As CTO and SVP of Networks business division of Huawei, Ayush leads a global team of technologists responsible for driving future architecture, research, innovation, standardization and open source strategy leading to the introduction of technologies and architectural concepts into products & services. He is known in the industry because of his knowledge and expertise in leading technology adoptions in Carrier networks.
Sharma: We have been involved in open source for many years, and we are utilizing open source components in our commercial products. We are very active in many open source projects, in many communities, including P4, OCP, OpenStack, FDiO, ONOS, ODL, and OPNFV. We just recently formed OPEN-O, with several partners, as a new Linux Foundation project. We contribute to open source architectures, use cases, strategy, and code. And we determine how best to engage with the communities in order to jointly and quickly develop solutions that we can build into our product offerings.
Why do you think there’s a demand for open source solutions from service providers? And who do you think should be involved in contributing and building these open source networking stacks?
Sharma: There’s demand primarily due to the velocity of code development and reduction of development cost. Since the cost of development is shared, among a vibrant software development community, service providers are able to quickly roll out software that works across many platforms, and they are able to focus more on service creation and differentiation. They see this as an opportunity to give themselves a competitive advantage through code customization of internally and externally created software.
What role do standards bodies play in this effort? Are they still relevant, or have open source communities and foundations made standards bodies less relevant than in the past?
Sharma: Standards bodies continue to produce solid architectures and protocols. But they are slow and resist change. Traditional SDOs will remain relevant but must evolve. The MEF is a perfect example of doing it right. The MEF created a collaboration program, involving key industry standards development bodies, called MEF Unite. Instead of digging in its heels and resisting change, the MEF has put off its ego and begun collaborating with ETSI, OPNFV, ODL, ONOS, IEEE, ITU, IETF, ONF, and several others in order to coordinate internal and external open source activities. Partnerships between open source projects and traditional standards bodies will be the way forward.
Can you provide some examples of participation in an open networking community that aren’t necessarily open source related?
Sharma: The Open Networking Foundation is one example. We have provided leadership within the ONF for many years. It’s there that we have developed the OpenFlow protocol along with many SDN/NFV architectures including the Intent Framework. It has been a valuable community to share ideas and create solutions. The ONF is not particularly open source focused, although it has begun to work on open source projects.
Is it reasonable to expect that Huawei open source solutions will ever be as robust as commercial solutions? Can we meet the service provider requirements for carrier-grade? And how would you define carrier-grade today?
Sharma: Yes! With such a vast community of active developers, with many different perspectives, working on joint solutions and quickly pinpointing vulnerabilities, I would say that open source has the potential to be equally robust as commercial solutions. This is true particularly when combining open source software with internally developed software and running through the vigorous testing to ensure the solution is carrier-grade. Carrier-grade means that it’s highly available (99.9999), highly secure, and high performing.
What would be the approach to monetize open source, balance the commercial needs of vendors and service providers along with the philosophy and culture of open source projects?
Sharma: Competitive advantage and systems integration. As providers (working with their vendors) customize the code, to make it unique to each company, they have created a competitive advantage. Vendors that offer customizable, and supported, solutions will succeed. Red Hat has proven the success of this model. Vendors and providers that quickly adapt to the open source world and learn to differentiate will have a future. Those that don’t will fail.
Can you provide some examples of key new network capabilities that existing commercial solutions don’t address and how open source efforts can assist in these areas?
Sharma: Take operational support systems for example, and let’s look at China Mobile. China Mobile has 800 million mobile subscribers, and it runs the world’s largest 4G network. Now, imagine trying to design that network to evolve towards virtualized network functions, centralized control, and high programmability. It is evolving its network to include on-demand deployment, flexible orchestration, and maximal usage of the resources.
Orchestration will be a critical central component in this next-generation SDN/NFV environment. Open source orchestration, combined with unique vendor solutions, will provide the required management flexibility necessary for customers, such as China Mobile, to orchestrate complex, highly available, and highly secure environments.
What other elements are important to any open networking ecosystem beyond just the source code?
Sharma: Community. A robust community allows for open communication, fewer ego-based directions, and a quicker ability to make decisions. When you have a thriving open source community of developers, architects, strategists, and marketers who feel empowered to contribute, and benefit the community, you have an ecosystem that promotes focus and success. And it’s sure a lot of fun. The Linux Foundation is an excellent example of how to successfully create robust open source communities, and it’s why we work so closely with them.
To wrap up, what will you be demonstrating at ONS that relates to the open networking stack we just talked about?
Sharma: We will be demoing OPEN-O, ONOS-based transport controller, ONOS Agile VPN, ONOS OPNFV, ODL intent-based management and control, application-defined security, network slicing, ICN service orchestration, POF, and SD WAN, among several others. ONS will be an exciting week to showcase our innovations throughout the open networking stack.