NFV Specs/Open Source

The Growing Power of Openness

Heavy Reading research shows that openness is an increasingly important trend for telecom operators and their suppliers. Having seen the benefits of open source in terms of agility and interoperability in the IT industry, operators are looking to achieve those same results as it transforms its networks and operations to support NFV, SDN and especially cloud.

The shift to the cloud entails very different platforms and management systems than operators are accustomed to using. Many were developed for IT environments -- in which open source has long played a role, most notably, the Linux operating system -- so the telecom market is having to quickly come up to speed on what it means to be open.

The most common use of "open" refers to "open source," whereby a community develops code that all can share. The thinking is that by sharing what is common across all products, individual companies can focus their resources on the areas that will provide competitive differentiation. With the pace of innovation accelerating, solutions suppliers see leveraging open source as a way to develop products more quickly and cost effectively.

Even more important, perhaps, are open APIs. Telecom operators are keen to avoid the vendor lock-in of the past, and see open APIs as a way to enable them to select best-of-breed solutions with less difficult and time-consuming integration efforts. They are also looking for open standards, again, to accelerate development and reduce the integration challenge.

The move to openness also often requires a different skill set -- one that the operators themselves may not have. For this reason, we expect to see them continue to rely on their suppliers. Only the largest operators will have the ability to re-skill their existing staff, but the suppliers will have to do so to remain competitive. Operators are also likely to use vendor-supported distributions of open source code (rather than manipulate it themselves), partly due to the skills issue, but also because they need the ongoing maintenance and support that their suppliers have historically provided.

OpenStack has very quickly established itself in the telco data center as the tool used to manage the virtual resources in a cloud environment. OpenStack was not designed for the scale and performance that many operators require, so a host of suppliers are enhancing or otherwise fortifying the management of virtual resources to make OpenStack more suitable for telecom operators. The Open Compute Project, which recently formed a Telco Project, could make an equally significant impact by developing open hardware solutions for telco data centers.

The momentum behind open everything is real and growing. While there will certainly be some bumps along the way, we fully expect that openness will be a significant component of operators' development activities on their march towards the cloud.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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