The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is taking the open source bull by the horns via its new Open Innovation Pipeline initiative that was announced on Tuesday.
The Open Innovation Pipeline project is a combined effort between ONF and ON.Lab, both of which announced late last year that they were combining their efforts into a single entity under the ONF brand. While that merger is moving towards its final stage, ONF designed the Pipeline project as a means to industrialize and open up the process for new SDN-based applications and services. (See ONF, ON.Lab Merge to Accelerate SDN.)
ONF will be using some of the same principles that were behind the success of its ONOS and Central Office Redesigned as a Data Center (CORD) frameworks, both of which are part of the Linux Foundation. The Pipeline initiative is attempting to define the next phase of SDN and NFV by leveraging network device disaggregation, the creation of truly open source platforms and the development of new software-defined standards.
The software-defined standards will include interoperability APIs and data models. With more than 200 ONF members, including AT&T, Google, Verizon and SK Telecom, the Open Innovation Pipeline will enable members to bring their contributions into an open system that benefits from operator proof-of-concept (POCs) trials and deployments.
"What we're doing is leveraging everything we've learned the last few years on the ON.Lab side about how to take an operator-centric approach to building very specific use cases, open source solutions, and drive them into the market with POCs (proof of concept) trials and beyond into deployments," said Timon Sloane, vice president of standards and membership at ONF.
Over the past five years, the industry as a whole has been largely successful with the disaggregation of network devices and the separation of the control plane from the data plan. But there remain significant challenges that the Pipeline project is addressing.
Sloane said the adoption of SDN has been slow due to the complexity of disaggregated networks, which need to be pieced back together by carriers, vendors or system integrators. Other than a few Tier 1 operators, most carriers lack the resources to assemble these pieces themselves into solutions that address the expertise gap as well as driving the new services and applications into the market.
Open source efforts have also been hampered by vendors that are using it to build proprietary solutions that end up being vertically integrated into a single pipe. (See ON.Lab's Parulkar: Vendors 'Gaming' Open Source Standards.)
"They are not really benefiting the ecosystem and ultimately the customer is not benefiting from open source," Sloane said. "The result is it's very hard for innovation and certainly small players to get their offerings into market. They have to find their way into one of these stovepipe solutions and that's not easy.
"Our question here is how do we break this apart? We have all of these pieces in this vertical stovepipe. With the Open Innovation Pipeline, we're breaking this apart into an open system with open interfaces at every stage all the way from the lowest level of the forwarding plane up to a fully integrated solution."
The initial areas of focus for the Pipeline project is ultra broadband access, 5G and packet-optical core, each of which will have its own "pipe." However, Sloane and Guru Parulkar, executive director of Open Networking Foundation, ON.Lab and Stanford Platform Lab. said Pipeline would broaden its reach into other areas.
CORD and its various flavors, including Mobile CORD (M-CORD), residential CORD (R-CORD), and enterprise CORD (E-Cord,) have already gained traction with carriers. Service providers such as Comcast, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Telefónica and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) are in various stages of lab and field trials with it while Parulker said that M-CORD was becoming the "default platform for 5G exploration." Sloane noted that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which joined ONOS and CORD last year, was using R-CORD to virtualize cable modem termination systems (CMTS) in headends. (See Comcast Hoists ONOS, CORD Flags.)
By leveraging the economies of data centers and the agility of cloud providers, CORD was designed to reinvent service providers' central offices for residential, mobile and enterprise customers. CORD uses new technologies, such as SDN and NFV, merchant silicon, white boxes and open-source platforms including ONOS, OpenStack, Docker
CORD is the proverbial low-hanging fruit for members of the Pipeline project. Parulker said he expects more trials and some production deployments this year with R-CORD while M-CORD could go into deployment mode next year.
"We want to generalize this Innovation Pipeline so more and more member companies can plug in to be able to participate and contribute," Parulker said. "Then we'll be able to create the software defined standards that will come out of this activity."
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation
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