THE HAGUE -- SDN NFV World Congress -- The Deutsche Telekom executive behind ETSI's just-announced zero-touch group has held out the possibility of merging it with the AT&T-led ONAP initiative in 2019 or 2020.
Unveiled earlier this week, the zero-touch group has yet to secure ETSI's official approval and would then have to prove it can deliver something "useful," acknowledged Klaus Martiny, a senior program manager with Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and vice chair of the Network Operators Council within the existing European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG). (See Automation Gets Its Own ETSI Group.)
But he told Light Reading that zero touch could eventually be combined with ONAP or that one initiative could subsume the other. "ONAP and zero touch could be run in parallel, learning from each other and exchanging information," he explained during a conversation at this week's SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague. "Maybe we can merge them or kill one. That could happen maybe in 2019 or 2020. We have to deliver something that is useful."
The initiatives do not appear to have all that much in common. ONAP is one of several open source platforms to have taken shape in the telecom industry, and specifically aimed at addressing the challenge of management and network orchestration (MANO). The goal of the zero-touch group would be to come up with a harmonized and much simplified approach to network automation, partly by acting as an intermediary between the different industry groups and associations already active in this area.
That includes the main open source groups -- those being ONAP, OSM (a rival and ETSI-backed MANO effort) and the Linux Foundation's Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project. It also means official standards organizations such as ETSI and representatives from some of the industry verticals that are hoping to benefit from software and virtualization technologies.
Yet while the nascent zero-touch group is certainly not being touted as a standards or technical body, Martiny believes it could eventually play a pivotal role in the development of harmonized interfaces, architectures and standards.
Among other things, it could help to bridge a divide between ONAP and OSM on interoperability. If the two organizations can reach agreement on common information models, it will be easier for developers to write code that allows one company's systems to be used alongside or in place of another's.
While there may be skepticism that Martiny's zero-touch initiative can provide the answer to this particular interoperability problem, the group's remit is evidently much broader. Its mission, for example, could include assisting vendors with the evolution of their business models.
"We are [currently] spending so much money on adaptation costs on the OSS layer," says Martiny. "If we find a solution for that, the classical OSS vendors will need a new business model."
Deutsche Telekom's interest in ONAP was apparent during a keynote presentation in The Hague on Tuesday, when Arash Ashouriha, the operator's deputy chief technology officer, noted the industry support ONAP has already secured while raising concern about the usability of its first release. (See DT: Brutal Automation Is Only Way to Succeed.)
The German operator has already ruled out involvement with ETSI's OSM initiative, says Martiny.
The zero-touch initiative, he says, had its genesis at a conference in Bonn in late 2016, after Deutsche Telekom had invited a number of standards organizations, open source groups, universities and analysts to meet and discuss challenges around the management of future networks.
Stakeholders approached ETSI about the plan because of their familiarity with and knowledge of the standards organization, but the move was this week criticized by Robert Curran, the head of strategic marketing for software developer Aria Networks Ltd. "Taking it into ETSI will only slow things down," he told Light Reading.
Martiny rejects the criticism, however, and insists that ETSI would not be running the zero-touch initiative in the same manner as one of its traditional ISGs.
"This is not the classical ETSI approach," he said. "We are talking about doing something different."
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading