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TIP Players Voice Open Source Misgivings

Iain Morris

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

Category Working group Approach Details
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
Source: TIP

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?

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Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
2/26/2018 | 10:29:04 PM
Re: Excellent article
@varunarora: It's not even all about size. Age and entrenchment (and, to a certain extent, geography) matter too. Older, more entrenched, more "legacy" organizations are so entangled in a complexity of patchworks that it can be prohibitive to take on additional integration projects even with the manpower.

So much for the evils of vendor lock-in. ;)
2/26/2018 | 11:14:27 AM
Thesis on Social Media
I'm now doing research for my dissertation and looking for the best place to buy a dissertation. The topic of my thesis is connected with social networks, usability and the influence of social networks on the teenagers. In your article I found important aspects for my thesis
7/20/2017 | 3:04:00 AM
It's a Software World
CSP networks are quickly evolving to become software driven with as little as possible running on proprietary hardware. The lines are blurring between OSS/BSS, NMS, MANO, etc.. The scope of service creation now covers all of it. As a result CSPs are necessarily engaged in constant software development as the environment is uniquely theirs.

In this world CSPs rely heavily on software development. Over tme more and more will be done internally but they will always need third party software. Vendor proprietary software becomes less desirable as CSPs weight integration issues and the commercial realities of proprietary licenses. Open source software provides the CSPs with the greatest flexibility both from a development and operations perspective as well as supplier selection changes.

CSPs will always need healthy partners so vendors still need to make money however the advantage should go to the customer. In a software world dominated by open source capital expenses are minimized while operational expenses receive focus and the CSP spend is much more closely aligned with revenue. Established vendors with huge sales funnels with struggle with making the transition to a services ecomony while startups will thrive while we move from a handful of gorillas to a crowd of new innovators.
7/18/2017 | 9:15:00 PM
Excellent article
Open source in the telecom space is a complex beast. This article does a fine job of explaining some of the inherent conflicts.

Additionally, it should be understood that not all carriers are large enough with strong enough software teams to take on the task of integrating a bunch of different open source technologies and then maintaining them. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there merely a handful of such operators and even there only time will tell whether they're able to effectively replace the role of the traditional software and hardware providers (Nokia, Ericsson, and the fish that's evolved into a whale and is eating everyone's lunch: Huawei). It's one thing to be fed up of paying big bucks to the traditional vendors and quite another thing to attempt to go it alone in a sustainable manner...
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