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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.

Open source adds an important element to this dynamic by providing a working implementation of a solution where the code is visible and testable by all - yet there is absolutely nothing inherent in open source to ensure fairness in control and governance. This has resulted in many open source projects that suffer from favoritism, vendor dominance or a lack of transparency and equality. Cohn addressed this point, noting that "If there is one vendor driving the open source project then it is not open by the ONF's definition."

This is where the new Open Reference Platforms come in - new initiatives like OPNFV and OpenDaylight aim to be different from other open source initiatives and provide a neutral reference platform for the industry. These were created specifically with the intent of not just building software, but also creating a model for optimal alignment between vendor and user interests expressed through software.

First, the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) is a new open source Initiative backed by the Linux Foundation that seeks to solve some of the key challenges still common in open source. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has provided a framework describing the components and interfaces needed in a standards-based NFV deployment, but this architecture only provides an outline, not a functional software stack. While the ETSI model was designed with OpenStack in mind, there is still too much variance in how OpenStack is implemented resulting in wildly varying success among both carriers and vendors in their attempts to implement this model.

OPNFV seeks to meet ETSI's standard NFV framework with a functional implementation leveraging key open source software including OpenStack and OpenDaylight. This is being received by both vendors and carriers as a very positive development - not one that encroaches on their ability to profit but rather one that will hammer out the core functionality of the system encouraging customer investment while freeing vendors to focus on key value-added solutions and services.

OpenDaylight, another new open source initiative backed by the Linux Foundation, also had an extremely strong showing. While OPNFV seeks to bring together open source software that includes server, storage and networking technologies, OpenDaylight is focused on creating an industry-standard controller for software-defined networking. In addition to delivering the networking capabilities for the OPNFV demonstrations at the show, OpenDaylight featured numerous demonstrations of key NFV use cases. Like OPNFV, this initiative seemed equally popular among both vendors and carriers who both need these technologies to reach a mature-enough point for broad adoption.

While I feel somewhat idealistic and perhaps naive in my optimism, NFV really feels different, like it really will accomplish its lofty goals. This is not the result of magic but rather is the culmination of building on the lessons of the past, both from the pain points of legacy models and borrowing from successful open source projects such as Linux that manages to elegantly balance its free and open nature while also being the foundation for more commercial technology successes than any other software in existence.


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