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Open source meets telecom at NFV World Congress

Art Fewell | May 19, 2015
Open is the solution both to stemming the bleeding from the limitations of legacy business models and to unlock the gateway to new opportunity.

When Linux first became a serious challenger for enterprise-class infrastructure, traditional IT vendors had to contend and to rationalize just what exactly this open source thing was. The initial response from many vendors was to attempt to stop it, but it only grew.

And as open source grew, many mostly younger businesses learned to leverage it for great commercial success; however the titans of the previous era have had challenges adapting their business models to embrace open source successfully.

My experience last week at NFV World Congress showed clear indication that both suppliers and users are finding ways to embrace open source and rationalize how, rather than being a threat, open is the solution both to stemming the bleeding from the limitations of legacy business models and to unlock the gateway to new opportunity.

NFV (Network Function Virtualization) represents the move by telecommunications carriers to implement significant innovations in how they operate their networks and deliver new services. It is really more than a simple evolution, there is an energy around NFV that is hard to describe, it really feels more like a rebirth. It is remarkable to see an industry of the size and maturity of telecom come alive with such a youthful energy.

At the very core of the industry's optimism is open source. While there has been no shortage of commercial vendors attempting to put forth vertically integrated solutions, a near-unanimous refrain of the largest carriers have demanded that vendors change and embrace open technologies. Many vendors who had seen open source as a threat to commercial viability are now seeing how they can leverage it to create new opportunities that far exceed the possibilities of the closed paradigms of the past.

While both vendors and carriers have come to appreciate the possibilities of open source, the industry still needs a functional model for the governance of open source that finds a happy medium between vendors and users and delivers the quality and reliability needed in commercial and mission critical applications. From all indications at NFV World Congress, the model leveraged by open source initiatives like OPNFV, OpenStack and OpenDaylight are seen with great promise and while new are already demonstrating great prowess in tackling this challenge.

Both OPNFV and OpenDaylight have directly taken on one of the most divisive and challenging issues with open source - finding the ideal balance between vendors and users. Marc Cohn, the Market Area Director for the Open Networking Foundation provided a great summary of the industry's evolving approach to open models:

As shown on the slide, the industry's approach to open technologies began with open standards, which while incredibly important only get us part of the way there, particularly in light of the internet where everything must be interconnected via standard protocols. It makes little sense to create a human language description of a protocol, only to then have each vendor make their own attempts in isolation at implementing the standard.


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