How ONAP will transform the dynamics of the telecom marketplace
Open-O and ECOMP tie the knot
Today, the Linux Foundation announced that it would merge two concurrent projects, Open Source ECOMP and OPEN-O. Both aim to create a standardized management and automation platform for NFV/SDN networks. The new project will be called Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP).
Creating common ground for innovation
Combining two open-source initiatives targeting the same outcome seems like a no-brainer. But what concrete benefits will this bring to the telecoms sector? And how else might a standardised, open-source NFV/SDN automation platform affect our industry?
The fact that there are numerous open source projects trying to solve the issue of orchestration and automation in virtualised networks underlines the fact that operators urgently need a streamlined way to manage their networks and launch new VNFs and services at the click of a button.
In practical terms, you could say that the aim of standardizing on an automation and orchestration platform is to create a ‘Windows’ for telecoms: a common, widely accepted technology platform for service and app innovation.
Achieving critical mass
Getting a large share of the industry to buy into one single standard has obvious advantages. The bigger the open source community working on this, the faster ONAP can reach the level of maturity, scale and performance needed for it to run live networks. That AT&T’s ECOMP is already in production within the AT&T network and is also being tested by Orange and Bell Canada will be an advantage for ONAP’s evolution.
ECOMP was originally designed by AT&T and co-created with Amdocs. Over the last year, it has won the support of Orange and Bell Canada, and become an open-source project. Open-O has backing from operators like China Mobile, China Telecom and Hong Kong Telecom, along with vendors such as Ericsson and Intel. These are all large industry players with significant contingents of software developers, and as more operator and vendor partners come on board, this will boost ONAP’s momentum.
Not only will joining forces up the numbers of those helping to take ONAP to maturity more quickly. The scale of the project should also give ONAP a large share in the automation and orchestration market.
This may create the critical mass needed to achieve two important goals. Firstly, it will provide a strong argument for more industry players to join ONAP. Secondly, wide industry support will convince more operators to opt for ONAP as an orchestration and automation platform. This will, in turn, contribute to it becoming the de-facto industry standard for automation and orchestration.
Giving service providers greater independence
It’s also clear that a harmonized standard will make life easier, cheaper and faster for operators and vendors alike.
For example, rather than spending months tweaking the interactions between a new VNF and the service provider network, these can be pre-configured automatically.
The open source approach gives complete transparency of the platform’s code, which means that operators can make adjustments at any time.
Longer-term, the standard will also affect the cost and ease of switching VNF supplier, reducing the vendor dependence and ‘lock-in’ typical with proprietary solutions.
A change of business model
This has significant implications for the established operator-vendor relationship. Rather than being somewhat opposing forces, ONAP will usher in a new collaborative relationship between the two.
Vendors will benefit from becoming ONAP ‘insiders’ ensuring that they remain attractive as integrators and co-developers for ONAP rollouts. For operators, it will mean clawing back accountability for their network, and taking on more of the responsibilities typically borne by vendors.
In conclusion, if the Linux Foundation can build on the momentum behind ECOMP and OPEN-O to push ONAP to maturity, this may drive the current business models in telecoms into a brand-new age.