Open NFV Group Uncloaks Its Platform Plan

Carol Wilson
News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large
9/30/2014



The Linux Foundation today made its long-awaited formal announcement of the Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV), promising to deliver a carrier-grade, open source reference architecture as a means of speeding up NFV deployment. The group's initial focus will be on developing the NFV infrastructure and virtualized infrastructure management, two key pieces not already under development, and is promising its initial results in the first half of 2015. (See Linux Foundation Announces Open NFV Group, Exclusive: Leaked 'Inception' Document Fleshes Out Open-Source NFV Plans and Will Carriers Step Up to Open Challenge?)

OPNFV, which includes some but not all of the pioneering telecom operators behind the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) group which created NFV as a concept, was first discussed publicly last spring, but has been holding its cards close to the vest on details until today. In briefings in advance of the announcement, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said the new organization will build on existing open source projects, including OpenDaylight , Linux and OpenStack , but will be significantly different from those in its intent.

All of those projects are what Zemlin terms "upstream projects" focused on specific components, while OPNFV is more focused on the underlying architecture and how that is going to be developed. In that respect, the new group is more similar to Debian or Fedora from the Linux world -- both of those are operating systems based on free or open source software that were later integrated into commercial deployments.

"This group wants to focus on NFV specifically and on creating a carrier-grade environment," Zemlin says. "That involves integrating a collection of open source components together but it also has a much broader scope in terms of looking at things like hardware acceleration and service chaining all of the things you need in an NFV environment, which are broader than the scope of any of the individual components that are part of open source projects."

The network operators currently committed to OPNFV are AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Telecom Italia (TIM) and Vodafone, platinum members, and CableLabs , CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) as silver members.

Notably absent are Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), which has openly called for an open source approach to NFV-I and virtualized infrastructure management, as well as BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), who played prominent roles in the ETSI NFV ISG. Zemlin says he expects more network operators to join the project, once they see its direction, and thinks some operators are still unfamiliar with open source development in general or don't have R&D organizations that can operate externally as part of an open source group, delivering useful code. (See Telefonica's Push for Open NFV Infrastructure, VIM.)

"They need to understand how to engage -- the intellectual property frameworks, the development process, etc.," Zemlin says. "We are engaging with a lot of those folks right now. So I think you'll see more come into the organization rather quickly."

Vendors committed to OPNFV at the platinum level include Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Nokia Networks and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT). Fifteen other vendors came in as silver supporters.

The OPNFV reference platform is intended to provide consistency, interoperability and performance among the open source components that will be involved, and the group will be working with the other groups to continuously share information and carry out integration and testing, Zemlin said.

According to the Linux Foundation's announcement, the project's initial objectives include developing "an integrated and tested open source platform that can be used to investigate and demonstrate core NFV functionality", as well as proactively engaging end-user companies for their input and establishing an open NFV ecosystem, and promoting its own efforts.

"What we expect to have is a baseline reference implementation that companies will 'productize' and you'll see it deployed in some commercial environments," Zemlin says.

The first project developers' meeting takes place this week and the group will decide, among other things, how and where the developing reference architecture will be tested -- whether it happens in operator labs, vendor labs or within the Linux Foundation. Zemlin expects code contributions from multiple parties, including network operators, to kick off the development. Many of the early service provider participants are among the more "progressive" in terms of having their own software development efforts, he notes.

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

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