AT&T today announced that Amdocs has been collaborating in the development of its network management and orchestration platform for several months now, and will serve as a collaborator and industry integrator for that platform, known as ECOMP, as it moves into the open source realm. The move is one more indication that AT&T is hoping for broad industry adoption of its approach to operating networks and services in the era of virtualization.
This announcement comes a week after AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) formally announced plans to release ECOMP -- which stands for Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy -- into open source under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. It goes hand-in-hand with those plans, says Chris Rice, VP, Advanced Technologies and Architecture at AT&T Labs. (See AT&T Offers 'Mature' ECOMP as Open Source MANO and AT&T, Amdocs Collaborate on NFV, Open Source.)
"It is critical for any open source effort to have a credible, knowledgeable integrator... look at Linux, Hadoop, etc.," Rice told Light Reading in an email Q&A. "This is a necessary ingredient in the open source ecosystem for it to scale more widely and garner adoption in the community."
Having a major operations software integration company step up to provide support and pre-integrated packaged solutions will be particularly important for smaller carriers, in their use of the open source platform, according to both Rice and Eyal Felstaine, head of Network Cloud Service Orchestration at Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX).
Amdocs' involvement isn't a huge surprise to those knowledgeable in the OSS/BSS space -- there were questions raised about possible links between AT&T and Amdocs back in March, when AT&T first began releasing information about ECOMP to the broader telecom community and indicating a willingness to put the 8.5 million lines of code created for the platform into open source. Similar naming conventions raised some eyebrows then, but AT&T executives downplayed any ties between the two. (See AT&T Shares ECOMP Vision, Might Share Software.)
Rice said AT&T brought Amdocs into ECOMP's development about seven months ago, almost two years into its own development efforts. "And they have been a quick study," he says. "We took time getting their people up to speed and familiar with the platform. They collaborated and wrote their first code on select modules in ECOMP on the release that is just now going into production."
AT&T chose Amdocs because of past experience with the company, its expertise in this area and "a very good alignment of vision," Rice says.
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The primary expertise Amdocs brings is in helping network operators through the complexity of the transition to virtualization, Felstaine said in a Monday webinar for press and industry analysts. The complexity of the transition, the involvement of both physical and logical elements that need to be managed and orchestrated, the speed at which network operators need to move and also the need for organization change -- moving to DevOps ways of working, for instance -- all combine to create the need for support and assistance, he said.
Integration into and with existing operations and billings support systems -- which vary by network operator -- is another challenge for which systems integration expertise is needed, he added.
Amdocs will collaborate with AT&T in the open source process of ECOMP, but will also offer a complete portfolio of services to network operators, including pre-integrated solutions targeting smaller operators, that don't have the same kind of resources and on-staff expertise as a large player such as AT&T, Felstaine said. Amdocs will also offer ongoing training, documentation and 24-7 support.
Rice stated in the press call, however, that this doesn't amount to single-sourcing of systems integrators (SIs) and that network operators will be able to use other SIs, in addition to Amdocs, in adopting ECOMP to their purposes.
"We would like to have open participation, and we would welcome participation from others [systems integrators], " he said. "That said, the time and the effort to understand a system this complex that Amdocs has put in certainly gives them a leg up."
Felstaine said ECOMP is unique in providing two things other platforms don't -- first, that it is already operational within a major carrier, and second, that it will be open-sourced to be vendor neutral and prevent lock-in.
Network operators "will always be in control," Felstaine said. "They can work with Amdocs or they can work with others."
In his email response to Light Reading, Rice once again stated his belief that ECOMP could be an industry-wide solution at a time when there are other open source projects just starting to address what it has tackled.
"The ecosystem is all about taking unnecessary friction out of the system," he said. "Converging on a single approach in these areas is our best chance to do that. We want ECOMP to be a unifying effort for the industry."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading