The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is on a mission to create a supply-chain ecosystem to advance its open source projects for the benefit of its operator members. And it’s not willing to wait around for traditional telecom vendors to evolve their products.
In March, the ONF announced a strategic plan jointly developed with its operator board members: AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, Google, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Group, Telefόnica, and Turk Telekom. The plan involves the creation of reference designs or “blueprints” for how to put modular open source components together to create platforms for different use cases.
Today, the ONF announced that four new vendors have joined as partners: Adtran, Dell EMC, Edgecore Networks, and Juniper Networks. To join ONF at the partner level these vendors are each paying $500,000 per year for five years and committing two full-time engineers during their five-year commitment. That’s $10 million over five years from these new partners.
And these four new vendors join existing ONF partners Ciena, Intel, Radisys, and Samsung. When the ONF first announced its strategic plan in March, it provided a chart that showed Fujitsu and Huawei as partners. But apparently, these vendors didn’t make the commitment at the partner level.
The ONF does have plenty of vendors at different membership levels. These include Barefoot Networks, Nokia, and Ericsson. “The reference design work is a partner only activity for vendor and operator partners,” said Timon Sloane, vice president of marketing with the ONF.
When the ONF first announced its strategic plan the group indicated that it was tired of vendor inertia. Asked recently which vendors the group was referring to, Sloane gave a circumspect answer. He said the ONF operator members still need a vendor to provide an optics-specialized radio access network (RAN). Players with those capabilities include the likes of Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei.
“You can’t virtualize those,” said Sloane. “But operators want to consume in a disaggregated way. Incumbents have been slow; they’re not delivering in a way that can be easily consumed.”
Another area of need for ONF operators are systems integrators. Historically, the incumbent vendors also did systems integration.
The big telco vendors may feel that they can’t make enough money to justify products based on open source.
“This is a turbulent time,” said Sloane. “Operators want to help these companies navigate this transition. We would really like to work with them through this, but we’re not going to wait.”
4 Initial Reference Designs
The ONF today also announced the four initial focus areas for its reference designs. They all pertain to the edge cloud.
The SDN-Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) reference design is focused on supporting access technologies at the edge of the network. “Think of it as a variant of Residential-CORD with all the learnings applied,” said Sloane. “But SEBA is focused on both residential as well as mobile backhaul.” The SEBA reference design could support a variety of access technologies at the edge of the carrier network.
In addition, SEBA uses Kubernetes as a container orchestrator. “When CORD was formed it was OpenStack-centric,” said Sloane. “But SEBA is Kubernetes-centric with a smaller footprint.” OpenStack is optional if operators have virtual machines (VMs) they want to incorporate.
Aseem Parikh, VP of solutions and partnerships with ONF, added, “SEBA is designed to work with ONAP as well as legacy OSS systems.”
The second reference design is NFV Fabric. It’s focused on building a native spine-leaf data center fabric. The sole operator currently working with this reference design is Comcast.
“This is one of those platforms that was already in use by Comcast,” said Parikh. “Comcast is already in the process of rolling out next-gen access. That’s where they leverage SDN and ONOS. It’s about democratizing the access whether you come in from PON, PHY, CMTS. Once you get in – everything looks like the IP network.”
UPAN and ODTN
The Unified Programmable Automated Network (UPAN) is an SDN reference design that enables a programmable data plane. It leverages the P4 language to enable flexible data plane programmability and network embedded virtual network function (VNF) acceleration. It includes the ONF’s Stratum work previously announced with Google. The Stratum project aims to provide a white box switch and an open software system.
Operators involved with UPAN are AT&T, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT, and Turk Telekom.
Finally, the Open Disaggregated Optical Transport Network. (ODTN) creates what its name suggests. Operators involved with ODTN are Comcast and NTT.
“The nature of ONF’s work is everything is interconnected,” said Sloane. “Components are re-used. They are all connected to CORD.”
The ONF says the four initial reference designs are on the verge of deployment.