broad scope of work. I imagine it might try to engage with vendors like CA and HP, as well as projects like OpenStack. Cross-domain management is an increasingly important requirement for large enterprises. Many of the management vendors I talk to are trying to address this need, so I recommend that they reach out to ONUG.

Last week’s ONUG event included presentations from many leading infrastructure vendors who had tested their solutions against the requirements specified by ONUG’s other working groups (SDWAN, overlays and NSV). At future meetings, management vendors will be doing the same, especially if they want to do business with the high-profile companies that participate. ONUG’s members are early adopters of a wide variety of technologies, from SDN to big data. They are the proving ground for the things that represent the future of IT.