NFV Specs/Open Source

Kirksey Steps In to Lead OPNFV

A telecom veteran with extensive software experience is stepping in as director of NFV at the Open Platform for NFV, the open source project formally launched last fall by the Linux Foundation to tackle network management and orchestration issues around network functions virtualization.

Heather Kirksey, formerly of MongoDB, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Motive, also comes to the Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. with experience in standards-making groups, having been an active participant in the Broadband Forum during the days when TR-69 was created. That was the landmark standard that enabled remote monitoring and diagnosis of problems plaguing home broadband connections, and it has since become the de rigueur part of any broadband CPE. Kirksey includes a veritable cornucopia of standards groups on her resume: Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) , International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) , Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) , Small Cell Forum Ltd. and more, as you can read here in her blog. (See Open NFV Group Uncloaks Its Platform Plan.)

Kirksey points to her work at MongoDB, which moved to an open source approach to its cross-platform database, and her roots in software development as key qualifications for the job helping guide the group tackling the tricky issue of how to make NFV actually work in today's telecom networks. (See OPNFV Does Telecom/Open Source 'Mind Meld'.)

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Having both open source and telecom experience is a major plus for OPNFV's new director as the group works to blend the often very different worlds of telecom standards and open source software development and Kirksey admits that a key challenge will be managing the organization in a way that brings some order to that potential chaos.

"There are a lot of things that both sides have to teach each other," she notes. The telecom folks can learn a lot about agile development, while the software engineers need to understand more about how today's telecom networks work.

Another fundamental part of her job, Kirksey says, is helping OPNFV work together with the many other organizations tackling pieces of the virtualization puzzle so that her group assimilates what they are developing and then feeds its work back into their upstream projects.

"We definitely have to integrate a bunch of pieces from upstream projects" and enable those capabilities to be functional at carrier scale, Kirksey tells Light Reading. "Bringing everything together is a non-trivial process from a technical point of view. That is what we are trying to address coming out of the gate -- how to make a common infrastructure that pulls from multiple upstream communities."

Those inputs will go to different projects within OPNFV and then need to be successfully integrated within the group and fed back into those upstream sources, which will include things such as Open Daylight, the Open Networking Foundation, the ETSI NFV ISG and more, she notes. One of Kirksey's challenges is managing that process and building the organization around it that can blend the working methods of telecom and its standards processes and the open source software development process.

The group's first release is expected in the first half of 2015 and Kirksey is very focused on that effort, but declines to provide a more specific date or to comment immediately on what will be included in that release.

"We are at a point where we have high-level agreement on what the first release is going to look like and we are getting into the brass tacks of what that will mean and the specifics on what software components will be in it," she says.

As important to Kirksey, however, is getting the infrastructure in place -- test labs, partner agreements -- to establish a "release cadence" so that future releases proceed in a timely fashion.

OPNFV will have a significant presence at Mobile World Congress, its first trade show, next month, with a networking reception and a Power Hour presentation as well.

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

TomNolle 2/3/2015 | 9:33:50 PM
Re: Which experience is best to lead NFV developments? Perhaps, but I think every standards process I've ever been involved in suggests that forging a consensus is beyond the current capabilities of the industry!
R Clark 2/3/2015 | 9:24:23 PM
Re: Which experience is best to lead NFV developments? Domain knowledge is important but I think the key skill is to be able get diverse interests to forge a consensus. The ability to create a common vision would be a handy skill, too.
TomNolle 2/3/2015 | 2:36:37 PM
Re: Which experience is best to lead NFV developments? I think it's going to come down to what's generally called "domain knowledge".  OPNFV is open-source NFV, which is about NFV.  NFV is a telco-initiated process, so I think it will be necessary to get some telco input.  However, all knowledge doesn't have tor reside in one person so what she'll need is a team that can represent telco NFV goals and needs.
Roz Rose 2/3/2015 | 1:28:45 PM
Re: Which experience is best to lead NFV developments? That's a great question, Ray.

My sense is that having telecom knowledge is going to be important, as I keep getting told by operators that integrating new solutions into their existing environments is among the biggest challenges they face.  I don't know that IT/enterprise folks fully appreciate the complexities of telco operations. Greenfield situations, they are not. I think telcos will have more confidence in projects led by people who truly understand their environments.

And yes, I realize that I may have a bias having focused on telcos for 15+ years. Will be interested to hear what others have to say.



[email protected] 2/3/2015 | 1:18:17 PM
Which experience is best to lead NFV developments? Do we need folks with telecom experience to lead these groups or folks with an IP/enterprise background?

Note: I am not questioning Kirksey's ability or credibility. This is a question for any such developments.

And maybe the answer is that we ALWASY need someone coming from the telco side of it to lead, but to ensure that folks with IT/IP/Web smarts are brought on board.

Or does it matter at all? Is it just a case of having someone who is a great leader and motivator?
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