Has the rash of new open source-focused organizations hindered the deployment of open source solutions or is it just a lack of cohesion?
One issue facing the telecommunication industry’s move towards greater use of open source software platforms is the dizzying array of organizations that have sprung up over the past couple of years focused on trying to help that transition. While the help is appreciated, it would seem that too much help could be confusing the process.
Dana Cooperson, research director at Analysys Mason, noted some of these organizations actually compete against each other, highlighting various open source approaches to management and orchestration, “including [Open Source MANO], which came out of Telefónica; Open-O, which has come out of China; and [enhanced control, orchestration, management and policy], which AT&T created and is in the midst of making open source.”
“Deciding which, if any open source communities to support is a huge dilemma, especially for smaller [communication service providers]– they don’t really have the personnel to engage directly and contribute to the community, so they will probably prefer to work through their vendors, who will have a more direct role with the communities,” Cooperson said. “But vendors face the same dilemma: which initiatives to back, and what role do they want to play?”
TM Forum offers a slightly different view, noting that it’s not the variety of open source groups that are the problem, and instead the real issue is the “lack of glue uniting the communities’ diverse efforts.” In attempting to create that glue, TM Forum is looking to foster a “hybrid network management platform” designed to unify those diverse open source efforts.
Barry Graham, senior director of agile business and IT at TM Forum, provided RCR Wireless News with some insight into those efforts and the organization’s view on challenges facing the telecom industry’s march towards a digital makeover.
RCR Wireless News: What’s TM Forum’s view on the impact the open source community is having on the telecom industry’s ongoing software evolution?
Barry Graham: Open source adds an interesting extra dimension to the existing ecosystem of solutions. The multiple open source projects add to the existing kaleidoscope of solutions from equipment vendors and independent software vendors, but they also compliment the work that standards bodies are doing by providing a test bed and proving ground to implement some of those standards in an open way. We see this as accelerating the evolution, particularly if the standards bodies, software vendors and open source groups work together.
RCRWN: How does TM Forum view the ability for established telecom operators to integrate open source platforms into their operations?
Graham: Operators have been integrating software and systems from multiple sources for a very long time. A core activity of the TM Forum since its inception more than 26 years ago has been to create the standards and models that make the integration of end-to-end management solutions as rapid and cost effective as possible. Whilst the technology keeps evolving, the principles remain and we see open source as just another party offering elements that can be integrated. This is what is driving our activities to create a platform blueprint for hybrid network management and why we have launched a rapid-fire proof-of-concept Catalyst project to show a practical integration of multiple open source projects against this blueprint, which we expect to showcase at our TM Forum Live 2017 event.
RCRWN: How can telecom players balance out the needs for some form of standards in support of their network and technology deployments and the seemingly constant change in platforms from open source developers?
Graham: The key to standardization is to define the framework and integration points, leaving freedom for innovation within each element of the framework. But standards don’t have to work “top down.” The TM forum has for a long time worked on the principle of adopting and standardizing proven best practice. So we see a process of open source innovating in different elements, then creating proven best practices which can be adopted across the industry. This again is the aim of our current work, to bring the open source projects together and define and standardize the integration points between them, based on demonstrated best practice as opposed to an abstract analysis, or one party’s view.
RCRWN: What role do established telecom vendors play in brining open source platforms to the space?
Graham: We think this aspect has been very well proven in the wider IT world. Open source can provide core elements of common functionality that together with appropriate standards and best practices provide a shared platform for innovation. So we expect to see the vendors taking open source and building differentiation and value on top of it.
RCRWN: How does TM Forum view the interaction between the various open source bodies in targeting the needs of telecom operators?
Graham: We see a variety of initiatives solving the needs of their particular members. It is important to realize that most have significant involvement from operators, so they will be focused on the particular needs of those who are involved, which will be a slightly different subset for each one. There is of course some overlap, but the real power is in the totality, which once they can be made to work together will solve a much larger subset. We see our role as being able to bring those groups together (after all most of the operators and vendors involved are active members of the forum already) to create that interworking.
RCRWN: Is there a real understanding by the open source community towards what is needed in terms of scale, reliability and government regulations by the telecom industry?
Graham: Given the level of involvement of the operators and exiting vendors we believe in the main that yes they do have a clear understanding of the requirements. Key is to make sure that they are engaging all parts of the business such as operations teams, not just the software community.
RCRWN: What are some of the larger hurdles still facing the increased use of open source platforms by the telecommunications industry?
Graham: Interoperability is clearly one, and we are actively working on that hurdle. We are on track to agree the frameworks, [application program interface], information models and other assets that will enable that. I think acceptance by the vendor community could be a hurdle, but if you look at how readily they embraced open source platforms such as Linux in recent history (against the predictions of some) then we believe this will not be a hurdle.
See more on RCR Wireless News.