ONAP is changing the fabric of telecoms – here’s how
The fabric of telecom is changing…with open source
To say that the telecom sector has undergone dramatic transformation in recent years would be a gross understatement.
Designed for voice services, telecom networks have had to keep pace with the capacity needs of ever more data-hungry applications. At the same time, operators have faced intense competitive pressure. This has come not only from other service providers but also from cloud players entering the fray with more agile business models and cut-rate services.
In response, networks have evolved from the monolithic, specialized structures of old to adopting low-cost, off-the-shelf cloud infrastructure solutions, while moving intelligence and functionality into software. This network virtualization enables operators to slash costs and take new services to market in a fraction of the time it used to take. It also affects the very fabric of our industry as traditional business models are replaced with new ones, not least open source collaboration.
ONAP, the open-source network automation platform, is a good example of this.
To start with, any operator intending to virtualize their network needs automation and orchestration technology. This will enable them to handle previously manual tasks, such as allocating bandwidth or designing and provisioning services, automatically – at the proverbial touch of a button.
Such a platform needs to have a high level of interoperability so it can interact easily with a wide range of vendor products. The fact that adoption of NFV/SDN networks has been hampered by the lack of a standardized automation platform is testament to this.
In the past, finding that technological ‘common ground’ would have led to a standardization committee being set up to define a framework which individual vendor solutions must interoperate with.
In contrast, ONAP is created by members of the industry, who pool their resources and work in collaboration where they may previously have competed.
Many hands make light work
While ONAP is not the first open source initiative in telecommunications, jointly creating software code that is free for anyone to use represents a fundamental shift for an industry built on proprietary solutions and vendors’ intellectual property.
One key advantage is that the more developers can work on ONAP code, the quicker it will be available to operators who want to virtualize their networks. For them, ONAP will be a major shortcut, saving them the time and expense of undertaking their own development or working with vendors to achieve the same. This is expected to speed the adoption of NFV/SDN networks significantly.
Making the switch
Having a standardized platform which works with a large range of vendor solutions will also make service providers’ relationship with vendors less ‘sticky’.
With a range of ONAP-ready products to choose from, it will be easier for service providers to combine ‘best of breed’ technology from different sources in their networks.
What is more, switching vendors will become much more straightforward. Rather than a lengthy migration from one proprietary solution to another, changing suppliers will be more like moving between different Linux distributions. While there may be some proprietary quirks to each flavour of ONAP, the underlying code will fundamentally remain the same.
Adopting the cloud model
Ultimately, ONAP will help contribute to a lower cost base and increase the scope for innovating faster around NFV and SDN services. This will make operators’ strategies and business models much more akin to those of cloud service providers, such as AWS and Google, boosting the agility and efficiency with which they can respond to the market.
This blog is part of our ONAP Insider series, which takes you behind the scenes, offering a more in-depth look at the workings of ONAP, how it is changing business models, simplifying network design and untapping new business opportunities for service providers, content developers and end-users.