ONF and On.Lab are in the process of merging. But while their legal merger won’t be complete until August, that isn’t stopping them from working in partnership. Today they announced something they’re calling the ONF Open Innovation Pipeline. It’s going to take advantage of the popularity of the two open source projects that are led by On.Lab: the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) and the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD).
Both ONOS and CORD have become very popular with service providers, including AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. The basic idea behind CORD is to redesign telco central offices and cable headends along the lines of modern data centers. And ONOS is an open source controller on top of a disaggregated control plane, which is used in CORD.
While ONOS and CORD have gained a lot of steam during the past year, ONF has lagged. In September 2016, then-executive director Dan Pitt stepped down, and the fate of the software-defined networking (SDN) group was unclear. However, On.Lab and ONF have since announced their merger, and they’ve come up with a way to try to renew interest in the SDN movement pioneered by ONF.
Namely: Through making active contributions to the Open Innovation Pipeline, vendors can benefit from inclusion in CORD and ONOS, thereby gaining access to operator deployments.
The success of ONOS and CORD “has been tied to deep relationships with operators, working hand in hand,” says ONF Vice President of Standards and Membership Timon Sloane. “It’s that model we’re industrializing.”
ONF wants its more than 200 members to contribute their innovations to the group and, in return, they’ll gain access to operator trials and PoCs.
The Cause of the Problem
“We’ve made a lot of progress with disaggregation and open source,” says ONF Executive Director Guru Parulkar. “But vendors, when they go to customers, they are still offering a relatively closed and proprietary solution. That marginalizes the benefits of SDN, NFV, and of open source.”
One could certainly argue that vendors like vendor-lock-in. Another view is that they are simply doing the best they can to provide their customers with a particular service, such as 4G LTE, by pulling together available hardware and software.
“Our view is to try to break open this stovepipe mentality and make it easy for anybody to break into this stack,” says Sloane. “Multiple parties can be playing their parts along the pipeline. It starts with disaggregation and now we start to assemble the pieces.”
With its new Open Innovation Pipeline initiative, ONF will connect its contributors to operators via CORD and ONOS. “The pipeline is structured to make it easy to contribute and get that value,” says Sloane. “There’s big value in interacting with operators, working with us on CORD.