News that a key group of communications networking technology developers met in Silicon Valley this week to take the planned development of an open source NFV platform to the next level is not only interesting in itself, but highlights some of the key shifts underway in the telecom sector. (See Exclusive: Leaked 'Inception' Document Fleshes Out Open-Source NFV Plans.)
Open source: This is the current runaway train of the telecom sector -- and runaway trains make people nervous. They can also crash. The operators want open source technology at the heart of their next generation networks, and they're not taking no for an answer. Pretenders (those that talk the open source talk, but are actually failing to deliver) will soon be found out, and likely outed. Technology suppliers and developers that aren't truly embracing the open source movement look increasingly like they will be sidelined. And you can't get much more different from the traditional telecom model than that. (See Open NFV: The World Cup of Confusion?, Analyst Unveils Open Source Model for NFV-SDN Management, and 6 Degrees of Separation: SPs Define 'Open'.)
Independent action: This is linked to the open source trend, but fuelled by the relative success enjoyed by the network operators that set up and steered the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG). Operators and frustrated vendors are taking developments into their own hands and bypassing what would normally be the "regular" or "normal" channels of the standards bodies or industry associations such as MEF and TM Forum . The result is that developments happen more quickly, but potential industry fragmentation is a real possibility, unless the open source movement can provide cohesion.
Collaboration: This is now happening on an unprecedented scale. The industry is faced with a new challenge -- blending traditional telecom know-how with sometimes intimidating IT-fuelled developments, including NFV and SDN. As a result, operators and vendors alike are having to look outside their own four walls for help, developing new ecosystems and collaborative groups. Those that engage will thrive. Those that decline to get involved, or undermine such developments, face a bleak future. (See Let's Federate Our NFV Labs – Telefónica and Brocade Unveils Open Carrier Platform for SDN, NFV, AT&T Spotlights Early SDN Efforts, Procera Joins Alcatel-Lucent's CloudBand Ecosystem and Pica8 Enters Cyan's Blue Orbit.)
Breaking down of barriers: Fixed line, cellular, and cable may have different legacies, but they are increasingly coming together, bonded by common challenges and common technology strategies. Just look at the "inception meeting" -- hosted by CableLabs ! Not an organization that would normally be partying with the telecom crew, but now that it has former BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) NFV expert Don Clarke on board, the barriers between cable and telecom are likely to be broken down further. (See BT’s NFV Guru Joins CableLabs.)
These changes are seismic and are causing unrest. They are also unleashing innovation, excitement, and when brought together, becoming the catalyst for change in a traditionally moribund industry.
Hold on tight, folks -- this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading