Verizon today joins the ONAP as a platinum member, giving that open source effort yet more credibility in its goal of creating a single telecom industry approach to network orchestration and automation. It is the eighth operator to join as a platinum member and the 16th overall.
With this addition, the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) now supports network operators serving almost 60% of the world's mobile subscribers. "This basically means we now have ONAP as the de facto standards that the operators have embraced globally," says Arpit Joshipura, general manager of networking and orchestration for the Linux Foundation , of which ONAP is a part.
Verizon is promising to be very active in pushing ONAP to be carrier-ready, with hopes of commercial deployments in about a year's time, says Srinivasa Kalapala, vice president of technology and supplier strategy at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).
Verizon contributed code to ONAP's first software release, Amsterdam, prior to joining the organization. The software code it contributed was developed as part of Verizon's trial run of ONAP's modular architecture to determine whether it would meet the operator's needs, he tells Light Reading in an interview.
"One of the intents of joining ONAP is that we would be doing more and going deeper on the analytics side and the architecture itself," Kalapala says. "We looked at the Amsterdam code and I think by Beijing release [due in late May], we see the full modularity and interoperability. That would be when we start introducing something more, and that is when we would start trying to operationalize it."
By the time of the Casablanca release, due out in late 2018, he expects Verizon will have some ONAP modules up and running. And if the code matures as expected in terms of carrier-grade stability and performance, there could be commercial deployments a year from now.
Speed of innovation and a desire for more automation were Verizon's main driving forces for looking at open source, since customization -- whether on its own or with vendors -- was slowing things down, Kalapala says. He admits Verizon doesn't yet know where ONAP modules might be deployed first but two logical options are in its virtualized services arena, where software-defined WANs are deployed, or in the mobile network core, where the virtualization effort is already well underway and there is need for automation and closed-loop feedback.
On the services side, he notes, having standard interfaces among carrier partners is one of the key goals.
Joshipura says ONAP and the Linux Foundation are now turning their focus toward bringing Tier 2 and Tier 3 carriers on board, not necessarily as influencing members but as companies starting their own virtualization efforts that want to follow industry's direction.
"Verizon is joining to be able to influence where ONAP goes," he says in an interview. "They recognize this ecosystem is becoming the de facto standard for the industry and they want to have a say, through contributions, in what happens. For some of the smaller operators, it will be more about guiding their decisions."
Verizon is expecting the vendors with whom it works to also take note and become more engaged in ONAP, Kalapala says. Some already are, but he expects more to either join or become more active now.
One other US operator who has made software contributions but not yet joined ONAP is CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), which since its acquisition of Level 3 Communications has become the second-largest US operator behind AT&T. In an interview, its new vice president of network virtualization tells Light Reading that the choice is not yet made.
"We are looking at all of our options there," James Feger commented. "We definitely want to make sure we are plugged in with the right group."
It's not yet clear whether bringing Verizon on board will prompt some hitherto reluctant European operators to join ONAP. Many of them are engaged in other efforts led by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) , including Open Source MANO Community (OSM) and the newly launched new Zero touch network and Service Management Industry Specification Group (ZSM ISG), which held its first meeting last week. (See ETSI's 'Zero Touch' Group Issues Telco Automation White Paper.)
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— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading