A senior technology executive at Deutsche Telekom has warned the telecom sector it must avoid duplicating effort through the mishmash of industry associations and groups that have sprung up in recent years.
Axel Clauberg, a vice president at the German operator, told an audience of telecom executives at this week's SDN NFV World Congress that some groups would have to form partnerships to ensure they do not gobble up telco resources.
"We have limited resources we can contribute into these organizations and the worst for me would be an overlap between organizations and duplication of efforts," he said during a keynote presentation in The Hague. "Sometimes we have to step back and think about where we need to partner."
Clauberg's warning follows a mushrooming of industry associations in the past decade as operators have wrestled with the technical and skillset challenges that surround the rollout of software-defined and virtualized networks.
As the chairman of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an "open" networks initiative that Facebook helped to establish in early 2016, Clauberg is not an entirely impartial observer. But his role at Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) means he can appreciate the difficulty for a telco of committing resources to industry associations when so many options are on the table. (See DT's Clauberg Urges Cloud-Native Caution and DT's Terastream: A Bigger Splash?)
TIP, which hosts its own event in London next week, is trying to spur innovation in the network sector, and lower the cost of building networks, by fomenting a more open ecosystem that dispenses with some of the costly, proprietary approaches used in the past. (See TIP Players Voice Open Source Misgivings.)
Unsurprisingly, it was one of several initiatives that Clauberg called out during his presentation, when he provided some indication of the importance that Deutsche Telekom attaches to various industry efforts.
The others included: the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), which he cited as a strong example of a group prepared to collaborate; the ORAN Alliance, which includes a number of the world's biggest service providers; the Open Compute Project (OCP), TIP's older sibling; and the various activities of the increasingly influential Linux Foundation, which oversees ONAP, an open source management and orchestration platform, among other things.
Clauberg said he expects the Linux Foundation to play a key role in the development of open source software and that TIP and OCP will have "important roles" on the hardware side.
Despite the support for ONAP, however, there has been some concern -- especially among smaller operators -- about the complexity of the software, which now includes several million lines of code, and the difficulty of integrating this with telco systems. (See ONAP: Time to Move On Up? )
Indeed, there is a feeling that smaller operators without the resources needed to manage ONAP may steer clear of the platform entirely, instead opting for alternative vendor products or managed services to support their virtualized services. (See Netcracker Launches Telco Cloud-as-a-Service.)
In the meantime, ONAP continues to face a challenge, albeit a seemingly diminished one, from the Open Source MANO (OSM) initiative backed by ETSI and Spain's Telefónica.
The issue of industry associations, and which may ultimately prove significant, was thrown into relief when Orange's Jehanne Savi called out OPNFV, another open source group tackling network functions virtualization, during a presentation that followed Clauberg's. (See Orange Issues Telco Cloud Rallying Cry.)
Savi, who leads the Orange (NYSE: FTE) all-IP and on-demand networks program, wants the operator community to agree on a standardized approach to NFV infrastructure and orchestration based on the work that OPNFV and ONAP are doing that will provide certainty for the developers of virtual network functions.
"We need an acceleration and what we recommend and propose is to leverage the key open source initiatives of ONAP and OPNFV to set up a limited number of standards for VNF developers," she told conference attendees. "This is urgent because if we don't do it we will be overtaken by the cloud providers."
— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading