Telecom service providers are being asked in multiple ways to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting open source software and technology in the move to virtualization.
The most obvious move those willing to embrace openness will make is joining the new open source project -- called Open Platform for NFV, or OPN -- that a number of telecom operators associated with the ETSI Network Functions Virtualization Industry Specification Group are setting up with the Linux Foundation , already home to OpenDaylight . (See Is Open Source the New De Facto Standard?)
At Light Reading's Big Telecom Event this week, multiple industry sources were talking about the OPN effort -- including Marc Cohn, senior director of market development at Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and an active player in both the Open Networking Foundation and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV ISG, and Phil Robb, director of Networking Solutions for the Linux Foundation and technical liaison to OpenDaylight.
The idea is straightforward: use open source software to accelerate the pace at which an Open NFV platform can be developed and deployed. Some of the building blocks needed to build such a platform are available today, and others can be developed through cooperation in an open source process to fill in gaps, and do the integration and testing required to ensure carrier grade service performance.
Cohn said Monday that telecom network operators are being asked -- and many are willing -- to help fund the open source effort and to actively participate in a way similar to the way major vendors (Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Group Inc. , HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and more) have stepped up to support OpenDaylight. That support has enabled the very rapid development of an open source-based SDN controller. (See OpenDaylight Unveils Open-Source SDN Controller.)
Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) are among the companies reportedly involved in the effort, which they hope to have funded and operational this summer.
The OPN group will combine carriers' expertise in networking technology with the Linux Foundation's experience in running successful open source projects.
"This would be a base for users and vendors to make products for NFV technology," Robb said in an interview at BTE. The software will fill gaps in available NFV capabilities.
The group will work on components including cloud orchestration and the cloud stack, along with an SDN controller -- possibly OpenDaylight -- to manage network paths, Robb said.
One potential obstacle: The OpenStack Foundation is moving forward on its own open source NFV reference implementation, and the OPN developers will need to decide what relationship, if any, they should have with that project.
Speaking separately, Neela Jacques, executive director of OpenDaylight, said service providers also need to vote with their dollars to support open source, and hold their vendors to promises of keeping NFV and SDN technologies "open."
"NFV could still go in a couple of directions," he said. "It could become like 'cloud' -- the term is essentially meaningless because anyone can use it as they choose to. Or telecom operators could choose to put key questions in their RFPs, and be specific."
They can use those RFPs to require truly open application programming interfaces (APIs) and use of OpenDaylight and OpenStack technologies at the core of vendor solutions.
Without asking pointed questions and holding vendors to back up their promises of openness with action, service providers could find themselves much more locked in than they want, and the "open" NFV process could still be derailed.