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Using Open Source to Drive Automation

James Crawshaw

While the IT side of telecom organizations has a long history of using open source technology, the networking side has traditionally relied more on commercial solutions that adhere to industry standards. And for good reasons.

Although industry standards development organizations have a bad rep for death by PowerPoint and interminable meetings, they have delivered robust, global standards that meet the stringent quality requirements of the communications industry and enable a degree of interoperability that avoids vendor lock-in while still promoting innovation.

With the advent of NFV, two prominent open source projects have emerged to address the management and orchestration aspect of the ETSI architecture in what appears to be a David and Goliath situation, which David won by the way. A large number of Tier 1 operators have joined the ONAP project while only Telefonica appears to be fully committed to OSM. The counter-argument to this David and Goliath analogy is that Open Source MANO is like the Apollo 11 lunar module, not pretty but it got two guys on the moon and back. Open Network Automation Platform, in contrast, is like Star Trek's USS Enterprise, which can travel across the entire universe in the time it takes to say dilithium crystals. Except of course the USS Enterprise never actually existed, as far as I know. OpenBaton is perhaps the equivalent of Zaphod Beeblebrox's Heart of Gold.

Outside of the ONAP/OSM debate, there are plenty of other open source projects that will be critical to the successful automation of virtualized networks. OPNFV is doing great work on an NFV reference implementation that integrates open source components covering both the NFVI and MANO layers. OpenStack is arguably the de-facto standard for VIM. Ceph is an open source software-defined storage technology used a default in OpenStack deployments. As VNFs shift from virtual machines to containers this will require the use of new open source tools such as Kubernetes. OpenDayLight, OpenContrail and ONOS are all SDN controllers that could sit below an orchestrator in a virtualized network.

To compete with the OTT players, telcos need to be nimbler by accelerating network automation. Join us in Austin, Texas from May 14-16 for our fifth-annual Big Communications Event as we tackle challenges like automation. The event is free for communications service providers -- secure your seat today!

Then there are the DevOps tools: Jenkins, Puppet, Chef and JP McWongbonkle. If you’re not familiar with that last one you can read more about it here. Let’s not forget the TM Forum's Open APIs, which are being shared across the entire Linux Foundation community, available to use in any of its open source projects. On the virtualized RAN side we have Telecom Infra Project's OpenRAN Group and Cisco's Open vRAN initiative. For central office reuse as datacenters, there's CORD.

The telco industry has gone crazy for open source!

Open source is a key driving force behind NFV but that is just the first step. Open source is at the core of next-generation networks from the OSS/BSS all the way down to the infrastructure. Telcos are demanding open source solutions and the vendor community is leveraging open source to modernize their solutions. Open source is a product development model that should unleash faster innovation but may require a rethink of business model for many vendors.

To find out more out more about the key open source projects which will help deliver automation in networking, join us in Austin May 14-16 for the fifth-annual Big Communications Event May 14–16. The event is free for communications service providers – secure your seat today!

— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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