The next mobile generation (5G) is not just redefining mobile services — it is also ushering in an era of open technologies that are transforming the telecommunications industry.
Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) represent the future in telecommunications, by virtualizing the infrastructure and services to offer unprecedented agility, intelligence, and openness.
For the past five years, SDN and NFV have been progressing due to unique collaboration between standards organizations and open-source communities that together are reshaping how new technology may be adopted.
Innovative industry groups such as the ETSI NFV ISG and the Open Networking Foundation established the reference architectures, validated use cases, and reshaped the requirements for open-source building blocks integral to NFV and SDN.
In response, in 2012, The Linux Foundation introduced the first large-scale, open-source networking platform, OpenDaylight. The open SDN Controller Framework has since established a broad technical community; over 900 developers contributed to the current release. OpenDaylight has spawned commercial offerings supporting hundreds of millions of subscribers around the globe.
SDN and NFV have emerged as critical technologies for 5G to enable a wide range of data-driven applications that have been written about extensively on OpenDaylight, including mobile broadband, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile-to-mobile (M2M), etc.
To enable such a diverse range of end-user applications, the SDN/NFV management and control model must become much more highly scalable, intelligent, flexible, and open than ever before.
Many of the telecommunications industry’s most innovative and proactive operators and solution providers have undertaken the challenge to redefine the service delivery lifecycle as a result. This requires unique collaboration among the network management standards bodies, SDN/NFV industry organizations, and the open source community.
“The future of telecommunications is currently being reshaped by SDN/NFV, with 5G among the first projects to realize the vision of a truly converged, next-generation mobile infrastructure.”
– Marc Cohn
Over the past year, there has been a number of open-source initiatives announced to address the challenges of network orchestration and automation, including the ETSI Open Source MANO (OSM) project, Linux Foundation OPEN-O project, AT&T’s open source ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy) project (also with The Linux Foundation), among others.
While having multiple alternatives offers the potential for competing approaches that the market will select based on their individual innovations and merits, the potential for fragmentation and dilution of investment looms. That is why the principals in the OPEN‑O and open-source ECOMP communities announced a groundbreaking effort to converge, resulting in the introduction of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), under The Linux Foundation.
On Day 1, ONAP founding members represented just under 40% of the world’s mobile subscribers, and virtually all of the leading solution providers. Such critical mass is essential, considering the need to forge a common, industry-wide, open platform for service automation and orchestration.
ONAP intends to address the entire service-delivery lifecycle, including:
The ONAP project leverages The Linux Foundation’s best practices refined by over 25 years of enabling some of the world’s most important open-source projects. ONAP is a truly global project, featuring an open governance model forum to discuss architecture initiatives. It makes for a healthy blend between operators and vendors and top-down/bottom-up decision making.
The project was announced in February 2017, and is currently in the process of release planning and initial ramp-up.
As 5G rapidly approaches reality, it is imperative for standards bodies, industry groups, and the open-source community to undertake a highly collaborative approach for a pragmatic technology adoption lifecycle for SDN/NFV. By working together, use cases may be prioritized to guide development, requirements and implementation may be validated and the many tradeoffs that arise may be thoroughly considered.
Working in a neutral and open forum, an inclusive and open community will catalyze the cultivation of the open ecosystem that enables many to benefit.
The future of telecommunications is currently being reshaped by SDN/NFV, with 5G among the first projects to realize the vision of a truly converged, next-generation mobile infrastructure.