In a move that will help promote multi-vendor interoperability, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) today announced the formation of the SD-RAN project (Software Defined Radio Access Network) to pursue the creation of open source software platforms and multi-vendor solutions for mobile 4G and 5G RAN deployments. Initially, the project will focus on building an open source Near Real-Time RAN Intelligent Controller (nRT-RIC) compatible with the O-RAN architecture.
The new SD-RAN project is backed by a consortium of leading operators and aligned technology companies and organizations that together are committed to creating a truly open RAN ecosystem. Founding members include AT&T, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Intel, NTT, Radisys and Sercomm. All the project members will be actively contributing, and this includes the operators contributing use cases and trialing the results, according to the ONF. However, the larger cellular base station vendors that are ONF members, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, Fujitsu, NEC were silent on their participation in this SD-RAN project.
There may be some confusion caused by ONF’s SD-RAN project as it is the third Open RAN consortium. The O-RAN Alliance and TIP Open RAN project are working on open source hardware and open interfaces for disaggregated RAN equipment, like a 4G/5G combo base station.
In a brief video chat yesterday, Timon Sloane, VP of Ecosystem and Marketing for ONF told me that this new ONF SD-RAN project would be in close contact with the other two Open RAN consortiums and distinguished itself from them by producing OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE for disaggregated RAN equipment—something he said the O-RAN Alliance and TIP Open RAN project were NOT doing.
That should go a long way in dispelling that confusion, but it nonetheless presents a challenge on how three consortiums can effectively work together to produce meaningful open source software code (ONF) and hardware (O-RAN Alliance and TIP) specifications with joint compliance testing to ensure multi-vendor interoperability.
Sloane told Matt Kapko of SDXCentral: “The operators really are pushing for separation of hardware and software and for enabling new innovations to come in in software without it being tightly coupled to the hardware that they purchase. And xApps are where the functionality of the RAN is to be housed, and so in order to do this in a meaningful way you have to be able to do meaningful functions in these xApps,” Sloane said.
However, no mention was made in the ONF press release of a liaison with either 3GPP or ITU-R WP5D which are producing the standards and specs for 5G and have already done so for 4G-LTE. Neither of the aforementioned O-RAN consortiums have liaisons with those entities either.
There are other complications with Open RAN (independent of SD-RAN), such as U.S. government’s attempt to cripple Huawei and other China telecom equipment vendors, need for a parallel wireless infrastructure, legacy vs greenfield carriers. These are addressed in Comment and Analysis section below.
Central to the project is the development of an open source near-real time RIC called µONOS-RIC (pronounced “micro-ONOS-RIC”).
µONOS is a microservices-based SDN controller created by the refactoring and enhancement of ONOS, the leading SDN controller for operators in production tier-1 networks worldwide. µONOS-RIC is built on µONOS, and hence features a cloud-native design supporting active-active clustering for scalability, performance and high availability along with the real-time capabilities needed for intelligent RAN control.
µONOS-RIC is designed to control an array of multi-vendor open RAN equipment consistent with the O-RAN ALLIANCE architecture. In particular, the O-RAN ALLIANCE E2 interface is used to interface between µONOS-RIC and vendor supplied RAN RU/DU/CU RAN components.
xApps running on top of the µONOS-RIC are responsible for functionality that traditionally has been implemented in vendor-proprietary implementations. A primary goal of the SD-RAN project (and, not coincidentally, for the operators who founded the O-RAN consortium) is to enable an external intelligent controller to control the RAN so that operators have both visibility and control over their RAN networks, thus giving operators ownership and control over how spectrum is utilized and optimized along with the tools to deliver an optimal experience for users and applications.
Relationship to O-RAN Alliance, O-RAN Software Community and TIP:
The participating members of the SD-RAN project plan to implement, prototype and trial an advanced architecture that enables intelligent RIC xApps to control a broad spectrum of SON and RRM functionality that historically has been implemented as vendor-proprietary features on bespoke base station equipment and platforms. SD-RAN’s focus and goals are complementary to various efforts across the industry, including work taking place within the O-RAN ALLIANCE, the O-RAN Software Community and the TIP OpenRAN Project Group.
SD-RAN will follow O-RAN specifications as they are developed and will also make use of components of existing open source to facilitate interoperability. As the project pioneers new functionality, all extensions and learnings that come from building the system will be contributed back to O-RAN ALLIANCE, with the intent that these extensions can inform and advance the O-RAN specifications.
The SD-RAN work inside the ONF community will take place in parallel with work being contributed to the O-RAN Software Community. The intent is for interoperable implementations to come out of both efforts, so that a mix of open source and vendor proprietary components can be demonstrated and ultimately deployed.
Timing and Availability:
The SD-RAN project already has a working skeleton prototype of the µONOS-RIC controller above a RAN emulation platform through the E2 interface. This implementation is demonstrating handover and load balancing at scale, supporting over 100 base stations and 100,000 user devices with less than 50ms handover latency (less than 10ms latency for 99% of all handovers).
The SD-RAN community is advancing towards a field trial by early 2021, working with RAN vendors to integrate carrier-grade RU/DU/CU components while in parallel implementing xApps to demonstrate SON and RRM functionality. Interested parties are encouraged to contact ONF for additional information.
Quotes Supporting the SD-RAN Project:
“AT&T strongly supports the development of specifications and components that can help drive openness and innovation in the RAN ecosystem. The O-RAN ALLIANCE’s specifications are enabling the ecosystem, with a range of companies and organizations creating both open source and proprietary implementations that are bringing the open specifications to life. The ONF SD-RAN project, along with the O-RAN OSC, will expand the ecosystem with an nRT-RIC that can support xApps and help demonstrate their interoperability. This project will help accelerate the transition to an open RAN future.”
Andre Fuetsch, President and Chief Technology Officer, AT&T Labs
“China Mobile co-founded O-RAN in order to promote both the opening of the RAN ecosystem for multi-vendor solutions and the realization of RAN with native intelligence for performance and cost improvement. An open nRT-RIC with support for open xApps that go beyond policy-based control and SON to also enhance Radio Resource Management (RRM) will make it possible for operators to optimize resource utilization and application performance. We are excited to see the development of an open nRT-RIC and xApps in the SD-RAN project led by ONF, and expect this work to help advance the state-of-art for open and intelligent RAN.”
Dr. Chih-Lin I, Chief Scientist, Wireless Technologies, China Mobile
“China Unicom has been a long-term partner with ONF. We continue to see the benefits of the ONF’s work and the impact it has on our industry. The SD-RAN project is now applying the ONF’s proven strategy for disaggregating and creating open source implementations to the 5G RAN space in order to foster innovation and ecosystem transformation. We are excited by this work, and are committed to trialing a solution as it becomes available.”
Dr. Xiongyan Tang, Network Technology Research Institute, China Unicom
“Deutsche Telekom is a huge believer in applying disaggregation and open source principles for our next-generation networks. DT has ONF’s mobile core platform (OMEC) in production and we are taking ONF’s broadband access (SEBA/VOLTHA) platform to production towards the end of 2020. This journey has shown us the tremendous value that is created when we can build solutions based on interoperable multi-vendor components intermixed with open source components. ONF’s SD-RAN project is leveraging these same principles to help accelerate innovation in the RAN domain, and we are excited to be an active collaborator in this journey.”
Dr. Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom
“Connectivity is an integral part of Facebook’s focus to bring people closer together. We work closely with partners to develop programs and technologies that make connectivity more affordable and accessible. Through our collaboration with ONF on their SD-RAN project, we look forward to engaging with the community to improve connectivity experiences for many people around the world.”
Aaron Bernstein, Facebook’s Director of Connectivity Ecosystem Programs
“Google is an advocate for SDN, disaggregation and open source, and we are excited to see these principles now being applied to the RAN domain. ONF’s SD-RAN project’s ambition to create an open source RIC can help invigorate innovation across the mobile domain.”
Ankur Jain, Distinguished Engineer, Google
“Intel is an active participant of the ONF’s SD-RAN project to advance the development of open RAN implementations on high volume servers. ONF has been leading the industry with advanced open source implementations in the areas of disaggregated Mobile Core, e.g. the Open Mobile Evolved Core (OMEC), and we look forward to continuing to innovate by applying proven principles of disaggregation, open source and AI/ML to the next stepping stone in this journey – the RAN. SD-RAN will be optimized to leverage powerful performance, AI/ML, and security enhancements, which are essential for 5G and available in Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors, network adapters and switching technologies, including Data-Plane Development Kit (DPDK) and Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX).”
Pranav Mehta, Vice President of Systems and Software Research, Intel Labs
“NTT sees great value in transforming the RAN domain in order to foster innovation and multi-vendor interoperability. We are excited to be part of the SD-RAN ecosystem, and look forward to working with the community to develop open source components that can be intermixed with vendor proprietary elements using standard O-RAN interfaces.”
Dai Kashiwa, Evangelist, Director of NTT Communications
“Radisys is excited to be a founding member of the SD-RAN project, and we are committed to integrating our RAN software implementation (CU & DU) with O-RAN interfaces to the µONOS-RIC controller and xApps being developed by the SD-RAN project community. This effort has the potential to accelerate the adoption of O-RAN based RIC implementation and xApps, and we are committed to working with this community to advance the open RAN agenda.”
Arun Bhikshesvaran, CEO, Radisys
“As a leading manufacturer of small cell RAN equipment and an avid supporter of the open RAN movement, Sercomm is excited to collaborate with the SD-RAN community to open E2 interfaces and migrate some of our near-real-time functionalities from the RAN equipment into xApps running the μONOS-RIC controller. This is a nascent yet dynamic area full of potential, and we are committed to working with the SD-RAN ecosystem to build solutions ready for trials and deployment.”
Ben Lin, CTO and Co-Founder, Sercomm
“TIP’s OpenRAN solutions are an important element of our work to accelerate innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core and Services. We are excited about the collaboration between our RIA subgroup and ONF’s SD-RAN project to accelerate RAN disaggregation and adoption of open interfaces. Through this collaboration we will enable the OpenRAN ecosystem to leverage the strengths of data science and AI/ML technologies to set new industry benchmarks on performance, efficiency and total cost of ownership.”
Attilio Zani, Executive Director for Telecom Infra Project (TIP)
Comment and Analysis of Open RAN Market:
Disclaimer: Like all IEEE Techblog posts, opinions, comment and analysis are ALWAYS by the authors and do NOT EVER represent an opinion or position by IEEE or the IEEE Communications Society. This should be obvious to all in the 11 1/2 years of this author’s contribution to the IEEE Techblog and its predecessor- ComSoc Community blogs.
Besides NOT having a liaison with either 3GPP or ITU-R, the following Open RAN issues may limit its market potential. These are NOT specific to the ONF SD-RAN project, but generic to Open RAN deployments.
- U.S. officials promoting Open RAN as a way to decrease the dominance of Huawei, the world’s biggest vendor of mobile equipment by market share and also to thwart the rise of other vendors like ZTE and China Information and Communication Technology Group (CICT) which recently won a small part of s China Mobile contract. Obviously, China’s government will fight back and NOT allow any version of Open RAN to be deployed in China (likely to be the world’s biggest 5G market by far)! That despite China Mobile and China Unicom’s expressed interest in Open RAN (see Quotes above). Remember, that the three big China carriers (China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom) are all state owned.
- Dual infrastructure: If a legacy wireless carrier deploys Open RAN, existing wireless infrastructure equipment (base stations, small cells, cell tower equipment, backhaul, etc) must remain in place to support its customers. Open RAN gear (with new fronthaul and backhaul) won’t have wide coverage area for many years. Therefore, current customers can’t simply be switched over from legacy wireless infrastructure to Open RAN gear. That means that a separate separate and distinct WIRELESS INFRASTRUCTURE NETWORK must be built and physically installed for Open RAN gear. Yet no one seems to talk or write about that! Why not?
- Open RAN is really only for greenfield carriers with NO EMBEDDED WIRELESS INFRASTRUCTURE. Rakuten and Dish Network are two such carriers ideally suited to Open RAN. That despite a lot of noise from AT&T and Deutsche Telekom about Open RAN trials. All the supporting quotes from legacy carriers are indicative of their interest in open source software AND hardware: to break the stranglehold the huge wireless equipment vendors have on cellular infrastructure and its relatively high costs of their proprietary network equipment and element management systems.
- Open RAN should definitely lower initial deployment costs (CAPEX), but may result in INCREASED maintenance cost (OPEX) due to the difficulty of ensuring multi-vendor interoperability, systems integration and MOST IMPORTANTLY tech support with fault detection and rapid restoration of service.
Considering all of the above, one may conclude that traditional cellular infrastructure, based on vendor specific equipment and proprietary interfaces, will remain in place for many years to come. As a result, Open RAN becomes a decent market for greenfield carriers and a small market (trial or pilot networks) for legacy carriers, which become brownfield carriers after Open RAN is commercially available to provide their cellular services.
Given a smaller than commonly believed market for Open RAN, this author believes the SD-RAN project is a very good idea. That’s because it will make open source software available for Open RAN equipment, something that neither the O-RAN Alliance of TIP Open RAN project are doing. Of course, having more vendors producing Open RAN white boxes and software does add to the systems integration and tech support that only large (tier 1) telcos (like AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, NTT and cloud companies (like Google, Facebook, Microsoft) have the staff to support.
In a follow up phone conversation today, Timon Sloane told me that network operators want a fully functional and powerful RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) to gain visibility and control over their RANs, but that has yet to be realized. To date, such controllers have been proprietary, rather than open source software.
The ONF µONOS-RIC is a key software module to realize that vision, Timon said. It is very much like a (near) real time operating system for an Open RAN. If successful, it will go a long way to promote multi-vendor interoperability for Open RAN deployments. Success and good luck ONF!
Mavenir and Altiostar are among a number of networking software start-ups focusing on delivering Open RAN solutions to wireless network operators . Both companies specialize in cloud telecoms software – so one would expect them to be competing with each other. However, they have decided to collaborate to deliver a wide portfolio of radios based on OpenRAN principles for the US market.
Both companies will be supporting the development of radios through third party OEM’s that will be based on O-RAN open interfaces and will address the frequencies of Tier-1 and Regional/Rural operators in the US.
The two companies will NOT design or build the radios themselves, which is not within the scope of networking software startups. In essence, they will be using O-RAN compliant radios built by (mostly Asian) OEMs/ODMs- many of which are members of the O-RAN Alliance. One has to wonder, however, why such an agreement is necessary? Why aren’t O-RAN compliant interface specifications complete and well enough accepted to ensure multi-vendor interoperability?
The joint press release answers those questions:
“Very few companies are participating in the current (OpenRAN) supply chain and mostly offering proprietary radio solutions lacking open interfaces that are not interoperable with other network elements. In addition, the requirement to procure products from trusted vendors in the US market is also causing operators to reconsider supplier options. OpenRAN radios provide new possibilities for operators to implement a secure, cost effective and best of breed solution as networks move to 5G and beyond.”
Parallel Wireless CEO Steve Papa commented to Light Reading that Open RAN (aka O-RAN) “will only be as good as the radios that are available,” he said. “If Ericsson and Nokia are struggling to be competitive with Huawei’s radios, we should not expect O-RAN to magically solve this problem by using the same semiconductors available to Ericsson and Nokia at present.”
Papa blames a lack of U.S. semiconductor innovation for Huawei’s lead in radios. He has repeatedly urged U.S. authorities to pump an extra $1 billion into radio semiconductor research. He has even suggested using the $1 billion the US recently fined Ericsson for corruption, a remark that is unlikely to win him many friends in Stockholm.
As part of this effort, it is also planned to have these radios available to support the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act that was signed into law on March 12, 2020.
Public Law No: 116-124 (03/12/2020)
Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019
This bill establishes (1) a mechanism to prevent communications equipment or services that pose a national security risk from entering U.S. networks, and (2) a program to remove any such equipment or services currently used in U.S. networks.
Specifically, the bill prohibits the use of certain federal funds to obtain communications equipment or services from a company that poses a national security risk to U.S. communications networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must publish and maintain a list of such equipment or services.
Each communications provider must submit an annual report to the FCC regarding whether it has purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained any prohibited equipment and, if so, provide a detailed justification for such action.
The bill also establishes the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program to supply small communications providers (i.e., providers with 2 million or fewer customers) with funds to offset the cost of removing prohibited equipment or services from their networks and replacing it with more secure communications equipment or services.
In addition, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration must establish a program to share information regarding supply chain security risks with trusted communications providers and suppliers.
For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos
“Altiostar has been at the forefront of the OpenRAN movement that is now being embraced by mobile operators around the world,” said Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar Networks. “Our collaboration with Mavenir on OpenRAN radios will ensure operators in the US have a truly open end-to-end infrastructure that will be cost effective and allows them to grow their business.”
“We are collaborating with Altiostar to realize the full promise of OpenRAN. Our Radios will have O-RAN compliant interfaces and will interwork with other vendors’ solutions,” said Pardeep Kohli, President and CEO of Mavenir. “I encourage other companies in the OpenRAN Policy Coalition to open their radios and ensure a broad supply of radios with open interfaces that are interoperable with third party equipment.”
Mavenir and Altiostar have committed to work together to develop a full set of FCC banded radios to be available starting June 2020, with a complete set of radios in the market by Q1 2021. The parties are also committed to making these OpenRAN radios available to be sourced by all OpenRAN vendors and system integrators, widening the OpenRAN supply chain in the US market to meet the frequency band needs of Tier-1 and Regional/Rural operators.
Members of the Open RAN Policy Coalition include Airspan, Altiostar, AT&T, AWS, Cisco, CommScope, Dell, DISH Network, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Microsoft, NEC Corporation, NewEdge Signal Solutions, Nokia, NTT, Oracle, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, Rakuten Mobile, Samsung Electronics America, Telefónica, US Cellular, US Ignite, Verizon, VMWare, Vodafone, World Wide Technology, and XCOM-Labs.
Other software start-ups that are pursuing Open RAN include Parallel Wireless, Robin io., WiSig Networks, and several others. This author has talked with principals of Robin.io and WiSig who have been invited to write guest articles about their work for the IEEE Techblog.
Below is the O-RAN reference architecture model:
Mavenir is the industry’s only end-to-end, cloud-native Network Software and Solutions/Systems Integration Provider for 4G and 5G, focused on accelerating software network transformation for Communications Service Providers (CSPs). Mavenir offers a comprehensive end-to-end product portfolio across every layer of the network infrastructure stack. From 5G application/service layers to packet core and RAN, Mavenir leads the way in evolved, cloud-native networking solutions enabling innovative and secure experiences for end users. Leveraging innovations in IMS (VoLTE, VoWiFi, Advanced Messaging (RCS)), Private Networks as well as vEPC, 5G Core and OpenRAN vRAN, Mavenir accelerates network transformation for more than 250+ CSP customers in over 140 countries, which serve over 50% of the world’s subscribers.
Mavenir embraces disruptive, innovative technology architectures and business models that drive service agility, flexibility, and velocity. With solutions that propel NFV evolution to achieve web-scale economics, Mavenir offers solutions to help CSPs with cost reduction, revenue generation, and revenue protection. www.mavenir.com
Altiostar provides a 4G and 5G open virtualized RAN software solution that supports open interfaces and disaggregates the hardware from the software to build a multi-vendor web-scale network. This solution supports indoor and outdoor massive MIMO, as well as macro and small cells, enabling interference management, carrier aggregation and dual connectivity to improve the efficiency of the network. It also enhances the Quality of Experience for the end user, while providing broadband speeds. Operators can add intelligence, quickly adapt the software for different services and automate operations to rapidly scale the network and reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The Altiostar open vRAN solution has been deployed globally, including the world’s first cloud native-mobile network with Rakuten in Japan. www.altiostar.com
Jet lagged yet energetic and cheerful, Comcast Senior VP of Next Generation Access Networks Elad Nafshi returned from a motor bike trip in the European alps (via a red eye flight from Frankfurt, Germany to SFO) to deliver an important keynote speech at the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) Connect 2019 conference in Santa Clara, CA this Friday. A graduate of Tel Aviv University, Mr. Nafshi has been with Comcast for over 14 years.
Elad announced that Comcast, the leading ISP in the U.S. by subscribers, has deployed the open source ONF Trellis software and reference hardware design “in multiple markets with real customers.” He noted that “This is not a technical trial or PoC. We have not deployed a new appliance. We deployed an entire ecosystem.”
Trellis is an SDN-based, multi-purpose leaf-spine (AKA spine-leaf) switching fabric designed for access-and-edge networks, NFV, and edge cloud applications. It uses the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) open source SDN controller running in an x86 based compute server and the OpenFlow protocol as a “southbound API” (Control plane to/from Data plane) to interface with multiple interconnected white box/bare metal L2/L3 switches. That configuration is shown in the illustration below.
Comcast, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Infosys collectively authored a reference design for Trellis in April 2019. Reference designs are “blueprints” developed by ONF’s Operator members (AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group, and Turk Telekom), to address specific use cases for the emerging edge cloud/broadband and mobile access networks.
“In collaboration with the ONF and a team of supply chain vendors, Comcast is deploying the open source Trellis platform as the networking fabric in our next generation access network,” Nafshi said in a press release. “This has been a multiple year journey from design, to extensive field trials and finally to production rollout, and we’re impressed with the results and the advantages that using open source and Trellis are delivering for us as we upgrade our access network,” he added.
While Elad said that Trellis rollouts are accelerating and may “soon come to an area near you,” he declined to answer questions about the locations, size or scale of Comcast’s Trellis deployments. I talked to Elad after his speech and found him to be very engaging and congenial.
Comcast claims an open source- and a white box-based Ethernet backhaul is integral to its next generation network access strategy. By using Trellis, Nafshi said Comcast improved network scalability as well as space and power facility efficiencies in its cable head-ends.
Trellis plays a key role in Comcast’s next generation Distributed Access Architecture (DAA)  strategy, which uses an Ethernet-based converged interconnect network (CIN). Comcast is using Trellis within this CIN.
Note 1. Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) enables the evolution of cable networks by decentralizing and virtualizing headend and network functions. DAA extends the digital portion of the head-end or hub domain out to the fiber optic node and places the digital to RF interface at the optical-coax boundary in the node. Replacing the analog optics from the head-end converts the fiber link to a digital fiber Ethernet link, increasing the available bandwidth improving fiber efficiencies (wavelengths and distance), and directional alignment with NFV/SDN/FTTx systems of the future.
“This has been a multiple year journey from design, to extensive field trails and finally to production rollout, and we’re impressed with the results and the advantages that using open source and Trellis are delivering for us as we upgrade our access network,” Elad said.
While Comcast’s conventional network currently relies on embedded routing and switching protocols running on individual vendor specific switches, Trellis software runs in a cloud-native SDN fashion on a cluster of standard compute server nodes each of which implements a centralized control plane via the ONOS SDN controller. This new SDN based architecture makes network design, deployment, debug and upgrades much simpler, while minimizing network complexity and cost.
“This is real, true production at scale,” said ONF VP of Marketing Timon Sloane. “The design has been vetted and tested and hardened over multiple years. It’s in multiple markets, with tens of thousands of subscribers.”
“The open source ecosystem created by ONF has collectively established a new ‘Distributed DevOps’ model through the process of trialing, hardening and deploying Trellis with Comcast. This has established a new formula for open source whereby an operator, ONF and a consortium of commercial entities come together to collectively build and stand behind a deployment,” said Saurav Das, Vice President of Engineering for the ONF.
Earlier at this week’s ONF Connect 2019 event, Arthur D. Little, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefónica released a study that found virtualized, cloud-based architectures can save network operators 40% in capex and 25% in opex.
by Ofer Weill, Director of Product Marketing at DriveNets; edited and augmented by Alan J Weissberger
Networking software startup DriveNets announced in February that it had raised $110 million in first round (Series A) of venture capital funding. With headquarters in Ra’anana, Israel, DriveNets’ cloud-based service, called Network Cloud, simplifies the deployment of new services for carriers at a time when many telcos are facing declining profit margins. Bessemer Venture Partners and Pitango Growth are the lead VC investors in the round, which also includes money from an undisclosed number of private angel investors.
DriveNets was founded in 2015 by telco experts Ido Susan and Hillel Kobrinsky who are committed to creating the best performing CSP Networks and improving its economics. Network Cloud was designed and built for CSPs (Communications Service Providers), addressing their strict resilience, security and QoS requirements, with zero compromise.
“We believe Network Cloud will become the networking model of the future,” said DriveNets co-founder and CEO Ido Susan, in a statement. “We’ve challenged many of the assumptions behind traditional routing infrastructures and created a technology that will allow service providers to address their biggest challenges like the exponential capacity growth, 5G deployments and low-latency AI applications.”’
Network Cloud does not use open-source code. It’s an “unbundled” networking software solution, which runs over a cluster of low-cost white box routers and white box x86 based compute servers. DriveNets has developed its own Network Operating System (NOS) rather than use open source or Cumulus’ NOS as several other open networking software companies have done.
Fully disaggregated, its shared data plane scales-out linearly with capacity demand. A single Network Cloud can encompass up to 7,600 100Gb ports in its largest configuration. Its control plane scales up separately, consolidating any service and routing protocol.
Network Cloud data-plane is created from just two building blocks white boxes – NCP for packet forwarding and NCF for fabric, shrinking operational expenses by reducing the number of hardware devices, software versions and change procedures associated with building and managing the network. The two white-boxes (NCP and NCF) are based on Broadcom’s Jericho2 chipset which has high-speed, high-density port interfaces of 100G and 400G bits/sec. A single virtual chassis for max ports might have this configuration: 30720 x 10G/25G / 7680 x 100G / 1920 x 400G bits/sec.
Last month, DriveNets disaggregated router added 400G-port routing support (via whitebox routers using the aforementioned Broadcom chipset). The latest Network Cloud hardware and software is now being tested and certified by an undisclosed tier-1 Telco customer.
“Just like hyper-scale cloud providers have disaggregated hardware and software for maximum agility, DriveNets is bringing a similar approach to the service provider router market. It is impressive to see it coming to life, taking full advantage of the strength and scale of our Jericho2 device,” said Ram Velaga, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Switch Products Division at Broadcom.
Network Cloud control-plane runs on a separate compute server and is based on containerized microservices that run different routing services for different network functions (Core, Edge, Aggregation, etc.). Where they are co-located, service-chaining allows sharing of the same infrastructure for all router services.
Multi-layer resiliency, with auto failure recovery, is a key feature of Network Cloud. There is inter-router redundancy and geo-redundancy of control to select a new end to end path by routing around points of failure.
Network Cloud’s orchestration capabilities include Zero Touch Provisioning, full life cycle management and automation, as well as superior diagnostics with unmatched transparency. These are illustrated in the figures below:
Image Courtesy of DriveNets
Future New Services:
Network Cloud is a platform for new revenue generation. For example, adding 3rd party services as separate micro-services, such as DDoS Protection, Managed LAN to WAN, Network Analytics, Core network and Edge network.
“Unlike existing offerings, Network Cloud has built a disaggregated router from scratch. We adapted the data-center switching model behind the world’s largest clouds to routing, at a carrier-grade level, to build the world’s largest Service Providers’ networks. We are proud to show how DriveNets can rapidly and reliably deploy technological innovations at that scale,” said Ido Susan CEO and Co-Founder of DriveNets in a press release.
Disappointingly small number of deployments, many open source software and open API organizations (ONF, Linux Foundation, MEF, TM Forum, OCP, etc), pop-up consortiums (Cloud RAN, Open RAN, other disaggregated hardware), defunct standards organizations (e.g. ETSI, ITU-T, IEEE) that only produce functional requirements, reference architectures, and white papers or none of the above. Nothing that can be actually implemented via standardized exposed interfaces or APIs.
Tuesday April 30th and Wednesday May 1st I spent the entire day and early evening at the Layer 1,2,3 Network Transformation Congress which assessed the state of SDN, NFV, Open Source MANO (OSM), Open APIs (TM Forum and MEF), other Open Source management software, and topics related to what network operators have been talking about for at least eight years- computer controlled network automation and orchestration of services (sometimes referred to as service chaining). Contrary to the rah, rah cheerleader talk from a few network operators (especially AT&T), telco deployment of this new age open source software for automation and control of networks has been very slow. NFV actual deployments are minimal (if not zero) and SDN has become a marketing term that can mean any software control of network functions. Every network operator and cloud service provider uses different protocols, many of which they invented (e.g. Google’s routing protocol for DCI) along with a sprinkling of open source code (such as a SDN Controller).
Decades of man years has been invested in network operator proprietary network management software, which is used to provision new services, keep track and maintain existing services, facilitate moves and changes. One speaker said that he’d like to see light touch provisioning rather than zero touch. Another said that they stack the new automation, provisioning and orchestration software on top of their legacy software
For the cloud giants (e.g. Amazon, Google, Tencent, etc), it has been done, but in almost a totally proprietary fashion with almost all the network automation, control and management done using in house generated code. Amazon spoke at the conference and, in response to this author’s question, suggested the different types of network access for AWS. Microsoft spoke, not about Azure but their private enterprise network which doesn’t use any open source code. Moreover, it took two years to get 22 new sites connected via direct internet connections (<600M bit/sec) that would normally be served by copper lines (bonded DSL or short reach fiber).
Selected Quotes from Conference Participants:
Long time colleague Craig Matsumoto (whom I met when he was EE Times, but now at 451 Research) coined a new term during his presentation – “software programmable interconnection” (SPI) for data centers. Craig said: “We talk a lot about telcos. The question is what does network transformation mean for the data center world? What are they doing about it? We came up with this new term, software programmable interconnection (SPI) . It’s basically about the idea that data centers connect with one another with a fabric.” In this author’s opinion the SPI term captures the wide variety of software being used within and between data centers!
“For me covering data centers after covering telcos for so long, they’ve (data center operators) talked to me about using the SDN for pretty much anything that involved automation and the network. Anything that has software is SDN to them. We came up with a different term as a good way to encapsulate that some kind of software is being used that might or might not be SDN,” Matsumoto added.
Tuesday’s keynote speaker and Wednesday moderator Roy Chua, Founder and Principal of AvidThink – a boutique market research firm:
“With regard to the key takeaways, I think you’ve captured them. I was very impressed at the level of candor in the discussions and presentations. I liked the concrete examples and quantification of NFV uptake challenges and the recognition that we need to solve constrained problems than try to boil the ocean. There was definitely good content…..Appreciate all the excellent questions and enjoyed the discussion at lunch. And I am most grateful for your endorsement of the analysis that I do.”
This author recommends only a select few (<5) networking market analysts that do primary market research. Roy is one of those select few!
From Kaustubha Parkhi, Principal Analyst at Insight Research (a well respected Indian market research firm):
“There is no doubt that LSO  is essential. Equally essential is the pruning of its objectives and scope, which becomes a bit overwhelming at times. The objectives, in the present form are so broad-based that they cover everything from billing functions to network equipment deployment.” –>More on LSO in a forthcoming IEEE Techblog article.
Note 2. LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) is the set of MEF-defined specifications enabling standardized service orchestration based on standardized lifecycles of end-to-end connectivity services across one or more network service domains. A key contribution is open APIs – to automate the entire lifecycle for services orchestrated across multiple provider networks and multiple technology domains within a provider network. LSO enables service providers to transition from a silo-structured BSS/OSS approach towards flexible end-to-end orchestration that unleashes the value of SDN and NFV. Standardized LSO APIs are critical for enabling agile, assured, and orchestrated services over automated, virtualized, and interconnected networks worldwide.
Above illustration courtesy of MEF
I was pleasantly surprised by the honesty (if not brutal frankness) of the speakers. What a refreshing change from the never ending hype, exaggeration and lies one hears at most networking conferences – including the IEEE 5G Summits :-((.
With over 20 pages of handwritten notes and so many important things revealed, I am not able to write a detailed conference summary report on this free website. Hence, I solicit readers to email me what they’d like me to cover in future posts, after reading the conference agenda for Tuesday- Day 1 and Wednesday -Day 2.
Please remember that the IEEE Techblog does not accept advertisements so we can tell the real truth. Also we don’t charge for viewing posts or comments (no pay wall). Finally, this author has managed and contributed to this and predecessor website (community.comsoc.org) for over 10 years without any pay.
You may contact this author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Since its inception, the Open Compute Project (OCP) has worked to drive innovation in and around the data center industry, bringing together thousands of engineers from nearly two hundred member organizations. The demands on the modern data center continue to expand with the growth of IoT, security and edge computing, as well as increasing energy consumption requirements.
IHS Markit interviewed OCP members, suppliers and service providers, as well as incorporated their own in-depth industry research to determine revenue by region and vertical worldwide, as well as update their forecast through 2022. In order to ascertain a more accurate assessment of true marketplace adoption, usage by OCP Board member companies Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Intel, Microsoft and Rackspace was excluded from this study.
Among the preliminary findings:
· 2017 actual non-board revenue was $1.16 billion, just shy of the original forecast of $1.18 billion
· 2018 non-board OCP revenue tops the 2017 forecast, reaching $2.56 billion, compared to a forecast of $1.84 billion, with year-over-year growth of 120%
· 2017 Non-Board OCP revenue actuals show increased market share, from .87% to .91%, while overall Market Value dropped from $137 billion to $127 billion
· 2022 non-board OCP revenue share is expected to climb to more than 5% by 2022, at $10.7 billion, with a CAGR of 56%
· Servers, Storage and Networking are the fastest projected growth categories, with PON a potential high-growth area. Markets are just forming for disaggregated cell tower equipment, but Telco spend is expected to surpass Hyperscalers by 2021.
· The Government sector actually passed financial institutions in non-board OCP spending in 2017, while automotive and manufacturing is expected to have the highest 5-year CAGR. Healthcare is in the early stages of OCP adoption.
· There were no large changes in the forecast for regional growth – America’s still dominate due to Hyperscalers and Financial, but also now driven by Telco.
· APAC will surpass EMEA by 2020 with a CAGR of 108%, compared to EMEA at 59%.
Furthermore, the drivers of adoption of OCP are growing more diverse – cost reduction and power efficiency are still the biggest reasons why, but the market is now realizing that feature flexibility and conformance to those specifications approved by OCP provide a measure of “comfort” to the market.
“We are pleased that the adoption momentum continues and accelerates, and we value the insight provided by the study regarding barriers, challenges and opportunities. We are committed to continued improvement in the entire ecosystem to support the future growth.” stated Rocky Bullock, CEO for the Open Compute Project Foundation.
“The market ecosystem for OCP-certified equipment continues to mature, with more diversity for increased choice and an expanded supply chain allowing more tier-two CSPs, telcos and enterprise consumers to participate. A notable difference from last year’s study was the shift from direct factory purchasing to suppliers with local support, as additional market segments increased adoption,” said Cliff Grossner, Ph.D., executive director research and analysis, cloud and data center research practice at IHS Markit, a global business information provider. “OCP equipment market drivers such as serviceability, disaggregation and the flexibility to add new features took on a greater importance this year, which typically happens when a market matures and more mainstream buyers deploy.”
OCP and IHS Markit will release the full results of the research at the Annual OCP Global Summit, to be held in San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, CA March 14 – 15, 2019. This will include an Executive Track at 1:00 PM Pacific on Day 1 featuring the details of the findings to be presented by Cliff Grossner, and Vlad Galabov, Principle Analyst for Data Center Compute at IHS Markit.
“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.
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.
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.”