TMF Rethinks B/OSS With ODA, but Will Industry Care?

Iain Morris

Revolution or rebranding?
Yet there is bound to be a degree of skepticism about the TMF's latest move. For a start, it is one of several transformation initiatives vying for industry attention. The Linux Foundation's ONAP project, which has garnered support from several of the world's largest operators, already covers some of the same ground. James Crawshaw, a senior analyst with the Heavy Reading market-research company, says ODA is essentially a rebranding of an older initiative called ODES (for Open Digital Enablement System). Downplaying its significance, he says he doubts "it will revolutionize the telecom sector." (See ONAP Adds Verizon, Claims De Facto Title.)

A TMF representative confirms that ODA is indeed the successor to ODES, which was publicized last year as a "new architectural vision for OSS/BSS." But the rebranding comes as the TMF steps up its efforts, and it points to growing industry support for that vision. Service providers previously involved with ODES, including BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Telefónica and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), have endorsed ODA in the TMF's latest statement. A fresh commitment from Australia's Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) is a further "positive," says Crawshaw. And while their names cannot be revealed at this stage, a few of the world's biggest vendors are on board too, says Tiller.

He is also sanguine about any overlap with ONAP, which he even regards as a "large component" within the ODA blueprint. "ODA doesn't extend down to the network itself but it does extend to the management of network resources, and so we want to make sure it has standardized interfaces that are compatible with ONAP," he says. "We are contributing open APIs [application programming interfaces] to ONAP for incorporation into the next release, for example."

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But is there not a risk that yet another initiative sows confusion and leads to fragmentation, rather than standardization? "There are probably more benefits," says Tiller. "We need to make it as generic as possible. ODA might be one way to do your virtualized network management but there will be other ways. And where another organization is creating a standard for a component or an interface, that is less work for us."

The TMF is clearly trumpeting ODA as one of its most important moves in years, and an initiative that will absorb several other existing projects. Those include the open APIs scheme, first unveiled in May 2016, and the ZOOM (for Zero-touch, Orchestration, Operations and Management) project that kicked off in February 2014. "Open APIs has been successful in isolation but in the context of ODA is more powerful," says Tiller. "ZOOM is valuable for the management of hybrid networks and platforms and with ODA also becomes part of the bigger picture." (See 9 Global Telcos Back Open APIs Scheme.)

That picture still needs fleshing out. While the TMF says there is now "broad industry agreement" on the architecture, it is just starting work on the production of a "definitive blueprint" as part of its R&D program. "A level down from the big picture architecture will come around the time of the Nice conference in May," says Tiller. By that stage, the wider industry's response to ODA should also be more apparent.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

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