Can ECOMP Grease the Virtualization Skids?

Carol Wilson
News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large
10/20/2016



As it moves into open source, AT&T's ECOMP platform will be able to reduce friction for telecom providers and equipment vendors alike, speeding up their shift to virtualization and the cloud, Chris Rice said today.

The senior vice president for Domain 2.0 design and architecture made a strong public pitch for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s internally developed solution to network management and orchestration in a radio chat audience at our sister site, Telco Transformation. Rice said that just by replacing vendor-proprietary interfaces with common approaches, the Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy architecture will make life easier for vendors and enable service providers to more rapidly deploy virtual network functions. A replay of that radio chat is available by clicking here.

As previously reported, ECOMP is in the process of becoming an open source community project, alongside other open source MANO efforts. Rice also has previously promoted its ability to make network functions more like Lego blocks in their ability to easily connect. (See AT&T Offers 'Mature' ECOMP as Open Source MANO and AT&T's Rice: Stamp Out NFV 'Snowflakes'.)

In today's radio chat, Rice pointed out that whether vendors built VNFs from the ground up, as cloud-native, or just ported existing functions into software, "almost all of them left their vendor-proprietary APIs and interfaces" in place. For example, he said, there is a standard command within every VNF to put it into a "suspend state" so that it doesn't do workloads while it is being upgraded to a new version.

"If I brought in 20 VNFs today, I can guarantee you I'd have 20 different answers to 'What command do I give you to go into suspend state?' " Rice said. Yet those different commands add no value to the VNFs -- they are simply different.

What AT&T has developed within ECOMP is a "kernel set of commands that VNFs need to listen to and respond to in a common way," he said. "That's something we have in our VNF guidelines -- hopefully this next version we'll just make open and they will have very specific information around these kinds of kernels as well as what the data modeling should look like, the data telemetry and the kind of functionality we expect in the data layer and the VNFs themselves. Things that should be common and standard will be common and standard and we will help drive that."

By adopting that common set of commands, vendors can make it easier on network operators but also on themselves, Rice added, because they don't have to develop a different version of their software for every network operator. They can focus on differentiating their VNFs where it counts and not in the way they interface to the existing infrastructure.

"There is no value today to that kind of thing for them or us," he said. "We don't make buying decisions based on the suspend command."

Rice also encouraged service providers considering other open source MANO platforms such as Open Source MANO Community (OSM) or OPEN-Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O) to evaluate what ECOMP has today in an objective way.

"I would suggest that folks who are looking at those evaluate them based on some set of objective criteria -- like architectural integrity and completeness, lines of code, time in production, breadth and scope of the effort, willingness to expose in detail information about the solution that has been put out there in the industry," Rice said. "If you look along those criteria -- then, yes, I think you'll find ECOMP stacks up well against the other options in this space."

AT&T is still working with the Linux Foundation on getting the ECOMP open source community up and running, he said. And while Rice didn't offer a specific timeframe, he did make a reference to January 2017, when explaining why AT&T announced its open source intentions back in July but haven't yet completed the process.

"People ask us, 'Why in July did you say you were going to open source if you are not going to be ready until January 2017?' " Rice commented. The announcement was made to explicitly state AT&T's intent to release the 8.5 million lines of code that comprise ECOMP into open source, ahead of committing to the community, he said.

There will be service providers who are part of the ECOMP open source community when it launched, Rice added. Thus far, Orange (NYSE: FTE) has committed to trialing ECOMP and others are interested but haven't yet committed to be named publicly, he said. (See Orange First to Test AT&T's ECOMP and Orange Preps ECOMP Trial in Poland, Broadens AT&T Collaboration.)

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

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