DENVER – There’s a general consensus among people working on telco virtualization that open source groups are replacing traditional standards groups.
“In open source, code is the coin of the realm; express yourself with something that is useful,” said Tom Anschutz, distinguished member of AT&T’s technical staff, speaking yesterday at Light Reading’s 2016 NFV & Carrier SDN event.
Kalyani Bogineni, a Fellow at Verizon, agreed. She said as Verizon transforms its networks from less hardware to more software, there is increased collaboration between the IT and the network organizations. And while the IT side needs to learn about reliability from the network team, the network team needs to learn about the DevOps style from its IT colleagues.
But the DevOps mentality can blow the mind of a seasoned network engineer.
“The more frequently you upgrade your network, the more reliable it becomes,” said Andrew Coward, VP of strategy with Brocade. “That’s totally counterintuitive to telcos.” He said typically network engineers strive to upgrade the network as infrequently as possible. “If you only upgrade every two years, you go through enormous risk,” he said. But if the network is constantly being updated with tiny changes, the associated risks are also small.
The Need for Speed
The trend toward innovating faster in telco networks mirrors the trend toward more open source development. But not everyone thinks standards groups are dead.
When comparing standards groups to open source groups, many people call them complementary. Michael Brenner, the chief architect for network functions virtualization (NFV) at Gigaspaces makes some good arguments for why they’re both important. But others have lost patience with the tediously slow process of standards groups.
“There are some places where standardization is an enabler,” said AT&T’s Anschutz, giving examples of such technologies as wireless, DSL, and GPON. “Without those IEEE standards, they wouldn’t work,” he said. But standards groups that take the stance that every telco works the same, “that’s on the wane,” he said.
Huawei Champions Open Source
Huawei is one vendor that’s tapping into the power of open source. “We are pretty much in all the open source communities,” said Nagaraja Upadhya, VP of fixed network products at Huawei Technologies USA, in an interview yesterday.
In addition to its work with U.S. telcos, the vendor also works with all the Tier 1 carriers in China. Those providers have been innovating at high speed to catch up with technology in the rest of the world. And with open source coders working from all parts of the globe, “it’s almost like a 24-hour engine,” said Upadhya. Huawei, itself, has nearly 3,000 people in R&D working on open source.
Asked what he thought of AT&T’s homegrown NFV code ECOMP, Upadhya said “We have a lot of respect for them. When you work on something for a long duration and have a large network, you have a certain perspective.”
He added that ECOMP, which may become a Linux Foundation open source project, provides a roadmap that will influence the other SDN and NFV open source projects. “All these programmers trying to write; it’s like a drum beat you can feel.”
“Now, you write the software first, and then ask the standards groups to ratify what you’ve done,” said Brocade’s Coward. Rather than convene meetings where everyone racks their brains to try and imagine all the potential use cases and problems, open source groups are just doing. “Don’t tell me, but show me,” said Coward.