CHICAGO -- Big Telecom Event -- One of Deutsche Telekom's virtualization experts has said operators must pressure vendors into adopting open source practices or face the risk of depending on a single supplier for critical infrastructure.
Axel Clauberg, the German operator's vice president of transport, aggregation and IP and fixed access, reckons such pressure has already driven Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to produce more open source products and could help operators to avoid "lock-in" as they roll out NFV and SDN technologies.
"Cisco is reacting there -- I see more open source work from them, and that's very positive," he told conference attendees at this week's Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago. "Customers have to exercise pressure to make it happen."
Earlier this week, Cedric Neike, Cisco's senior vice president of global service provider delivery, made a strong commitment to open source practices during a keynote session at BTE, claiming these have already helped Cisco to work more effectively with Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT). (See Cisco SVP: Telecom Must Transform or Lose Out.)
The German incumbent has partnered with Cisco on the deployment of a pan-European all-IP network to improve service agility and reduce costs. (See Deutsche Telekom Turns On Pan-European IP.)
"The lead time for mass-market products at large carriers is between one and two years," said Clauberg. "Internet players are more agile and we need to play in that economy."
Even so, the shift towards open source will require operators to make some big cultural changes, according to Clauberg. Instead of trying to impose their demands on the development community, service providers will need to learn to be more collaborative, he said.
Open source could also meet resistance from vendors determined to generate income from the sale of intellectual property rights (IPR), according to the representatives of several standards bodies speaking alongside Clauberg.
"One distinction between open source methods and what we've been used to with standardization is less interest in specific IPR," said Susan Miller, the CEO of the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) . "That needs to melt away if this is to be completely effective."
Open Daylight, one of the main groups committed to accelerating the development of open source NFV and SDN technologies, believes there is still a place for IPR provided companies are willing to make concessions.
"Players will have to look strategically at their overall IPR portfolios and decide what to share and what to keep as the crown jewels -- that's the new model," said Neela Jacques, Open Daylight's executive director.
In the meantime, the proliferation of standards groups in this area has clearly become a headache for Clauberg, who says he cannot afford to send "note-takers" to every meeting.
"Definitely there are too many organizations around hype topics," he said. "It's a zoo of SDOs [standards development organizations] and we really need to concentrate efforts."
Responding to those comments, Dan Pitt, the executive director of the Open Networking Foundation , said companies do not always manage their participation in standards bodies very well, recalling an incident two years ago when one organization approached the wrong standards group on a specific topic.
While each standards body evidently believes it has a role to play, Clauberg is not the only telecom executive to have recently complained about fragmentation in the standards area.
During last week's TM Forum event in Nice, France, executives from several other European operators -- including France's Orange (NYSE: FTE), Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) and Telecom Italia (TIM) -- voiced similar concerns.
"There are so many groups and organizations starting to work on this topic that a big challenge is making sure they all pull in the same direction and that we don’t create domain-specific NFV flavors," said Bruno Chatras, a senior technical advisor at Orange.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading