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Exclusive: Leaked 'Inception' Document Fleshes Out Open-Source NFV Plans

Mitch Wagner

Plans for an open-source NFV platform are moving forward, as leading carriers and vendors in the NFV movement were scheduled to hold an "inception meeting" Monday and Tuesday.

The group was scheduled to meet in the Sunnyvale, Calif., offices of CableLabs , and we're told the meeting actually happened. The group included representatives of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Linux Foundation , Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ).

We have gotten our mitts on a copy of a hush-hush six-page Microsoft Word document describing the goals of the Open Platform for NFV (OPN) project, circulated confidentially prior to the meeting. We have written about this bunch before. (See Will Carriers Step Up to Open Challenge? and Is Open Source the New De Facto Standard?)

No, not that kind of inception.
No, not that kind of inception.

Members of the OPN project want to create an open-source reference platform, both hardware and software, to validate the performance and interoperability of NFV components. The OPN also looks to help stimulate the open-source community to work on NFV.

"The overall design should be modular, to allow for the existence of proprietary components," the document says. "Initially, the focus will be on two critical components: NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) and Virtualized Infrastructure Manager (VIM)." OPN directors may decide to expand beyond that initial scope.

OPN-compliant NFV components can be open source or proprietary. The hardware platform will be based on standard, high-volume components.

The OPN will consider creating a physical integration facility in a convenient location such as Silicon Valley, to which members of the OPN project would have access.

The document opens with background on how the ETSI Network Functions Virtualisation Industry Specification Group formed in 2012 to "encourage implementation of interoperable network solutions based on NFV and growth of an open ecosystem." Both traditional standards development organizations and open-source technologies are important enablers for NFV, the document says. (See What's NFV All About? and ETSI Publishes First NFV Specs.)

The first release of NFV specifications is scheduled for the fourth quarter from the ETSI NFV SIG, the document says. (See NFV Group Preps Its Afterlife.)

The OPN project would complement, rather than replace, the NFV ISG, which will "remain the main hub of influence for NFV-related activities." The NFV ISG "will focus on use cases, requirements, and architectural aspects that define what is needed and what is wanted in order to ensure interoperability." The OPN will run with those requirements to develop the reference implementation. In turn, the OPN's work will help the NFV ISG refine its specification.

Open-source communities relevant to NFV -- or "upstream projects" -- include Linux, OpenStack, Open vSwitch, and OpenDaylight. The OPN would work with these groups to avoid duplication and promote development of features and functions needed for carrier networks.

The OPN would have a governance model similar to other projects hosted by the Linux Foundation, including OpenDaylight, which "has survived turbulence and appears to be functioning well," the document says. It would have a board of directors providing oversight, project scope, and financial control, along with a technical steering committee for technical direction, project scoping, code production prioritization, and resolving technical issues arising from interoperability testing.

The document concludes: "A face-to-face inception meeting is being organized to take place June 30th to be hosted by CableLabs in Sunnyvale-CA. This meeting will be by invitation-only for those players indicating their strong interest in Platinum membership." The goal of the meeting is to enable members to share perspectives on the scope and governance of the new forum, to confirm agreement, and therefore to encourage commitment. The OPN scheduled a followup meeting Tuesday morning. We've been on the phone and email looking to get participants in the meeting to tell us what went on, but we haven't succeeded.

The OPN is looking to get signed membership agreements by Aug. 31, to become operational when the NFV ISG documents are published in the fourth quarter of this year.

This is an exciting development for advocates of virtual networks. OpenDaylight saw terrific results, going from nothing to shipping code in a year. While SDN gets plenty of attention, NFV is chugging along with backing from key carriers and vendors. SDN requires sweeping network changes, but NFV can be implemented in small steps -- replacing one hardware server at a time -- for measurable financial results. Developing an open-source NFV reference platform will be a big step toward broad NFV adoption.

Related posts:

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/3/2014 | 6:35:40 PM
What would that group pickup first to deliver?
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/3/2014 | 11:32:21 AM
Heard back
We hears back from the Inception group. "I think your reporting has the story covered to date." Hope to hear more from them, possibly as soon as next week. 
R Clark
R Clark,
User Rank: Blogger
7/2/2014 | 9:44:43 PM
Finally, a sense of urgency?
Well-reported Mitch.  Telecom operators have had more misses than an England penalty shootout.  With the traditional revenue streams evaporating, they do finally seem to have a sense of urgency. It's just a matter of how many tier 1 and tier 2 carriers they can get on board.  Good if they can make it happen.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/1/2014 | 8:58:37 PM
Re: Leaked 'Inception' of Open-Source NFV Plan
Mitch, impressive reporting!  What a great development and an outstanding model for establishing a sustainable platform.  It sounds as if they have the right players, the right design, the right timing, and the capability to put this together.  What a great contribution that would make.

We'll be cheering for their success.
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