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Can ZOOM See Daylight?

Carol Wilson

NICE, France – TM Forum Live! -- For most of my time at the show this week I have been participating in sessions devoted to NFV and, in most of those, there is discussion of Project ZOOM, the TM Forum 's initiative to reshape back office processes and architectures to enable virtualization. (See TM Forum Tries ZOOMing to NFV.)

Almost all of those sessions also, at some point, address open source software, and its growing impact in the telecom realm, and the constant intersection of these two things leads me to this thought: What if the Forum ran ZOOM as a true open source project, similar to Open Daylight?

As it is, the Forum is constantly seeking input and asking for participation in ZOOM from all assembled as it tries to crowd-source the process. As Jenny Huang, OSS/BSS standards strategist at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and a co-chair of ZOOM, explained on Monday, the Forum has been collecting "user stories" from a wide swathe of its own members as well as those of groups such as Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) . Those are informing what ZOOM -- which stands for Zero-touch, Orchestration, Operations, and Management -- plans to deliver.

But that's not the same thing as running an open source project, to which companies contribute code, and which produces more than specifications.

Given all the competitive forces in play, it may be unrealistic to think that the telecom industry can do open source in the same way that the IT industry has but there are a few factors I think it's worth considering:

  • Telecom is embracing open source and realizing its ability to move technology forward much faster, as well as recognizing its traditional standardization process is hopelessly slow and outdated. In an NFV panel on Tuesday afternoon, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s Axel Clauberg noted that telecom operators are raising their voices more in trying to influence the development of OpenStack, the open source cloud software, indicating greater willingness to participate in this process. (See Telcos Pay Lip Service to Open Source.)

  • There is already a model for open source software in the SDN arena in the OpenDaylight project, being managed by the Linux Foundation . Open Daylight succeeded in getting multiple competing vendors to contribute code to its open source SDN controller, even as those same vendors were often developing their own controllers and SDN portfolios. (See OpenDaylight Unveils Open-Source SDN Controller.)

  • There are indications we are entering a new period of collaboration and cooperation by the major telecom operators. For most of the last 15 years or more, the big guys have eyed each other warily as global competitors unwilling to share anything that might sacrifice a competitive advantage. But as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) CTO Ulf Ewaldsson told me yesterday, the greater threat posed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and other Internet players has prompted telecom players to pull together a bit more. This would be the time for collaboration on telecom-specific open source projects.

Add to all of that the need to move forward and figure out how to orchestrate and manage networks in the transition to NFV so that transition can happen quickly and get telecom operators to the point where they can roll out new services quickly. I think that gets you to the point where a change in process can be the answer.

The notion of converting ZOOM to a full open-source project may be a goofy one but it seems to my journalist brain (i.e. not an engineer's) that it's worth discussing.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/5/2014 | 4:29:33 PM
Cooperation among competitors
It makes sense for companies who are otherwise competitors to cooperate on technology and business processes that don't provide strategic business value. 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
6/4/2014 | 5:06:39 PM
Re: Open collaboration is the future

My response is coming post-dinner in Nice. We are happy to host the debate over whether ZOOM should be an open-source project or not. I appreciate the Forum's approach and its understanding of the necessary changes in the standards process. I'm just wondering if an even more radical step is needed.
User Rank: Light Beer
6/4/2014 | 12:51:37 PM
Open collaboration is the future
Hi Carol, between the TM Forum Live! conference and a dinner, I wanted to add that yes indeed, the NFV/ZOOM program will provide open interfaces/models and best practise. And yes, the Forum as a whole is moving in this direction, we have taken the first steps and will take additional steps in this direction over the months to come.

One of the things that have become increasingly more clear is that time spent on standardizing things for years, delivering it to the industry to later discover that it doesn't solve real world problems in a good way, is over. It takes far too long with a risk of delivering the wrong results. The new model is much more agile (as in fail fast and correct what didn't work) and focused on understanding the issues, identifying the design pattern, develop the frameworks and best practise, and when this is proven by being adopted have it become a standard.

One of many things I have noted this week in Nice, is that decision makers both within service providers and software vendors are embracing this model. 

Exactly how to move ZOOM forward, is an area where we welcome a debate!
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