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Open Source an 'Overrated Necessity,' Says PCCWOpen Source an 'Overrated Necessity,' Says PCCW

Hong Kong operator draws attention to the shortcomings of open source technology.

Iain Morris

May 15, 2017

3 Min Read
Open Source an 'Overrated Necessity,' Says PCCW

NICE, France -- TM Forum Live -- If open source has swiftly become the latest religious practise in the telecom industry, it is still attracting its share of skeptics and unbelievers.

Some were on display at this week's annual TM Forum Live conference in Nice, where Shahar Steiff, an assistant vice president at Hong Kong's PCCW, described open source as an "overrated necessity" in front of conference attendees.

Steiff clearly thinks open source has its place in the pantheon of technology deities, but he is not convinced that worshipping it unreservedly will provide answers to all the industry's needs.

"It only provides half of the things we need -- the code but not the information model or standards," said the PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) executive. "Yes, it is faster than proprietary code, but with a standard I don't care if it is open source or proprietary code."

Steiff went on to say that open source would not replace the need for standards and expressed doubt that it would give rise to new standards.

He also poured scorn on suggestions that open source is really "free," likening it to the gift of a puppy whose maintenance turns out to be a very costly business.

"It is free but you have to spend a lot of money to implement it in your system," he said.

Steiff was not the only telco executive at the event harboring doubts about open source's promise.

Kayo Ito, the director of network services for Japan's NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT), noted the attractions of open source technology while echoing Steiff's concerns about its shortcomings from a standardization perspective.

"Time to market is what you are looking for because there are cases where you want a quick fix," she said. "But when we are looking at standards, I am not sure it will always be the best way forward."

Other telcos at the conference, however, emphasized the benefits of open source approaches, arguing the principles of open source could be applied in other areas besides coding.

"There is a lot of 'how to' in the OSS [operational support systems] that would be interesting for the industry to share," said AT&T's Jenny Huang. "The OSS layer will become much more data-driven and toolkits will be required, and those are prime candidates for open source implementation."

For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading. AT&T is leading the charge on open source, having released its ECOMP software platform into the open source community through the Linux Foundation. Having recently been merged with another open source telco initiative called OPEN-O, ECOMP is now a part of an association called ONAP that counts France's Orange (NYSE: FTE), BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) and China's three national operators as key service provider members. But even AT&T has concerns that open source will be unable to provide the same "quality, performance and reliability" as proprietary technologies, said Rupesh Chokshi, an assistant vice president with AT&T, during a conversation with Light Reading last week. (See AT&T Wavers on OpenStack Commitment.) Speaking with Light Reading on the sidelines of today's event, Mike Zeto, who heads up AT&T's smart cities work, said "there are areas where you want things to be more proprietary that not." That includes security, which is clearly of paramount concern to authorities making investments in smart city technologies, said Zeto. — Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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