OCP – Linux Foundation Partnership Accelerates Megatrend of Open Software running on Open Hardware

“From 1876 to 2013 telecom and network equipment design was proprietary….We are now in the 3rd phase of open networking transformation,” said Arpit Joshipura, Linux Foundation GM of Networking at the 2018 OCP Summit.   The network equipment design  transformation is shown in the figure below:

During his OCP Summit keynote speech, Arpit announced a partnership between OCP and the Linux Foundation to further the development of software and hardware-based open source networking. The organizations will work together to create stronger integration and testing, new open networking features, more scalability, a reduction in CAPEX/OPEX, greater harmonization with switch network operating systems, and increased interoperability for network functions virtualization (NFV) network transformation.

Virtualization of network functions and the resulting disaggregation of hardware and software have created interest in open source at both layers. OCP provides an open source option for the hardware layer, and The Linux Foundation’s OPNFV project integrates OCP along with other open source software projects into relevant NFV reference architectures. Given this alignment, OCP and OPNFV already have been collaborating on activities such as plugfests and joint demos. Now they have committed to expanded collaborative efforts which will accelerate the megatrend of totally open networking.

“It’s exciting to see the principles of open source software development come to hardware, and OCP has already made a substantial contribution to some Linux Foundation project plugfests and demos,” said Arpit Joshipura in the referenced press release. “We see OCP as an integral partner as we explore new opportunities for NFV deployments, performance, features, and footprint. Global network operators agree and ranked OCP very high on a list of the most important projects for OPNFV in a recent survey. We look forward to continued and intensified collaboration across ecosystems.”

The key market disruptors- virtualization of equipment functions, software defined networking and disaggregation of equipment are shown below with the applicable software and hardware entities on the left, and sample open source projects on the right of the figure below.

Arpit said the drivers behind this huge move to open source software running on open source hardware are 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).  Mandatory automation of functions (e.g. provisioning and configuration) are (and will be) required to support the high speeds/low latency of 5G and the huge number of IoT endpoints.

The Linux Foundation Networking (LNF) group’s vision includes automating cloud services, network infrastructure, and IoT services as shown in this illustration:

The Linux Foundation Open Source Networking activities include participants from telecom carriers, cloud computing, and enterprises. As shown in the illustration below, 9 out of 10 of the most important projects of participants will use open source software with all 10 of the largest network equipment vendors actively involved and 60% of global subscribers represented.  Shared innovation and a 15 minute “new service creation time” are selected goals of the LFN projects.

The .Linux Foundation is leading the way forward to harmonize open source software efforts and get them into the community. In the figure below, the services, software and infrastructure are shown on the left, the various open source projects are shown in the center, and the various standards organizations (but not the actual standards) are shown on the right.  It should be duly noted that there are no official standards bodies working on open networking specifications to provide multi-vendor interoperability of exposed interfaces or even APIs within a single piece of equipment.

To clarify that point, Arpit wrote via email:  “LFN (which hosts ONAP), is working on de-facto automation open source aspects independent of 5G/4G. The 5G services mandate automation due to IOT and new services that are coming up. The specific specs of 5G are out of scope for Networking Automation. OCP and LFN partnership is limited to what I spoke at the OCP Summit keynote.”

Note:  There are more than 20 open source projects for networking currently active at the Linux Foundation (see above illustration).  LF also has expanded lately into areas as diverse as software for IoT devices, storage and blockchain.  It remains to be seen if the OCP – LNF partnership will create defacto standards (e.g. for virtualization of functions in 5G or IoT) or try to enforce interoperability through certification programs. The current motivation seems to come from carriers like AT&T which are demanding open source software on open source hardware to lower their CAPEX/OPEX and to improve automation of network functions.

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Mr. Joshipura asserted that the LFN+OCP partnership would produce the very best of Open Source Software & Hardware.  The total community collaboration will include: Hardware Vendors + Silicon Vendors + OEM/Manufacturers + Software Vendors, Systems Integrators + End Users.

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Arpit provided a strong conclusion via email:

“Open source networking software is creating de-facto platforms that result in faster innovation across many IT communities. Collaboration between the leaders in open hardware (OCP) and Open Source Software (Linux Foundation Networking) will help propel this even further and broaden the scope of true open networking. This industry collaboration allows faster deployment, but still offers innovation on top.”

 

8 thoughts on “OCP – Linux Foundation Partnership Accelerates Megatrend of Open Software running on Open Hardware

  1. Alan
    The trend was started in Open Source Networking about 5 year ago and we are moving into the production deployment phase now.

    The great aspect of the community is that all top networking vendors are very active in the open source world and collectively moving this megatrend forward,

    So it is true that future is open, the speed at which a legacy vendor changes will determine how well they play in the future landscape, So far they have been contributing well.

    Arpit

  2. What I think will be toast is vendor-developed ASICs. Cisco has long sung the praises of their in-house ASICs over Merchant silicon. See for example: https://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/cisco-cloud-scale-asic-switches-get-a-2-year-advantage-over-merchant-silicon-switches

    Cisco claims that merchant silicon slows product innovation. It sure doesn’t look that way to me. But that may be irrelevant. The cost and risk of developing new ASICs is an ever higher hill for Cisco to climb. It looks like a race they will eventually lose. So, what will be toast is custom silicon. Brocade used custom FPGA code to craft their MLX switch router but has gone to the dark side (merchant silicon) for the MLX successor — and they made this change before the company got broken into bits and redistributed. I suspect Cisco will be reduced to competing on basis of their software quality alone.

  3. Jim, thanks for your incisive comment! What about other network equipment companies – Lake Juniper Nokia Ericcson, etc. – how will they survive a world of Open Source software running on open Hardware which has become commoditized and very low cost?

  4. Jim, thanks for your incisive comment! What about other network equipment companies – like Juniper, Nokia,
    Ericcson, etc. – how will they survive a world of Open Source software running on open Hardware which has become commoditized and very low cost?

  5. On April 2, 2019, the O-RAN Alliance (www.o-ran.org) and the Linux Foundation (https://www.linuxfoundation.org) jointly announced the creation of the O-RAN Software Community (O-RAN SC) (www.o-ran-sc.org).

    The telecom industry is experiencing a profound transformation and 5G is expected to radically change how we live, work, and play. This means it’s critical to make network infrastructure commercially available as quickly as possible to ensure business success for operators. It’s time to turn to open source, as it is one of the most efficient ways to accelerate product development in a collaborative and cost-efficient way.

    The O-RAN SC will provide open software aligned with the O-RAN Alliance’s open architecture. As a new open source community under the Linux Foundation, the O-RAN SC is sponsored by the O-RAN Alliance, and together they will develop open source software enabling modular, open, intelligent, efficient, and agile disaggregated radio access networks. The initial set of software projects may include: near-real-time RAN intelligent controller (nRT RIC), non-real-time RAN intelligent controller (NRT RIC), cloudification and virtualization platforms, open central unit (O-CU), open distributed unit (O-DU), and a test and integration effort to provide a working reference implementation. Working with other adjacent open source networking communities, the O-RAN SC will enable collaborative development across the full operator network stack.

    “This collaboration between the O-RAN Alliance and the Linux Foundation is a tremendous accomplishment that represents the culmination of years of thoughtful innovation around the next generation of networks,” said Andre Fuetsch, Chairman of the O-RAN Alliance, and President of AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer at AT&T. “The launch of the O-RAN SC marks the next phase of that innovation, where the benefits of disaggregated and software-centric platforms will move out to the edge of the network. This new open source community will be critical if 5G is to reach its full potential.”

    “We are really excited to see the establishment of the O-RAN Open Source Community,” said Chih-Lin I, chief scientist of China Mobile, co-chair of the O-RAN Technical Steering Committee and member of the Executive Committee of the O-RAN Alliance. “The O-RAN Alliance is aiming at building an ‘Open’ and ‘Smart’ Radio Access Network for future wireless systems. From day one, the Alliance has embraced open source as one of the most powerful means to achieve its vision. The O-RAN Open Source Community is the fruit of a yearlong extensive deliberation between the O-RAN Alliance and the Linux Foundation. We believe that the power of open source will further the momentum and accelerate the development, test, commercialization and deployment of O-RAN solutions.”

    “We are excited to collaborate with O-RAN Alliance in bringing communities together to create software for this important access area of Telecommunications,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge & IOT, the Linux Foundation. “This step towards execution marks another major milestone in networking partnerships across standards and open source organizations.”

    About O-RAN Alliance
    The O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide, carrier-led effort to drive new levels of openness in the radio access network of next generation wireless systems. Future RANs will be built on a foundation of virtualized network elements, white-box hardware and standardized interfaces that fully embrace O-RAN’s core principles of intelligence and openness. An ecosystem of innovative new products is already emerging that will form the underpinnings of the multi-vendor, interoperable, autonomous RAN, envisioned by many in the past, but only now enabled by the global industry-wide vision, commitment and leadership of O-RAN Alliance members and contributors.
    More information about O-RAN can be found at http://www.o-ran.org.

    About the Linux Foundation
    Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more. The Linux Foundation’s methodology focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration. For more information please visit us at http://www.linuxfoundation.org.

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