On April 2nd, the O-RAN Alliance and the Linux Foundation jointly announced the creation of the O-RAN Software Community (O-RAN SC). 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.
Background: 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.
“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 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 www.linuxfoundation.org.
Assessment of Open Networking:
While Open Source Software (e.g. ONAP from ONF, Sonic from OCP) and Hardware (from OCP, TIP, Open RAN consortiums, ONF, etc) for networking is advancing rapidly, Open Networking via SDN, NFV, SD-WAN is really a euphemism for closed networking. That’s because almost all such “Open Networks” are proprietary to either the service provider (e.g. Amazon, Google, AT&T, etc) or SD-WAN vendor (many).
Some hyper-scale cloud providers (e.g. Microsoft) use a mix of open source software and purpose built proprietary software. Others (like Amazon and Google) use only their own (proprietary) software. Open Networking hasn’t much of an impact on the enterprise network yet, because of complex support and training issues. It seems like the main beneficiary of open networking will be Facebook (which started the OCP and TIP) and global telcos/ISPs (e.g. Yahoo Japan).
Telco Focused Open Source Projects:
Telcos such as AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, DTK, and others have embraced open source technologies to move faster into the future. And LF Networking is at the heart of this transformation. AT&T seems to be the leading open source software telco. The company contributed their own software on virtual networks as ONAP to the Linux Foundation. The project is now being used by in production by other companies, and AT&T in return is benefiting from the work the competitors are doing to improve the code base.
AT&T also led the effort on Project CORD (Central Office Rearchitected as a Data center). CORD combines NFV, SDN, and the elasticity of commodity clouds to bring data center economics and cloud agility to the Telco Central Office. CORD lets the network operator manage their Central Offices using declarative modeling languages for agile, real-time configuration of new customer services. Major service providers like AT&T, SK Telecom, Verizon, China Unicom and NTT Communications are already supporting CORD.
AT&T contributed to the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) work on multi-gigabit PON virtual optical line termination hardware abstraction (VOLTHA), which is an open source software stack for PON networks. ONF is now working on integrating the ONAP operating system with multi-gigabit passive optical networks. ONAP was created by the merger of the Open ECOMP platform created by AT&T Labs with a similar, preexisting open source development project.
AT&T and the ONF will build on ongoing field trials of XGS-PON technology designed to support speeds up to 10 Gbps. The current XGS-PON trial is testing multi-gigabit high-speed internet traffic and providing AT&T DirecTV NOW video to trial participants. “Collaboration and openness across AT&T, the ONF and VOLTHA teams will be key to bringing this 10 Gbps broadband network to customers faster,” said Igal Elbaz, AT&T senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, in the press release. “Now that we’ve proven the viability of open access technology in our trials, we can start the integration with our operations and management automation platform – ONAP.
ONF also provides a variety of Reference Designs, which are are “blueprints” developed by ONF’s Operator members to address specific use cases for the emerging edge cloud. Each Reference Design is backed by specific network operator partner(s) who plan to deploy these designs into their production networks and will include participation from invited supply chain partners sharing the vision and demonstrating active investment in building open source solutions.
The Telecom Infra Project aims to collaborate on building new technologies, examining new business approaches, and spurring investment in the telecom space. TIP Project Groups are divided into three strategic networks areas that collectively make up an end-to-end network: Access, Backhaul, and Core and Management. TIP members include operators, suppliers, developers, systems integrators, startups, and other entities that have joined TIP to build new technologies and develop innovative approaches for deploying telecom network infrastructure. Most telco members are outside the U.S. However, Century Link, Cox Communications, Sprint, and Windstream are U.S. based members. Representatives from Deutsche Telekom, BT, Vodafone, and Telefonica are on the TIP Board of Directors.