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SDN Systems Integration

ON.Lab: Open Source Must Also Integrate

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Open Networking Summit -- The open source industry has to work harder to build and support integrated solutions for network operators, or risk losing the war against closed proprietary systems, a co-founder of the Open Networking Summit said in a keynote today.

Guru Parulkar, executive director of ON.Lab , told the ONS crowd that there has been significant progress in developing white boxes and open source software platforms to support the move to virtualization, disaggregation of hardware and software and "software-ization," and that the open source industry right now "looks like a mess in some ways." There are so many disaggregated platforms that equipment vendors are the ones stepping up to tie them together, he said.

The result is that "you still have vendors using these platforms to create incrementally better but still closed proprietary solutions," Parulkar commented. "We are at risk of ending up with closed proprietary solutions unless we are careful, which means winning the battles and losing the war. That is not what we want as a community after working so hard for it."

His solution is for the open source industry to build and support integrated open source solutions that can "bring scalability, performance, high availability and ease of use and deployment." Failing to do that will leave network operators "stuck with closed proprietary solutions" that will limit innovation.

So at minimum, the industry must be creating standard protocols and applications programming interfaces that can be constructed in end-to-end solutions, he said.

Parulkar also highlighted two other challenges that the industry must tackle: Determining how to build standards more quickly, without letting them be "gamed" by powerful equipment vendors and limiting "undue corporate influence" on open source efforts, designed to advantage specific players.

It's time for standards groups and open source groups to work together, Parulkar said, pointing to work the ONOS open source project is doing with the MEF and the Broadband Forum as an example. (See CORD Connecting as ONOS Expands.)

And the open source community must remain free of competitive influences, he added.

Interestingly, AT&T's John Donovan, who followed Parulkar to the podium, tackled the question of differentiating on top of open source in a clever way. Donovan says he tells his people to think of their "secret sauce" as something that doesn't come in buckets, but in much smaller containers, like Tabasco sauce -- tiny but potent. (See AT&T Shares ECOMP Vision, Might Share Software.)

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation -- which this year took on the ONS sponsorship -- kicked off the keynote session by declaring 2016 the "year of open source in networking." He pointed to China Mobile's declaration at Mobile World Congress in February that OSS will become OSS, as in open source software, not legacy operations and support systems.

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

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