Light Reading

Is Open Source the New De Facto Standard?

Carol Wilson

CHICAGO -- Light Reading's Big Telecom Event 2014 -- Open source may be becoming the next mode of standardization in the virtualization realm, a thought reinforced by the move of the ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group to establish an open source project under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.

In a pre-event Open Networking Foundation workshop here ahead of BTE, a high-powered panel discussed the evolving role of standards, focusing heavily on the increasing efforts to develop open source solutions that can form at least the core piece of early deployments and potentially enable the kind of interoperability that in the past has required well-defined standards.

Marc Cohn, senior director of market development at Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and chair of the ONF market education committee, kicked off the discussion and highlighted the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Network Functions Virtualization ISG's decision to start its own open source project, called Open Platform for NFV, or OPN, with the Linux Foundation , which already runs OpenDaylight .

The idea, Cohn said after the panel, is to develop a framework for an open NFV platform in a similar way that OpenDaylight has created an open source approach to an SDN controller. Participation in the OPN requires a financial buy-in for both network operators and industry hardware and software vendors, and if it follows the Open Daylight model, would also require the contribution of code.

OpenDaylight Executive Director Neela Jacques was part of the ONF panel on standards and noted that open source is one way of addressing complex problems that are harder to address in standards.

"What you need is a common code base," he said. "We dovetail very well with standards efforts -- the fact is open source solutions are becoming de facto standards."

There is still a great deal of confusion in the telecom space about the role of open standards, noted Prodip Sen, who chaired the ETSI NFV ISG while at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) but has now joined Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) as CTO of its NFV efforts.

"The intent is not that we replace all the systems the carriers are using with open source -- carriers want supported products and when something goes wrong, they want to be able to call someone," he said. "The way we look at open source is that it is a way to create a sub-strata of interoperability, and a way we get to interoperability and standardization without waiting for a long drawn-out standards process."

As Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Caroline Chappell noted, however, the real gating factor for NFV remains operations. She noted that at the recent TM Forum event in Nice, major European players such as Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) were talking about four to six years of operational development before NFV could be properly implemented.

Both Sen and Don Clarke, formerly of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and now principal architect for network technologies at CableLabs , agreed that operations challenges loom large for operators.

One of the challenges to using open source approaches in that realm is that every operator has slightly different issues to address and somewhat different starting points and goals, Sen noted.

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

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User Rank: Light Beer
6/19/2014 | 10:07:36 PM
Re: NFV Meets Open Source
They won't become your IT dept but they'll probably farm out their services to you if you want. Or even better, subcontract out the services to you for a huge price.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/18/2014 | 5:15:30 PM
Re: NFV Meets Open Source

Is it me, or does every effort look like flailing around?

Telecom Executive:  "Hey everybody seems to be able to move faster than us.  We ought to try the way that (enter some idea) works for this other market."

Other Party (Systems Vendor, Middle Management, Consultant):  "Great idea, we will get right on that!"

Some Poor Slob (i.e. One of the Engineers who have to make this stuff):  "So wait a minute they want absolute control over a set of products that are built for free out of infrastructure built by someone else."

Second Poor Slob:  "Yeah, they want to change how products are built but are not going to adopt the other things that happen in the environment that all this stuff comes from.  That is an awesome idea (HEAVY SARCASM)."

Some Poor Slob: "Yeah, I think I will start writing apps.   Lots of VC funding there and when it breaks I can do another one."

Second Poor Slob:  "Already have my resume on Monster."

Look...all this stuff is great.  But it is only going to work if the Carriers become giant IT departments.  Let's peg a date on that....


User Rank: Lightning
6/18/2014 | 3:08:49 PM
Re: NFV Meets Open Source
Carol, this is a great article thanks for covering this important topic. Just to be clear the ETSI NFV ISG as a body is NOT involved in the formation of any external entities around open source. The open source initiatives that are getting underway are being progressed separately from the ETSI NFV ISG and do not claim any endorsement by the ETSI NFV ISG.

I just wanted to make this point clear to inform any follow-up articles that LR asnd HR might publish on the topic. Best regards - Don Clarke (NFV ISG NOC Chair).
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/18/2014 | 1:39:40 AM
New playing field
Insightful stmt by the ex-VZ guy. This can lead to a new playing field.
sam masud
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/17/2014 | 2:14:35 PM
No surprise
Open source is a no-brainer given that focus in networking is now not on boxes but on software. Glad to see them move in this direction because it makes sense from both cost and development perspectives. Are that issue regarding open source? Yes....but they will be worked out in time. Even the wildly popular Ethernet LAN technology took time before it was adapted for the WAN.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
6/17/2014 | 7:46:47 AM
NFV Meets Open Source
This is an interesting development - the ETSI NFV ISG decision to create an open source group with the Linux Foundation. That tells me these folks see development of an open source approach to NFV is a high priority. 
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