CHICAGO -- Light Reading's Big Telecom Event 2014 -- Open source may be becoming the next mode of standardization in the virtualization realm, a thought reinforced by the move of the ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group to establish an open source project under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.
In a pre-event Open Networking Foundation workshop here ahead of BTE, a high-powered panel discussed the evolving role of standards, focusing heavily on the increasing efforts to develop open source solutions that can form at least the core piece of early deployments and potentially enable the kind of interoperability that in the past has required well-defined standards.
Marc Cohn, senior director of market development at Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and chair of the ONF market education committee, kicked off the discussion and highlighted the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Network Functions Virtualization ISG's decision to start its own open source project, called Open Platform for NFV, or OPN, with the Linux Foundation , which already runs OpenDaylight .
The idea, Cohn said after the panel, is to develop a framework for an open NFV platform in a similar way that OpenDaylight has created an open source approach to an SDN controller. Participation in the OPN requires a financial buy-in for both network operators and industry hardware and software vendors, and if it follows the Open Daylight model, would also require the contribution of code.
OpenDaylight Executive Director Neela Jacques was part of the ONF panel on standards and noted that open source is one way of addressing complex problems that are harder to address in standards.
"What you need is a common code base," he said. "We dovetail very well with standards efforts -- the fact is open source solutions are becoming de facto standards."
There is still a great deal of confusion in the telecom space about the role of open standards, noted Prodip Sen, who chaired the ETSI NFV ISG while at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) but has now joined HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) as CTO of its NFV efforts.
"The intent is not that we replace all the systems the carriers are using with open source -- carriers want supported products and when something goes wrong, they want to be able to call someone," he said. "The way we look at open source is that it is a way to create a sub-strata of interoperability, and a way we get to interoperability and standardization without waiting for a long drawn-out standards process."
As Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Caroline Chappell noted, however, the real gating factor for NFV remains operations. She noted that at the recent TM Forum event in Nice, major European players such as Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) were talking about four to six years of operational development before NFV could be properly implemented.
Both Sen and Don Clarke, formerly of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and now principal architect for network technologies at CableLabs , agreed that operations challenges loom large for operators.
One of the challenges to using open source approaches in that realm is that every operator has slightly different issues to address and somewhat different starting points and goals, Sen noted.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading