TM Forum, ONAP to Meet in Beijing

Iain Morris
News Analysis
Iain Morris, News Editor
5/15/2018



NICE -- Digital Transformation World 2018 -- The TM Forum has revealed that its open APIs will be included in the forthcoming Beijing release of ONAP, due to arrive in the summer.

The move will unite two major open source initiatives that telcos are pursuing as they wrestle with the digital transformation of their operations and the challenges this presents.

The TM Forum, an industry association, began promoting its open APIs in May 2016 as a way to simplify the development of different service and IT platforms. The idea was to create a set of common "catalog-based" components that operators could dip into.

ONAP, meanwhile, has taken shape as a Linux Foundation project for managing and orchestrating network functions and services. Backed heavily by US telco giant AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), it has been seen as a response to vendor intractability on the development of interoperable, virtualized technologies.

The TM Forum and the Linux Foundation had already announced a formal partnership in March, when the Linux Foundation had said it would use open APIs in upcoming open source projects. (See TM Forum Brings Open APIs to Linux Partnership.)

But more certainty about the immediate plans emerged at this week's Nice-based Digital Transformation World, the successor to the TM Forum Live show of previous years.

Addressing attendees during a keynote presentation this morning, Nik Willetts, the president and CEO of the TM Forum, said: "This year we've been taking the next steps with partners like the Linux Foundation to ensure that the open APIs become part of key open source projects like ONAP. I am delighted to say that open APIs will form a key part of the Beijing release of ONAP in the coming months."

A successor to the first "Amsterdam" release of ONAP, Beijing will focus on developing functional requirements for supporting multiple end-to-end use cases, according to Alla Goldner, the director of technology, strategy and standardization for Israeli vendor Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), who previously spoke with Light Reading about the update. (See ONAP Beijing Shifts Focus to Platform, Functions.)

Just as AT&T is ONAP's big telco sponsor, Amdocs has had greater involvement in the project than any other IT vendor. That has fueled concern that ONAP is not as "open" as its proponents make out.

Even so, the meeting of the TM Forum and ONAP in Beijing may help to address some anxiety about the fragmentation of industry efforts on digital transformation. It might also help to boost support for those initiatives.


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Two years ago, the TM Forum had a suite of 18 open APIs and support from nine big service providers, including global giants like Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone. At the time, the organization said its aim was to ensure that 200 service providers globally had adopted the APIs by 2018. (See 9 Global Telcos Back Open APIs Scheme.)

On an initial reading, data suggests the TM Forum still lags this target: A TM Forum representative indicates that 40 service providers and technology ecosystem partners have now signed the open API manifesto.

However, those service providers include large groups with numerous operating companies, says the representative. Willetts also told event attendees that around 54 open API specifications have now been deployed in 66 countries.

In the meantime, the ONAP initiative remains as controversial as ever. Critics say its millions of lines of software code are too big an operational burden. They also question whether it is really an open source endeavor when relatively few companies have contributed code. (See ONAP Takes Flak as Telcos Prep for Release 1.)

It faces competition from another management and orchestration platform simply called Open Source MANO, which is sponsored by ETSI and counts Spain's Telefónica as its chief telco supporter. (See Telefónica Starts Hunt for OSM Integrator Amid Open Source Doubts.)

The availability of two open source platforms addressing the same challenge has generated some confusion and hesitancy in the industry. Globe Telecom of the Philippines is one operator that has yet to make any kind of commitment either way.

"It is not clear whether they are complementary or mutually exclusive," said Vincent Seet, Globe's head of enterprise architecture, in a conversation with Light Reading this week in Nice. "There is definitely an overlap between ONAP and OSM but there are still some differences. We want to know how different they are and then get our hands dirty."

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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