During a Tuesday morning “disruptive collaboration” keynote at the Open Network Summit (ONS), John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer at AT&T, revealed that the company had “software defined” 34% of its network by the end of 2016, which exceeded its goal of 30%. This year’s goal of 55% network virtualization (via an overlay network*) will be a major milestone.
“When you get to 55% there’s no turning back,” said Donovan. “You’re more software-defined than you are not software-defined. When you hit that tipping point you start to say, OK, now what? Now what do we do when we have a software-defined network and how do we capitalize on it?”
* Note: Network virtualization via an overlay network is to be contrasted with pure SDN which requires an entire new network infrastructure consisting of a centralized SDN controller for path computations and L3 packet/L2 frame forwarding engines.
The next step for AT&T is “Network 3.0 Indigo” which makes heavy use of ECOMP  – the orchestration platform AT&T created to power their version of software-defined network. [See Andre Fuetsch’s comments below on current uses for ECOMP].
Donovan reminded the audience that in February 2017, AT&T announced it was moving its ECOMP platform code to the Linux Foundation where it was then merged with the Open Orchestrator (ON-O) initiative [one of two major Linux Foundation open source MANO (management and organization) projects] and is now called Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) .
Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, said during this same keynote, “We have over seven global operators representing nearly two billion mobile subscribers participating in the ONAP project.” Fuetsch also said there were significantly more operators planning to join the ONAP initiative in coming months, representing another one-third of global operators.
“ONAP is about many things, but what is most important is about working together as a common aligned community to innovate and deploy faster,” Andre said. “It’s about working together to build new things and not the same things twice,” he added.
Fuetch also said that, “ECOMP is a model driven operating system for SDN automation. It’s been in production for 2 1/2 years and supports over 100 different Virtual Network Functions (VNFs).” He added that VoLTE calls were partly handled by ECOMP which also supports AT&T’s Mobile Packet Core (MPC) and manages wavelengths on the telco’s optical transport network.
Note 1. ECOMP = Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy. It provides the necessary software automation platform that enabled AT&T to achieve aggressive network virtualization goals across enterprise, infrastructure, mobility and consumer use cases.
Note 2. The Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Project brings together top global carriers and vendors with the goal of allowing end users to automate, design, orchestrate and manage services and virtual functions. ONAP unites two major open networking and orchestration projects, open source ECOMP and the Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O), with the mission of creating a unified architecture and implementation and supporting collaboration across the open source community. The ONAP Project is a Linux Foundation project. For more information on ONAP, please visit https://www.onap.org.
This new ONAP project seems to be led by AT&T and China Mobile, but has gotten huge support from other telco’s and network equipment vendors. At ONS this week, it was announced that group’s 27 members now include about 33% of global network operators, which deliver wireless services to 38% of the world’s mobile subscribers. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator with 800 million subscribers. New ONAP member (see below for complete list of new members) Reliance Jio claims to be the largest 4G network operator in India with 100 million total subscribers.
“We’re excited to see how developers and others in the industry contribute to the ONAP code,” said Chris Rice, ONAP Chair and Senior Vice President, AT&T Labs. “Today is an important day for ONAP and open networking. Collaboration is key in open source projects and we’re looking forward to the community’s efforts to harden the production-ready code.”
The ONAP code base was said to be production-ready and in use. Open source software developers are invited to access it at https://git.onap.org/.
Harmonization of Open Source Projects:
ONAP represents a significant example of what the Linux Foundation calls “harmonization” – the coordinated collaboration and sometimes combination of what has become a plethora of open source networking groups, often with competing or overlapping objectives and functionality. Therefore, it will be important to observe if the combination of the two approaches to network orchestration actually produces something stronger than the individual efforts, without losing momentum in the process.
Mazin Gilbert, VP of advanced technologies and architecture at AT&T, will head the ONAP Technical Steering Committee. He said that ONAP will issue its first software release in the fourth quarter of 2017. Gilbert noted the modular approach each project has taken will make it easier to merge them.
“You have to realize with ECOMP you have about 8.5 million lines of code,” said Gilbert. “Open-O is the same caliber. By definition, it’s complicated. We have spent a lot of time working with the Linux Foundation. We agree on the principles. Now we go into the details. As a community we, by the last quarter of this year, will make a release, and it will be a joint release.”
Yachen Wang, deputy director of network technology at China Mobile Research Institute said, “On behalf of ONAP members, I would like to welcome the new members to the team. We anticipate close collaboration that will further the automation of SDN and NFV networks, and will enable all the community to take advantage of the best architectural components and implementation from ONAP.” Yang also said that developing a target architecture that considers OSSs as well as NFV/SDN and service delivery is another major issue.
Margaret Chiosi (x-AT&T lifer, NFV pioneer and now with Huawei) said during her Wednesday morning keynote:
“You have all these open source pieces — they are great initial pieces, but you can’t just clean it up and run it, because it’s not complete,” Chiosi said, in an interview following her keynote presentation here. “The challenge for the industry is how do we get from here to production — there are a lot of gaps.”
There are two open source projects devoted to SDN controllers — OpenDaylight and ONOS — and Huawei participates in both, but has created its own controller, taking what it sees as the best of breed from both projects.
During a Thursday morning ONS panel session on Harmonizing Open Source Networking, Linux Foundation Networking General Manager (long time friend of IEEE and this author) Arpit Joshipura noted that AT&Ts ECOMP framework consisted of eight modules, while the work done by Open-O resulted in code that’s been consolidated into three additional modules. Both ECOMP and Open-O had orchestrators – ECOMP had a master service orchestrator while Open-O had a global service orchestrator. The way to blend them is to combine all the orchestration ECOMP provides with Yang models and all orchestration from Open-O with its Tosca data model. Arpit believes these two orchestration methods are complementary.
Moving forward, in terms of who wins when there are disputes about code, Joshipura said, “Linux has set governance. It’s always meritocracy. The right answer wins.” We couldn’t agree more!
Finally, the ONAP Governing Board members this week elected the following individuals to serve as officers:
- Chair: Chris Rice, SVPYachen Wang of AT&T Labs
- President: Yachen Wang, deputy director of the Network Technology Department at China Mobile Research Institute
- Treasurer: Vincent Danno, director of Wireline Standards of the Innovation Technical & Marketing at Orange
In closing, Arpit said: “We congratulate the Governing Board officers on their election to serve. They will be responsible for working with other members to support the ecosystem growing around the project, while technical governance remains separate in the hands of the developer community.”