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Getting Started Upstream in ODL

By Allan Clarke and Anil Vishnoi



Getting started as an upstream contributor to OpenDaylight is not easy. The controller ecosystem is big, there are many projects, and there are millions of lines of code. What is a new ODL developer to do? Here is some pragmatic advice on where to begin to become an active contributor.

Fix Bugs

One of the easiest ways to get to know a code base is to start fixing bugs. Peruse the ODL bugs list on Bugzilla, say with the NETCONF project. You want to find bugs that aren’t likely being worked on and are of limited scope (to match your limited understanding of the project). Ideally bugs will have an owner assigned to indicate that they are actively being worked on, but it is not always a great indicator. In particular, someone may run across a bug, file a report, then jump into fixing it—and forget to assign it to themselves. This is most likely with the project contributors, so figure out who are the project contributors and look at the date of the report. If it was a project contributor and a newish date, then that bug might be being worked on. You should read through the report and try to decide how much domain knowledge is needed—as a newbie, smaller is better.

Once you have selected a bug to work on, click on the “take” link. Also add a comment to the bug. If someone already is working on it, they should get a notice and respond. You can also try the ODL mailing lists and give notice there. You mainly want to avoid duplicate work, of course.

Review Patches

Reviewing patches is a great way to contribute. You can access patches via Gerrit, and we’ll use the NETCONF patches as an example. Doing code reviews is a great way to not only see existing code but also to interact with other developers.

  • If you have some domain expertise and know the code, you can review the functionality that is being pushed.
  • If you have neither of these, you can do the review based on Java best practices and good software engineering practice.

Address Technical Debt

ODL uses Sonar for analytics of the upstream project. Here is an example for the NETCONF issues. Note that the ODL project has coding conventions, and the Sonar Qube has some best practices. This list shows violations that should be addressed. As a newbie, you can work on these with little domain knowledge required. You can also see that the code coverage varies for the NETCONF coverage, so adding NETCONF unit tests to boost the coverage in the weakest areas would be very helpful.

Sonar has a lot of interesting metrics. You can explore some of them starting here including coverage, tech debt, etc. If you look at the Sonar dashboard, it will point out a lot of available work that does not require a large span of time to invest. Doing some of this work is a great step towards getting your first patch submitted.

Follow Best Practices

With well over a million lines of code and many contributors from many companies, the ODL project has quite a girth. To manage the code entropy, ODL has some best practices that you should become familiar with. These cover a diverse set of topics, including coding practices, debugging, project setup and workflow. We strongly recommend that you carefully read these. They will save you a lot of time and will pay back your investment quickly. They will help you skate through code reviews. These practices are really time-tested advice from all the ODL developers, so don’t ignore them.

Support Attribution

Attribution is an important insight into most if not all open source projects. Attribution allows stakeholders to see who is contributing what, from the individual up through sponsoring companies. It allows both a historical and current view of the project. You can see an example of why attribution is illuminating here. You need to sign up for an ODL account, and a part of that process will be to associate yourself with a company (if applicable). You can also see breakdowns by authors on the ODL Spectrometer.

That’s all for now. Happy trails, newbie.

Watch for Allan’s blog next week where he will share his Top 10 learnings as a new developer contributing to ODL.

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