Vodafone has partnered with China Mobile, Huawei, and a handful of other vendors on a program to help automate the development and deployment of software-based applications across carrier internal operations and external geographies. The platform is based on work currently underway with the upcoming ONAP Casablanca release set for later this year.
Fran Heeran, head of network virtualization, cloud, and automation at Vodafone, described the cross-domain, cross-layer VPN (CCVPN) use case as a way to orchestrate end-to-end, multi-domain services. This includes the orchestration of an operator’s underlying optical transport network and overlay SD-WAN in a way to support the peering of inter-operator VPN service delivery.
Heeran said this would provide a way to manage those services between an operator’s diverse holdings and operations and also across different operators in different groups. He said this will enable a multi-channel experience anywhere for users.
“If you try to do that now and there is a break in the cycle due to crossing an organization or jurisdiction you will run into a problem,” Heeran said.
Vodafone joined ONAP as a platinum member a year ago. However, the carrier has been relatively quiet publicly on its work within the open source organization. Most of ONAP’s public efforts have been led by operators like AT&T and China Mobile.
“We realized that there is a set of interests near and dear to Vodafone that might not be the same for others.” Heeran said of the current work within ONAP. “We are a very diverse operator,” he added, noting the carrier’s operations across dozens of regions and different business focuses.
Heeran said Vodafone’s efforts with CCVPN were more about providing direction to vendors and suppliers and not so much about the carrier itself taking charge of developing source code and running it themselves.
“This is not something that we traditionally do,” Heeran explained. “We don’t have thousands of developers working the code. We are traditionally very product oriented and have been clear and open about that. But when you get involved in open source it’s important to understand that we are active and contribute.”
While Vodafone’s external virtualization efforts have so far been modest, the carrier has been working internally on evolving its cloud infrastructure. This includes the use of containers to gain further operational efficiencies.
Heeran earlier this year noted the carrier was seeing a dramatic improvement in resource usage from going with containers compared with virtual machines (VMs). He explained that VMs had a minimum bar for resource usage that was more than what is needed for containers. “Containers give a more fine-grained approach,” he said.
Heeran said the carrier was “pretty well down the road to deploying containers in our cloud,” but that on the vendor side, “we are still waiting for them to catch up.”
Further down that road, Heeran said he sees an eventual move toward the greater use of serverless computing architecture to drive greater efficiencies. He noted that containers “are the flavor of today,” but that “serverless is also coming and that will also be part of our cloud plans.”