(UPDATE 10/21: The developer in the audience, mentioned near the bottom, was Dave Neary; you can get acquainted with him on Twitter.)
The newly formed Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) group is going to be doing some missionary work, going out to open-source communities to see if they’ll help in the cause of building an open network functions virtualization (NFV) platform.
It’s a new direction for the telcos, better known for years-long standards efforts. We sifted through some of the plans during an Wednesday afternoon session on NFV (including a panel that I moderated) during the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Germany.
OPNFV wants to come to these open-source groups as a “voting bloc,” as Margaret Chiosi (pictured), the group’s president and distinguished network architect at AT&T Labs, put it. That is, they want to show that their ideas will come with end-user suppoort — and coding — if they’re accepted
“I would say that we may not be successful if we really have to do a fork,” she said during her talk on OPNFV. If OPNFV’s needs don’t help anybody else in the open-source community, “then we will lose the battle. Because the goal of this — to ‘win,’ I guess — is to ride the IT wave of all the innovation that’s happening.”
To make this work, OPNFV will have to bring code that benefits the common good, not just NFV, she said.
The element of humility is important, because OPNFV will be trying to attract software developers to its cause. “You can’t show up and demand things out of an open-source project,” said Sandra Rivera, director of market development at Intel and marketing committee chair of OPNFV.
Projects such as OpenStack have data-center roots, so the idea will be to nudge them toward supporting carrier-grade features such as high availability. “Most of them do think about the data centers, and that’s really where most of the contributions are coming,” Rivera said.
It’s worth noting that the largest contributor to OpenStack, HP, is doing some work along those lines. Senior Vice President Saar Gillai now heads the company’s NFV business unit and used to run its cloud group; he’s gotten the two sides together to study the question of carrier-grade OpenStack. Not coincidentally, HP executive Prodip Sen is chairing OPNFV.
Still, open-source groups might have good reasons to resist. Some at OpenStack “wanted to close down and make it more reliable” — that is, work on strengthening the existing code rather than “adding new features coming from carrier environments,” said Marcus Brunner, head of standardization for Swisscom.
During the panel, one audience member volunteered a few comments as a contributor to the open-source community. While he agreed that the open-source and carrier-grade worlds had some cultural differences, he also offered a key perspective: It will be important for OPNFV to have some patience and couch its arguments in terms familiar to the developers it’s courting.
“Be gentle with us. We don’t know the telco world, and you need to talk to us in a frame of reference we can understand,” he said. “We need to understand each other before we can solve these problems.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how well these two worlds can mesh.
SDNCentral is in Dusseldorf, Germany for the 2014 SDN & OpenFlow World Congress. Check out all our headlines from the show here: SDN & OpenFlow World Congress: The SDNCentral Report