TIP Players Voice Open Source Misgivings
Not so open source after all
TIP does not require companies to open source their technologies as a condition of membership, however. No one is forced to share anything, members emphasize. And from the very outset, the various working groups that have taken shape within TIP have been able to operate on a royalty-free basis or using so-called "reasonable and non-discriminatory" (RAND) licensing terms. In this way, companies like Nokia and Amarisoft can still generate revenues from their proprietary expertise.
Of the eight working groups that are aimed strictly at developing new technologies, only two have taken the royalty-free approach -- the Facebook-led OpenCellular initiative, which aims to develop open source wireless access technologies, and one called "greenfield telecom networks," whose focus is on producing more efficient traffic management technologies for core networks.
Table 1: TIP Working Groups
|Access||Edge computing||RAND||Lab and field implementations for services/applications at the network edge|
|Access||OpenCellular||Royalty-free||Wireless access platforms|
|Access||People and process||-||Cultural and process transformation|
|Access||System integration and site optimization||RAND||System integration via innovative, cost-effective and efficient end-to-end solutions|
|Access||Solutions integration||RAND||Open RAN architecture|
|Access||vRAN fronthaul||RAND||Virtualization of the RAN for non-ideal backhaul|
|Backhaul||Open optical packet transport||RAND||Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) open packet transport architecture|
|Core and management||Core network optimization||RAND||Recipes for services/applications in the radio core network|
|Core and management||Greenfield telecom networks||Royalty-free||Solutions for managing continuously increasing network traffic volumes|
|TIP Community Lab @ Facebook||TIP Community Lab @ Facebook||-||Collaborative working environment for project groups to test new end-to-end solutions|
All of the other six technology-focused working groups have adopted the RAND licensing approach. That includes the newest group, "virtual RAN fronthaul," which covers some of the technologies that Amarisoft is developing. Steve Jarrett, Facebook's head of infrastructure partnerships for Europe and the Middle East, reckons this group gives Amarisoft an "investable" alternative to pure open source under the TIP umbrella.
None of this makes TIP sound much like an open source initiative. Nor does Facebook claim it is purely an open source endeavor when quizzed by Light Reading. "TIP project groups operate under a variety of licensing models, and we are committed to assessing what works best for specific technologies," says a spokesperson for the web company in emailed comments.
For some members, clearly, the emphasis needs to be on open approaches rather than open source per se. That essentially means ensuring that interfaces are open, and that technologies are interoperable, without making vendors share their crown jewels. "It is about open interfaces but closed source, and being as open as possible to new companies and operators bringing their use cases and needs," says Alan Barbieri, the CEO of Phluido, a startup that has been a driving force behind the new virtual RAN fronthaul group. (See Facebook's TIP Seizes vRAN Initiative From 3GPP.)
TIP has evidently had to accommodate many competing interests. On the other side of the fence from Phluido are the large service providers that have arguably been the real instigators of the open source movement. For these companies, which have not historically made money from technology licensing, it is not hard to see why open source holds plenty of opportunity and seems to pose little threat. It could lead to more effective and cheaper ways of building networks. It promises to put operators in full control of their own network destinies, making them less dependent on a small number of big vendors. And there is no obvious reason why it should hurt the revenues that operators generate in the consumer and business markets. (See Open Sores: Are Telcos on a Collision Course With Vendors?)
Next page: The buck stops... where?