The demand from distributed computing applications, such as real-time analytics using data from the Internet of Things, far outstrips the supply-side from service providers. The gap will likely be closed in the next two to three years as a growing number of system integrators -- with help from the open source community -- find creative ways to ease the process of adoption of open networking and containers in the telecom environment.
Telco Transformation spoke to industry analysts and the open source community to learn about trends in the demand for open source networking, especially the adoption of containers and microservices, and the corresponding supply by service providers.
Alex Glaser, the Denver-based director at Harbor Research, has investigated network needs in the context of analytics based on data generated by the Internet of Things. He underscored the need to expand the reach of software-driven networks to the edge beyond the gateways that are served by wired networks.
At the edge, enormous volumes of ancillary data can be collected from field sites, such as oil fields, mines and construction sites, with mobile connections.
"For performance management, asset tracking, usage behavior and predictive maintenance, the enterprise needs data streams from all its assets including mobile equipment, near any of the edge sites, and their interrelationships for diagnosis of performance and its prediction," Glaser said.
The sources of data have expanded with the addition of unstructured sources of data.
"Richer insights are drawn when correlations are found between historical and real-time data, structured and unstructured data, and by looking at multiple scenarios such as product composition, comparisons across locations and operating choices," Glaser explained. "Microservices in this context are an enormous help as they help in impromptu service generation that brings together the desired data streams for analysis.
"The rise of Sigfox and LoRa, who are putting their basestations in telco towers, is a clear indication that service providers have left this market largely un-served. The IT companies who excel in software-driven networks have a limited presence at the edge. GE has gateways in verticals such as turbines and jet engines and Google has smart home solutions."
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the most promising with its Azure cloud, vertical solutions which are deployed at the edge, a strategic partnership with Docker containers, and elements of IOT analytics in Windows 10, according to Glaser.
Glaser said the solution is a channel that owns the delivery of integrated applications at the edge.
"Who does a customer turn to when they want to write the specs of a system? The reputed system integrators like Accenture, Wipro or Cognizant charge monumental sums of money for headcount when it can all be automated,” he said.
"The service providers are consumers of containers, except for large carriers, and they are constrained by the pace at which vendors are able to rewrite their monolithic code for VNFs for containers and microservices," she said. "The large carriers do their own development of VNFs and application development with containers and are ahead of others."
Roseboro estimated that widespread adoption will take another two to three years, which is slow by cloud-time. She recognizes that system integrators have the incentive to bridge the demand and supply gap.
"Service providers, however, look to their vendors to provide the professional services for network operations. The equipment providers have been hardware-oriented and need time to learn to master software for the future needs of service providers," Roseboro said.
After talking to leaders in the open networking community, it became clear that system integration as well as simplified deployment for carrier networks will play a major role in closing the demand and supply gap.
"System integrators have certainly carved out a market in the open networking world but the precise model is not yet fully defined," said Timon Sloane, vice president of standards and membership, Open Networking Foundation (ONF). "There is the Red Hat and Linux model, which has demonstrated that there is a market for packaging open source technologies."
ONF is working with Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS) and Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) to advance the system integration model for CORD (Central Office Redesigned as a Data Center) for the edge. Sloane expressed confidence that the deployment of CORD will go beyond trials and pilots and widespread adoption will be a reality by the end of 2018. Based on research by IHS Markit, Sloane believes that 70% of telcos will have completed the adoption of CORD by the end of 2018.
The packaging and simplification of the management of technologies will play a critical role in the wider adoption of CORD with its open networking and containerization.
"CORD assembles available technologies such as SDN, VNFs, containers, etc., and integrates them with local access technologies, such as a variety of radio access networks, consistent with the cloud architecture," said Larry Peterson, chief architect, ON.Lab.
CORD also has interfaces for intuitive controls for network management. Furthermore, new vendors -- such as Nuage Networks , which has developed a platform for network management in a heterogenous environment -- make deployment easier.
"We have adopted the build, operate and transfer model to make it easy for service providers to manage networks end-to-end in an open source environment," said Hussein Khazaal, head of marketing at Nuage Networks.
Open networking and containers have upended the hitherto somnolent world of service providers with the introduction of several layers of IT operations management. While they are unlikely to match the IT skills of software companies, service providers will take advantage of their proven skills in service assurance and partner with system integrators and vendors to meet the emerging needs for distributed networking.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation