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TM Forum Brings Open APIs to Linux Partnership

Carol Wilson

LOS ANGELES -- Open Networking Summit -- The TM Forum and the Linux Foundation are announcing a more formal partnership between their organizations on Monday, the primary result of which will be the use of the Forum's library of Open APIs in upcoming open source projects. (see TM Forum, Linux Foundation Formally Partner.)

The TM Forum has a suite of more than 50 REST-based open applications programming interfaces as part of its Open Digital Architecture that are already in use with more than 700 companies. To this point, those Open APIs have been licensed under reasonable and non-discriminatory license terms, but with this agreement, they will be licensed under Apache 2.0 License terms and conditions, allowing them be used in any Linux Foundation -based open source projects. (See TM Forum Launches 'Open Digital Architecture' Initiative.)

The move to Apache 2.0 license terms eliminates the possibility that there could be later intellectual property rights claims made against any usage of the Open APIs by TM Forum members who helped create them, notes Ken Dilbeck, head of collaboration program at the Forum. He admits that's "a big leap forward" for the Forum, its members and their legal teams, who have always been very protective of IPR, but adds the change reflects where the world is headed in terms of software-orientation and open source.

"In the current software world -- the more open-oriented world -- one of software licenses [that is] understood better by the software community is the Apache 2.0 license," Dilbeck explains in an interview. "It's a license that says you can take this piece of code and incorporate it into your product, sell your product and not have to worry about patents or future things jumping up in front of you from those who have developed the code."

TM Forum members actually pushed the organization to take this step, he adds, because they knew from their experience that the TM Forum Open APIs actually worked and could be incorporated into work going on within Linux Foundation projects such as the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) , to speed up its work.

"We have solutions and we have code and we have APIs that work and have been demonstrated to work in the problem domain they are working on," Dilbeck says. "Starting from code and starting from things that work makes sense. That was part of the reason our members asked us to go through these maneuvers and get our APIs in this mode, because they have already invested in this work and want to use it in their open source efforts."

The initial use of TM Forum's Open APIs will likely be ONAP focused and in the near-term, cconsisting of a limited set of APIs needed to create the minimum viable product within that group, he adds.

"But we also have the whole suite of APIs and the entire breadth of our information model setting out there that they are going to be able to leverage as the complexity of their use cases goes up and they need different types of APIs and they need to interact with different types of systems," Dilbeck explains. "Chances are we will have a solution that's there, that's going to be consistent in its patterns, consistent in its use of the information model the way it's constructed that they can draw upon readily and will be there."

Another major advantage of a formal relationship is that TM Forum and Linux Foundation can now communicate directly, as opposed to working through the companies that are members of both. That means if an LF-based open source project has a problem or finds a bug, they can communicate that directly and get things resolved more quickly.

Dilbeck believes the availability of TM Forum's Open APIs and the fact they are built on a common data model will speed up some aspects of open source developments, and he expects his organization's work to be useful well beyond ONAP. At the same time, Dilbeck admits collaboration with the broader scope of the Linux Foundation's open source groups will aid the Forum to move more quickly to embrace some of the newer IT-based technologies, such as containers, that will play a significant role in the telecom space going forward.

This is not the first time for this kind of partnership at the TM Forum. The organization already works with MEF and others in developing multicarrier APIs. (See TM Forum Launches 'Open Digital Architecture' Initiative.)

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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