AT&T's Anschutz: How Open Source Attacks Opex
DENVER -- NFV & Carrier SDN -- Open source software and open specification hardware are key elements for lowering opex in the telecom industry, but there's a spectrum to consider for both, AT&T's Tom Anschutz said at last week's conference here.
In an in-depth keynote at the NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Anschutz -- a distinguished member of technical staff at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) -- tackled specific opex themes, including second-generation VNFs, disaggregation, peripherals, and frameworks. (See Anschutz: Next-Gen NFV Actually Saves Opex.) On a broader front, he also discussed how AT&T viewed open source software and open specification hardware's impact on opex.
It's important to see "open" as a spectrum, not one absolute thing, he said. At one end of the spectrum is fully open technology for which there is a large community engaged in support and development, while at the other end is "bespoke" technology, developed for one company's specific needs. In between are technologies which one vendor may support for a large group of customers, and open source efforts which have smaller communities of support.
Anschutz used AT&T's internally developed ECOMP as a prime example of the "bespoke" end of spectrum. AT&T spent millions of dollars on developing more than 8.5 million lines of code for ECOMP before putting it into open source with the Linux Foundation. ECOMP has since been combined with OPEN-O to form ONAP. By putting ECOMP into open source, AT&T gets a much larger community to focus on and advance its original work, instead of bearing the ECOMP burden alone.
"Open source software falls into a spectrum of effort," Anschutz said. "If all I want is a Linux distribution the amount of effort I have to put forward into bringing forward Linux distributions -- whether it's Red Hat or Canonical or Ubuntu or what have you -- is really low because lots of people are busy contributing to those.
In addition, operators can determine how -- and how much -- of open source to use, he said.
"This (open source software) is not bundled with particular hardware or other software, so there's no legacy to protect. Many times you can pull apart community-driven software and make use of bits and pieces of it, instead of the whole."
Anschutz said another advantage of open software was that it could be downloaded from the Internet for a trial run without a service provider needing to sign an NDA or contract that would entail getting into a more formal business relationship.
System integrators also can provide value by binding the different parts of open source software together to create new business opportunities.
Open source software enables operators to make changes or adjustments in a much easier and more agile model than before, which in turn allows carriers to focus on their solutions instead of getting locked into a particular software stack, Anschutz said.
"Because it is open, you can create abstractions and APIs -- wrappers if you will -- that create new systems that require little to no changes in upstream OSSs," he said. "I can take open source software and I can wrapper it so it appears and acts and behaves like something I had before. So all the operational assumptions I made in OSS/BSS don't have to change in order to integrate this. It emulates what it replaces."
"Because of that, there is a whole range of performance, scalability and availability and time to market, depending on what you need from a business perspective, that you can get out of this open source," he said.
Open hardware also falls across a similar spectrum. When there's a large community working on server platforms, service providers don't need to do all of the the heavy lifting for advancements and innovations.
"Lots of people are interested in servers and many are helping move them forward in terms of their capability, and that is a low-cost way to interact," Anschutz said. "The complete opposite end of the scale is if I want something bespoke that only AT&T was going to deploy. I would have to take on a large amount of load. There wouldn't be this big community and I'd have a lot more costs."
Anschutz said that open hardware specifications from the likes of OCP use more common operational models and that elements -- such as ONIE -- can be used over and over, and from one vendor's box to another manufacturer's box.
"Open spec hardware is typically not bundled with applications so OEMs that provide this kind of hardware don't have some kind of legacy to protect," he said. "They see SDN and NFV as just new business opportunities so they are more eager to engage."
Open specification hardware can often be modified by a carrier, or another OEM might decide to take that same specification in a different direction to create its own niche, which makes for a more competive market.
"There is sufficient evidence, from what we have been engaged in, that there is good opportunity from open spec and open source to attack opex in our business," Anschutz said.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation
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