AT&T’s ECOMP platform is in production but needs more maturation. Without that progression, the carrier won’t be able to make its goal of virtualizing 75 percent of its network functions by 2020.
That’s why AT&T committed ECOMP to open source. It can’t get to 75 percent all by itself.
The carrier formally handed the ECOMP project to the Linux Foundation yesterday. It was one of several announcements at a small press event held in San Francisco, at AT&T’s flagship retail store — a place where consumers can browse exhibits about possible futures enabled by connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT).
ECOMP doesn’t have that same tourist appeal, but it’s vital to AT&T’s plans. The carrier developed ECOMP because it needed management and orchestration to go with its virtualization plans. Unable to find a suitable commercial option, AT&T chose to build one of its own.
That was a start. But AT&T, as a solo act, has taken the project as far as it can. And that goal of 75 percent virtualization is looming, said Mazin Gilbert, AT&T’s vice president of advanced technologies, platforms, and architecture.
“It’s easy to get to 5 percent. Thirty-four percent was a stretch. Now you see the target for this year [55 percent], and to get to the 75 percent in 2020 — it’s extremely difficult,” he told SDxCentral yesterday.
“Without having the brainpower, the developer ecosystem, across these providers and service integrators, we are all working together, we can’t get there,” said Gilbert.
AT&T’s hope is that an open source ECOMP can tap the minds of vendors, integrators, and other providers. It’s already happening. Amdocs helped steer the direction of three of the 11 modules that make up ECOMP. All three were classic cases of open source code going in a direction that the originators didn’t think of, Gilbert said.
(Side note: AT&T calls ECOMP a platform for network automation. It’s commonly referred to as an orchestrator, but that’s only one of the 11 modules. “I hate it when people say it’s an orchestrator,” Gilbert said with a smile.)
Of ECOMP’s roughly 8.5 million lines of code, only about 5.5 million are being made available as open source, Gilbert said. The rest is specific to AT&T’s network — connections to the carrier’s particular OSS, for instance, or a proprietary component that handles data collection and analytics.
In addition to ECOMP itself, AT&T is open sourcing tools to go with the platform. At yesterday’s event, for instance, one demo station showed a self-service validation portal where vendors can check how well their virtual network functions (VNFs) work with ECOMP. The fundamentals of that platform will be available in open source form through the Linux Foundation.
The code isn’t available just yet. What happened yesterday was the official handoff of the code and the project responsibility to the Linux Foundation. The foundation is putting some finishing touches on the code before releasing it, AT&T officials said.
AT&T can’t wait for that to happen.
“I can tell you what I tell my team. We cannot mature ECOMP fast enough. The needs of our consumer business outweigh any resources we might put down,” Gilbert said. “There’s a lot we’re finding that we just don’t know how to do.”