Cable operators are taking a hard look at the Linux Foundation's Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP).
During last week's Telco Transformation Radio show on ONAP, Arpit Joshipura, general manager for networking and orchestration for the Linux Foundation, was asked why the cable operator industry hasn't taken advantage of ONAP to date? (See ONAP Poised to Transform Industry.)
"Stay tuned," Joshipura replied, without providing further details.
Ever since the Linux Foundation merged two open source initiatives -- AT&T's ECOMP and OPEN-O -- to create ONAP earlier this year there has been a lot of interest from both service providers and vendors. At its most basic level, ONAP is an open source software platform that enables orchestration and automation of elements such as VNFs as well as creating a combined data model. ONAP members now serve 43% of the global wireless customers.
Which brings us back to the cable operator industry. While Comcast didn't reply to an email on whether it was kicking the tires on ONAP, it has been active with OpenStack for years and is a supporter of OpenDaylight . (See Comcast & OpenStack by the Numbers.)
On the 5G front, Charter Communications Inc. announced field trials earlier this year, which marked the first foray into 5G by an US cable operator. (See Charter Launches 5G Field Trials.)
"This is a very dynamic, collaborative community, and we're starting to see that there is real pain and real problems that need to be solved, and are being solved collectively," Joshipura said on the radio show. "Because you know, at the end of the day, if you ask anybody: 'Do you need network automation?' They are going to say yes. And it becomes even more critical as 5G is on the horizon, and as IoT is on the horizon.
"You can't expect an IoT device to be on a call waiting to get service, or get connected or get billed. It's just not going to happen. You need an automated network."
And it looks as though ONAP's reach will go beyond carriers and their networks. Mazin Gilbert, who also participated in the radio show, said that he has been surprised at the interest level of industries outside of telecommunciations.
"I think the oil and gas one was a complete surprise to me," said Gilbert, vice president of advanced technology at AT&T Labs . "There are also some discussions going on in the area of healthcare and transportation."
Gilbert said that if the ONAP controller, which controls Layers 1-3 and 4-7 on the network side and application side, was stripped off "it's a basic AI platform."
"It allows us to collect data," he said. "It allows us to analyze data. It allows us to do some predictions. It allows us to apply policies. It allows us to orchestrate services and it allows us to control functions so you could have complete automation.
"If you think about that, the data could be healthcare data, it could be network data, it could be transportation data, it could be gas and oil data. I think we are starting with a network because that is the largest problem on the planet as we are going into virtualization. But I think that you're going to see a lot of new, exciting use cases over the next year to two years using ONAP."
All of which would be beneficial to cable companies and other industries. Gilbert, who is the technical steering committee (TSC) chair for ONAP, said that after the release of the seed code and documentation at the ONS Summit in April that there has been a lot of activity. Gilbert said he had been tracking the interest in downloading the code, watching videos and asking questions in the community.
"I tracked it April and I tracked it in May," he said. "A month later, we doubled the community size. We went from 350 to 700 people in just that one month. They've been actively involved in discussion groups and we've had a large number of downloads."
Gilbert said that ONAP would be naming the release platforms very soon. ONAP plans on issuing its first software release in the fourth quarter of this year.
"As I've said, we are at about 43% of the global mobile subscribers represented in the community so far," Joshipura said. "Our goal is to hit almost half by the end of the year, and I think we're going to beat that."
Joshipura said that ONAP is engaged in 20 to 40 active conversations with member companies that are in various stages of involvement.
"The goal here is to make sure that the project itself creates enough value where it can market itself, right? And it's business developing itself, versus pleading for people to join or asking people to participate," he said. "And I think, so far, that has been the model, to make sure that we do not reinvent the wheel and we keep focused on the end-user use cases, end-user problems and the real problems, versus doing something that is pretty cool and the 'Let's try it' kind of a thing."
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation