The complexities of management and orchestration (MANO) have seen many telco executives figuratively tearing out their hair in frustration as they try to virtualize their companies' networks.
Interoperability, of course, has been the main bugbear. Until recently, South Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) had been forced to maintain separate MANO platforms for each NFV supplier it was using. Despite vendor assurances on "open interfaces," product specifications have differed from one vendor to another, says the telco. But supporting a multitude of MANO platforms means adding to the complexity and cost. Virtualization is supposed to be about the opposite.
Enter T-MANO. The new platform, which SK Telecom unveiled earlier today, is intended to work with any vendor's products. That means SK Telecom can dump its older platforms and manage its virtualized networks more efficiently. From now on, when it wants to launch a new service, it will be able to set up the requisite systems in one go instead of handling each and every system separately. (See SK Telecom Commercializes T-MANO.)
That is the promise, anyway. But SK Telecom has enough confidence in T-MANO to have trumpeted some concrete virtualization targets in connection with the move. T-MANO will first be used to support all virtualized VoLTE routers, says the operator, before it is expanded to cover virtualized evolved packet core (EPC) and additional equipment. This year, SK Telecom's aim is to ensure that virtualized EPC accounts for 80% of all newly deployed EPC equipment. From 2019, it says, it will only deploy vEPC.
SK Telecom also plans to release T-MANO's application programming interfaces (APIs) into the broader community. As a result, it says, anyone will be able to integrate T-MANO code into virtualized network functions or software.
The move, clearly, is not dissimilar to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s decision to make its ECOMP software platform available to others through the Linux Foundation. Now combined with the Foundation-led OPEN-O initiative to form ONAP, that platform has already won support from a number of vendors as well as telcos, including France's Orange (NYSE: FTE), BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), Russia's VEON and China's three national carriers -- China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU). (See Big Names Board the ONAP Express.)
ONAP's big rival thus far has been the Open Source MANO Community (OSM) initiative backed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and featuring some equally high-profile names, including the UK's BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Norway's Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN), Spain's Telefónica and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) in the US. SK Telecom is also an OSM participant and stuck to ETSI specifications when designing the T-MANO platform, it says.
It is perhaps too early to say what T-MANO means, if anything, for MANO more generally. What is clear is that, despite the recent consolidation in this space, there is still concern about a bifurcation of industry efforts. The global market needs a single approach, say critics, if it is to overcome the enormous challenges it faces. Designed to curtail complexity, new platforms and initiatives could inadvertently exacerbate it.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading