How open is “open?”
That’s become a familiar question as practically every major vendor, in succession, has declared its version of software-defined networking (SDN) to be open. That’s led to “opener than thou” debates. Specifically, a lot of companies criticize Cisco for having such a Cisco-centric version of open, where the gear is Cisco’s, but the APIs to talk to it are open.
“When we want ‘open,’ we really want common, Chiosi said.
As an example of what she means, consider where AT&T doesn’t have that commonality: in connecting the SDN controller to the devices in the network. AT&T would like to have one API, common to all vendors, for that job. Instead, the carrier uses a translator layer, as Chiosi put it, which converts an API to vendor-specific commands. “We’re hoping to only temporarily have this layer,” she added.
This matters to AT&T because the company wants to heavily shift to SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV). AT&T reinforced that desire last week by revamping its Supplier Domain process, in which AT&T used to pick two suppliers for each “domain” of the network. Those two inevitably would be familiar, big companies, but AT&T appears to want to widen the field when it comes to SDN and NFV technologies.
It all adds up to “this modern architecture to help simplify and scale AT&T,” Chiosi said — but progress is weighed down by the lack of open, universal interfaces and technologies.
Open-source development could help AT&T’s cause, Chiosi thinks — and that goes for vendor-led open-source work (such as Juniper open-sourcing its SDN technology, to cite one arbitrary example) as well as the purely community-driven kind of open-source. “I would say that we probably want both. We would probably like to be more community than vendor-specific, but both are probably important,” Chiosi said.
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