NICE, France – TM Forum Live! -- For most of my time at the show this week I have been participating in sessions devoted to NFV and, in most of those, there is discussion of Project ZOOM, the TM Forum 's initiative to reshape back office processes and architectures to enable virtualization. (See TM Forum Tries ZOOMing to NFV.)
Almost all of those sessions also, at some point, address open source software, and its growing impact in the telecom realm, and the constant intersection of these two things leads me to this thought: What if the Forum ran ZOOM as a true open source project, similar to Open Daylight?
As it is, the Forum is constantly seeking input and asking for participation in ZOOM from all assembled as it tries to crowd-source the process. As Jenny Huang, OSS/BSS standards strategist at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and a co-chair of ZOOM, explained on Monday, the Forum has been collecting "user stories" from a wide swathe of its own members as well as those of groups such as Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) . Those are informing what ZOOM -- which stands for Zero-touch, Orchestration, Operations, and Management -- plans to deliver.
But that's not the same thing as running an open source project, to which companies contribute code, and which produces more than specifications.
Given all the competitive forces in play, it may be unrealistic to think that the telecom industry can do open source in the same way that the IT industry has but there are a few factors I think it's worth considering:
- Telecom is embracing open source and realizing its ability to move technology forward much faster, as well as recognizing its traditional standardization process is hopelessly slow and outdated. In an NFV panel on Tuesday afternoon, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s Axel Clauberg noted that telecom operators are raising their voices more in trying to influence the development of OpenStack, the open source cloud software, indicating greater willingness to participate in this process. (See Telcos Pay Lip Service to Open Source.)
- There is already a model for open source software in the SDN arena in the OpenDaylight project, being managed by the Linux Foundation . Open Daylight succeeded in getting multiple competing vendors to contribute code to its open source SDN controller, even as those same vendors were often developing their own controllers and SDN portfolios. (See OpenDaylight Unveils Open-Source SDN Controller.)
- There are indications we are entering a new period of collaboration and cooperation by the major telecom operators. For most of the last 15 years or more, the big guys have eyed each other warily as global competitors unwilling to share anything that might sacrifice a competitive advantage. But as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) CTO Ulf Ewaldsson told me yesterday, the greater threat posed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and other Internet players has prompted telecom players to pull together a bit more. This would be the time for collaboration on telecom-specific open source projects.
Add to all of that the need to move forward and figure out how to orchestrate and manage networks in the transition to NFV so that transition can happen quickly and get telecom operators to the point where they can roll out new services quickly. I think that gets you to the point where a change in process can be the answer.
The notion of converting ZOOM to a full open-source project may be a goofy one but it seems to my journalist brain (i.e. not an engineer's) that it's worth discussing.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading