SEATTLE -- In order for SDN to truly deliver on its promise, vendors and service providers need to "normalize" VNFs.
That was one of the key takeaways during an opening keynote by AT&T's Chris Rice at the OpenDaylight Summit in Seattle.
"The VNFs we get today are too special, they are too unique. They are like snowflakes, and we want Lego blocks rather than snowflakes," said Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs. "I'm giving you an example of a kernel set of commands that each VNF will need to perform regardless of the function that it performs. We need to be able configure, test, scale, start, stop and rebuild every VNF. I promise you that AT&T doesn’t make its buying decision based on the code or the API of that particular function [list] that I just went through.
"It's to the whole industry's advantage to normalize those. For SDN to really deliver on what we need it to deliver, that is a key function that has to occur. So that's a big takeaway; move the VNF from snowflakes to Lego blocks. Lego blocks, if you remember from the old days, are different sizes, shapes and colors. They're not all the exactly same but they all inter-operate and that's key."
Rice also spoke about AT&T using OpenDaylight's open source controller in its enhanced control, orchestration and management platform (ECOMP). While "classic" SDN focused on Layers 2 and 3, AT&T is using the ODL-based controller in Layers 4 and 7 as well.
ECOMP has been in production within AT&T for the last two years, as the automation layer for its network software and virtual functions, tying both virtualized and legacy elements together. ECOMP is comprised of 8.5 million lines of code and eight major software subsystems. In July, AT&T announced it was putting ECOMP into the open source community by working with the Linux Foundation .
AT&T's Chris Rice explains the elements of ECOMP at the OpenDaylight Summit.
Earlier this year, AT&T Inc.
(NYSE: T) said it would open up ECOMP to other service providers, and Orange
(NYSE: FTE) jumped on the ECOMP bandwagon earlier this month. (See Orange Takes AT&T's ECOMP on Test Drive
During his keynote, Rice said that AT&T has lived and breathed ECOMP over the past few years, and learned a lot in the process. Last year, AT&T virtualized about 5.7% of its network with ECOMP, and this year it plans to virtualize 30%. Rice said that while 5.7% didn't sound like a lot, that is still a significant achievement given how large AT&T's network is.
Rice said he "couldn't stress enough" the amount of extra knowledge that AT&T has garnered from having ECOMP "in production and getting feedback from people in the field and operations in other areas" versus doing proof-of-concept trials.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation