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Verizon Weighing Open MANO Options

Carol Wilson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Open Networking Summit -- Verizon has yet to get engaged with an open source MANO group but that isn't for lack of interest or sense of urgency, says a top executive and keynote speaker here.

Srinivasa Kalapala, vice president of global technology and supplier strategy for Verizon, tells Light Reading his company is looking very closely at the two obvious options -- the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) and Open Source MANO (OSM) -- as it sorts a path to enabling more dynamic services.

"There is a lot of due diligence, and we are looking at OSM and ONAP very closely," he says. Verizon sees OSM as mainly an orchestrator at the virtual network function (VNF) level, of VNF resources, whereas ONAP is "a comprehensive service management platform," but there are some concerns around both.

Kalapala seems to be in the position of many folks at this event -- he'd like to see harmonization at the orchestration layer, perhaps a combination of projects.

"The concern we have with ONAP is whether it is truly open," he says. "How many groups are contributing? Are we taking the modular thinking where I can bring my own things and work with modules on ONAP? With OSM, the concern is that we don't just sell VNFs, we sell services. How are you planning to do that? Are you partnering with someone else on that part?"

Want to know more about Verizon's networking strategies? Join us in Austin at the fourth-annual Big Communications Event to hear Ed Chan, Senior Vice President, Technology Strategy and Planning, Corporate Network and Technology at Verizon. There's still time to register and communications service providers get in free.

Kalapala is well aware of Verizon's need to act, however, and not interested in just waiting to see where the rest of the industry goes. "I don't think we can wait too long -- I look at orchestration to be nerve center of network management," he comments. "It has to be thoroughly planned -- we are not going to rush but we are not going to wait two years."

As he pointed out in his keynote, the challenge for operators such as Verizon isn't just to meet the massive demand for bandwidth expected in the coming years in a more efficient way. With the approaching markets for the Internet of Things, 5G and things such as augmented reality, there are going to be "other levers" that drive network services such as latency, and the ability to generate the appropriate network slices for specific services. And when five major content providers are generating 80% of the IP traffic -- think Netflix for wireline users and YouTube for wireless networks, for starters -- "we are now dealing with a lot of east-west traffic management, from peering partnerships with these companies," he noted.

"We are dealing with a different paradigm -- networks will need to be ad hoc dynamic," right to the edge, Kalapala said. "We will need a very different kind of control to manage this ecosystem."

That's one of the reasons Verizon is looking to ON.lab -- now part of the Open Networking Foundation -- and hoping to explore a new adaptation of CORD, the popular Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center project. Verizon has been working with M-CORD, but is now looking to push capabilities closer to the edge of its network.

"We are looking at CORD-based approaches -- we like CORD, but we are wondering if, in the future, I need to anchor at my CO or whether I can push even more disaggregation deeper in the network?" Kalapala says in the interview. "If I can provide connectivity and power, could we take CORD even closer to the edge?"

His other concern around open source in general is two-fold: Kalapala would like to see adoption accelerated but that will mean getting open source to work more with what's already in his network, and not just on its own in separate modules.

"I have my own platform. Why can't I run your software on my platform?" he queries. "There are issues around completeness as well. Someone offers us an open EPC [evolved packet core] but it doesn't offer multi-casting and other things Verizon needs."

That gap between what vendors can develop for paying customers and what open source develops without those resources, continues to slow open source deployments, Kalapala admits. One solution would be the rise of vendor-supported open source, such as what Red Hat delivers for Linux and OpenStack.

"We need more things like that," he comments.

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

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