Windstream is dipping its toe into the open source waters, joining the Open Network Automation Project (ONAP), its first active engagement in open source. (See Windstream Joins ONAP.)
The announcement could be the sign of broader engagement by US service providers in the open source effort. At Light Reading's Big Communications Event in May, a CenturyLink speaker said his company is also looking closely at ONAP. (See Beyond MANO: The Long Walk to Network Automation.)
Windstream has been informally monitoring multiple open source efforts and supporting the concept of open source for some time now, says Jeff Brown, director of product management and product marketing at Windstream. The move to more actively engage in orchestration through ONAP was driven by the growing influence of Windstream's IT department in its transition to software-defined networking, he notes.
"Traditionally, we have always worked with engineering groups and maybe a little bit with IT on the back side" in planning this kind of transition, Brown tells Light Reading in an interview. "In this new world, you are blending IT and engineering and a lot of crossover resources. So, from the IT perspective, [ONAP] was called out as a group that was taking the leadership role as far as developing open standard work with other companies we have similarities with and with some of our vendors as well."
Brown agrees that open source engagement requires more resources, and that this is an ongoing concern, but adds it's not one unique to open source.
"In any type of industry forum, whether standards-based or not, you have to make the determination of what kind of resources you can dedicate to it," Brown notes. Having just come out of meetings around MEF and proofs-of-concept for its 2017 event, he says the same discussions come up there. "We don't have groups allocated that can do that type of thing and work with vendors," he says.
So Windstream is likely to start off with ONAP as more of an observer than a leader, "although that may change over time," Brown says. The next ONAP meeting is being held in China, and he is unsure whether the company will send a representative as a result. "That [travel] would be highly unusual for us."
But joining ONAP and getting more involved over time is nonetheless important because of the need to speed up the process of getting to industry consensus, moving faster than the traditional telecom standards process, he says.
"It's no doubt that waiting for standards to develop in the traditional telecom community can be quite painstaking," Brown comments. "We have seen other greenfield entrants, hyperscale companies, come in with an open source approach with no standards and make a huge commercial presence, impacting markets in a big way very quickly. That is the kind of agility and nimbleness we need to thrive in the industry."
In the long run, open source "is just a means to an end to be able to provide our solutions," he says, enabling the telecom industry to coalesce "around things similar to what we are seeing [with] all the web-scale providers."
The move makes Windstream the third North American service provider to join, after AT&T and Bell Canada Enterprises. ONAP now has 17 platinum and 22 silver members. The other service providers signed onto the project include China Mobile, China Telecom, Orange, China Unicom and PCCW.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
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