LOS ANGELES — I spent three days at the Open Networking Summit 2018 this week. The show generated a few big announcements, including the news that AT&T’s dNOS software has now become the DANOS project under the Linux Foundation. Related to that, AT&T said it planned to deploy 60,000 white boxes that would run the DANOS software. And Intel said it was contributing components of its cloud edge portfolio into the Linux Foundation’s recently launched Akraino project.
But in addition to news announcements, shows are a good place to pick up on general trends. At this show, I noted increased frustration from service providers about their vendors.
First though, let me set the scene for the conference. For the past several years, the summit has been held in the San Francisco Bay area. But this year, for a change of pace, the Linux Foundation held the conference in downtown LA at the Intercontinental Hotel.
The hotel is in Wilshire Grand Center, the tallest building downtown. But it was kind of weird. First, there was no obvious front door to the building. My Lyft driver gave up on finding the front door and just dropped me on the street. I ended up lugging my roller bag up a flight of concrete steps that looked like it might lead to a front door. At the top I ran into some ONS people who told me to take the elevator to the 70th floor. That’s where the hotel lobby was — the 70th floor. Weird. But also cool in that it had great views of the entire city. And eventually I got used to my ears popping as I took the elevator up and down multiple times.
Now, in terms of trends in software-defined networking (SDN)…
It seems as if service providers are getting a little testy in regard to vendors that they feel aren’t helping them to virtualize their networks. On Monday, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) announced a new strategic plan designed to nudge vendors. “There was hope the established incumbent players would step up,” said Timon Sloane, VP of marketing with the ONF. “To be honest, it’s not happening as fast as the operators want, and we’re not seeing the level of investment. We’re not going to wait passively and hope it corrects itself.”
Tuesday, on a panel session at the summit, Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture, complained that it takes too long to onboard virtual network functions (VNFs). Rice has discussed this before, saying AT&T wants VNFs that are interchangeable like Lego Blocks, not unique “snowflake-like” VNFs. This week he said, “It’s time for vendors to step up because I think the service providers have stepped up. I know this year that’s something we’re going to drive very hard both in open source and at AT&T.”
On the same panel session, Ayush Sharma, SVP of engineering and technology with Reliance Jio, echoed the sentiment. “The message to vendors is: innovate or go extinct,” said Sharma. Comments like that are sure to put fear in the hearts of telco vendors. Reliance Jio is building a greenfield SDN network in India. And it already claims to be the world’s largest 4G wireless provider. Its goal is to count 400 million customers by the end of 2018. In an interview with SDxCentral, Sharma listed several vendors that Reliance Jio is using to build its network.
Even Vint Cerf, VP and chief internet evangelist with Google, who is recognized as one of the fathers of the internet, participated in a little bit of vendor-bashing at the conference. In a keynote today, Cerf talked about the evolution of the internet. He said that in the early days, engineering students would be taught how to build routers. But then big technology companies started making proprietary routers, and “we lost a couple of generations of students with deep knowledge of how routers work.” He said with the advent of SDN and white box switches and routers, “You have freedom that was lost in the time when routing engines were kind of locked up and hidden.”
Unfortunately for vendors, they don’t have the luxury of sitting on stage and defending their point of view. But as one attendee told me: vendors aren’t going to provide products based on open source unless they can make money.