AT&T is making good on its promise to bring the 8.5 million lines of code that comprise its virtualization playbook to the open source community, announcing today that it will work with the Linux Foundation to make that happen. The Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) platform has attracted enough industry interest to make such an effort worthwhile, company officials tell Light Reading. (See AT&T Releases Virtualization Playbook Into Open Source, AT&T's Ford: ECOMP Getting Great Reception, AT&T Shares ECOMP Vision, Might Share Software and AT&T Stresses Its Broader NFV Vision.)
And AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s leadership clearly believes ECOMP has a level of maturity that will enable it to bring some order to the somewhat chaotic, multi-headed beast that network management and orchestration of virtualized networks has become. AT&T Labs VP Chris Rice tells Light Reading that there isn't a real comparison in the market today to this platform.
In addition to the many vendor initiatives, which he rules out as proprietary efforts, some of the other efforts within the industry are either architecture-based or still essentially at the PowerPoint stage, "and that is dramatically different from what we've done," Rice says. In contrast to newer open source efforts, which might have initial code with the intent to add more, the ECOMP platform is vendor- and VNF-neutral, has been vetted by a Tier 1 service provider, has two years of production under its belt and 8.5 million lines of existing code, he notes.
Few other MANO efforts can say that, Rice says, and while he doesn't specifically mention OPEN-Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O) and Open Source MANO Community (OSM) efforts -- two new multi-carrier initiatives launched earlier this year -- that seems the obvious comparison. (See OSM Demos First Steps to Open Source MANO and OPEN-O Focused on Orchestrating SDN & NFV.)
"Then if you look at how many are taking a holistic view of the problem, the funnel gets very small," Rice says. "And if you look at which of those are open source, it gets really, really small."
Discussions with others in the global industry were extensive and revealed a deep level of interest from a significant number of players, he adds. That's why AT&T expects to see global participation in the open source effort it creates with the Linux Foundation .
"We have had a lot of different discussions with companies in the telecom equipment provider space, the software space, the cloud provider space and certainly the telecom service provider space," Rice says. "Across those broad sets of companies, we saw interest deep enough that we believe it is the right thing to do."
There are significant next steps to take, including developing the best structure and framework for an ECOMP open source effort that will be global in nature, as well as setting up a committee structure and working groups, deciding what it takes to be a contributor and more, he adds. "The Linux folks have the expertise we need in doing that -- they've done it several times before."
AT&T will continue to put its resources into this open source effort but believes it will benefit significantly from what the community brings. "We think this will help us move faster, but also create a richer solution as well," Rice comments. "It's going to help us round out our efforts and get contributions in other areas. As we build more of a community, we are able to drive things into an ecosystem faster as a group and that rising tide lifts all boats."
ECOMP will not deviate from the basic alignment AT&T has already established, however. Rice says none of the companies with whom it has had discussions have come back saying the project was misaligned. "That's the dog that didn't bark," he says.
"I don't think the core will change -- that's not what people are asking for," Rice states. "They are asking for extensions to what we did: For example, most of our work involved virtual machines and there are folks wondering what we would do around containers. That's the kind of extension we expect to see."
There isn't an immediate timeline for how all this happens. Rice says AT&T wants to "be quick, but not rush."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading