Windstream Joins ONAP & Open Source Telco Movement Led by AT&T/ China

Windstream Communications has become a corporate member of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Linux Foundation project, joining an open-source technology initiative for the first time.

ONAP was formed through the merger of open source ECOMP (contributed by AT&T) and Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O), two of the largest open source networking initiatives.  It was the big hit of the 2017 Open Networking Summit as we reported in this blog post.

The ONAP Project is focused on creating a harmonized and comprehensive framework for real-time, policy-driven software automation of virtual network functions. ONAP includes participation by prominent networking suppliers and industry-leading service providers from around the world. It’s primary objective is to enable software, network, IT, and cloud providers and developers to rapidly create new services which can be monetized.

The ONAP draft architectural principles, presented at their May 2017 meeting at AT&T Bell Labs in NJ, can be read here.


“Combined with our rapid advances in SDN, Windstream’s participation in ONAP increases the value of our network for all of our customers, as we move to virtualization and cloud-based technologies that offer affordable and efficient next-generation services,” said Art Nichols, vice president of network architecture and technology for Windstream.

“For example, not only does our SDNow solution offer automation and accelerated service delivery, but it forges the path that will allow us to deliver flexible, on-demand services across our multi-vendor network ecosystem.”

“Traditionally, we have always worked with engineering groups and maybe a little bit with IT on the back side” in planning this kind of transition, Windstream’s Jeff Brown told Light Reading in an interview.

“In this new world, you are blending IT and engineering and a lot of crossover resources. So, from the IT perspective, [ONAP] was called out as a group that was taking the leadership role as far as developing open standard work with other companies we have similarities with and with some of our vendors as well.”

Windstream has been informally monitoring multiple open source efforts and supporting the concept of open source for some time now, Brown told Light Reading.  The move to more actively engage in orchestration through ONAP was driven by the growing influence of Windstream’s IT department in its transition to software-defined networking, he added.

“In any type of industry forum, whether standards-based or not, you have to make the determination of what kind of resources you can dedicate to it,” Brown notes. Having just come out of meetings around MEF and proofs-of-concept for its 2017 event, he says the same discussions come up there. “We don’t have groups allocated that can do that type of thing and work with vendors,” he says.

Windstream is the third North American service provider to join, after AT&T and Bell Canada Enterprises. ONAP now has 17 platinum and 22 silver members. The other service providers signed onto this Linux Foundation project include China Mobile, China Telecom, Orange, China Unicom and PCCW.
Carol Wilson of Light Reading opined that Windstream is likely to start off with ONAP as more of an observer than a leader. “Although that may change over time,” Brown said.  The next ONAP meeting is being held in China, and Brown is unsure whether the company will send a representative as a result.
“That [long distance travel] would be highly unusual for us.” Brown added that joining ONAP and getting more involved over time is nonetheless important because of the need to speed up the process of getting to industry consensus, moving faster than the traditional telecom standards process.
“It’s no doubt that waiting for standards to develop in the traditional telecom community can be quite painstaking….We have seen other greenfield entrants, hyperscale companies, come in with an open source approach with no standards and make a huge commercial presence, impacting markets in a big way very quickly.  That is the kind of agility and nimbleness we need to thrive in the industry.”
In the long run, open source “is just a means to an end to be able to provide our solutions,” he told Light Reading, enabling the telecom industry to coalesce “around things similar to what we are seeing [with] all the web-scale providers.”

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