Whether advocates of SDN, NFV, cloud or virtualization in general, our industry has undergone an unparalleled disruption as new and emerging technologies battle for their place in the new, more agile, flexible and software-centric network.
But amid all this change, there is one imperative which has remained constant and resolute throughout: the need and desire for standards as the source of new, large-scale market growth. As a result, the majority of standard development organizations (SDOs) have also continued as they always have, unwavering in their operational models and strategies.
While some will argue providing such constant and consistent support during turbulent and often testing change is admirable, we believe this is necessary but no longer sufficient — which is why we intend to shake the shackles of tradition and begin a new chapter in the Broadband Forum’s history.
With this in mind, the Forum held a special three-day meeting in Atlanta, which brought together ten of the industry’s leading operators and some of the leading manufacturers to offer their vision of our future broadband network and how the Broadband Forum can help them achieve it.
This milestone gathering spurred much debate, with discussions naturally including NFV, SDN, content delivery networks, open source, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud. Above all, there was one natural consensus from attending delegates; while the Forum has already achieved and contributed a lot, it must now re-assess its priorities and develop innovative ways of operating that align with industry needs, centering on software.
The traditional SDO approach of defining requirements and specifications for every possible eventuality is over; operators need a network that enables new sustainable business models and an architecture that is adaptable. Our emphasis now must be on best practices, software delivery and agile development, while the advent of virtualization means rapid work is needed to agree on a “standard” implementation of IT technologies. Furthermore, there are many unresolved issues in regards to migration, testing and management of hybrid networks.
To achieve this, we need to embrace the best of both open source and standards development and eliminate the limitations of both. In our developing ecosystem, open source communities are playing an increasingly important role and we must acknowledge and react to this if we are to expand the horizons of our industry.
In the Broadband Forum, this will mean new methods of phased rapid delivery for innovative software and standards for key use cases to the manufacturer, service provider and open source communities, moving away from traditional SDO approaches: Perfection cannot be the enemy of timely delivery.
Collaboration goes hand in hand with this, creating a new conversation for the industry. Therefore, we plan to significantly increase our work with key industry groups, including developing open initiatives for the benefit of the entire broadband community. The emergence of the Cloud Central Office was an important context for our meeting, with the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) — an open source project led by Open Networking Lab and partners — just one example of a potential area in which the Forum can get involved. Other key partners include OPNFV, the ETSI NFV ISG, the Open Networking Foundation and the TM Forum.
New and old values
This new way of working will also bring about new areas of focus for the Forum that will enhance our industry impact and interactive delivery processes. Providing a safe harbor for developing industry consensus (and therefore a larger addressable market, the aim of all standards work) and an environment where intellectual property rights can be treated appropriately has combined traditional SDO ways with open source approaches.
Our work will provide migration guidance and interoperability testing, while hybrid network management and the process of defining software service platforms on which providers, vendors and application developers can innovate, will be among the items on our agenda. While many of our definitional, testing and implementation projects currently underway are well-aligned with this — providing significant strides towards agile, programmable and ultra-fast networks — we need to dramatically extend and accelerate our delivery of standards and software to enable the innovation that the broadband industry needs.
No doubt this evolution will bring challenges along the way, but these, along with the opportunities it will undoubtedly bring, must be embraced. Much like our networks, agility, flexibility and the joining of old and new are essential ingredients for any SDO if we are to continue to play a part in realizing our future broadband network.
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