A wide range of technology vendors and telecommunications companies—from Intel, IBM and Cisco Systems to AT&T, China Mobile and Ericsson—are creating a consortium aimed at developing an open-source reference platform to fuel the adoption of network-functions virtualization.
The Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV), under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, will leverage what's been done in other open-source projects—from OpenDaylight to OpenStack—and add its own components to create the reference platform, according to Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin.
"Open-source code has been proven to accelerate innovation and time to market for new technologies," Zemlin said in a statement. The new group "will bring together providers, cloud and infrastructure vendors, developers and users alike to define a new type of reference platform for the industry, integrating existing open-source building blocks with new components and testing that accelerates development and deployment of NFV."
NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) are fast growing technologies designed to make networks more responsive, dynamic, agile and cost-effective. They also are part of a larger push in the data center toward more software-defined infrastructures, as businesses try to deal with the rapidly changing demands brought on by such trends as mobile computing, big data, the Internet of things (IoT) and the cloud.
NFV enables service providers and enterprises to remove such networking tasks as load balancing, firewalls and intrusion detection from networking hardware and run them as applications on lower-cost commodity systems. It helps carriers reduce expenses while enabling them to more quickly spin out services. SDN moves the control plane that manages the network from the networking gear and puts it into software.
NFV "represents an unprecedented opportunity for carriers and enterprises in different sectors (telecom, financial services and more) to deliver new services and solutions to their customers much faster," Zemlin said in a post on the Linux Foundation blog. "Reports also indicate the market for NFV will grow rapidly over the next five years, which gives cloud service providers more opportunity than ever to play an important role in telecom."
The OPNFV's reference platform will drive consistency and interoperability among various open-source components, and will build upon what other groups have done to this point with SDN and NFV, according to the consortium. Initially, the group will focus on building NFV infrastructure and virtualized infrastructure management, including developing an integrated open-source platform and working with end users to ensure the OPNFV meets their needs.
In addition, the group will contribute to other open-source projects and create an ecosystem for NFV solutions. The group won't be a standards organization, but will work with others to push for consistent implementation of standards.
Zemlin noted other consortiums within the Linux Foundation—including OpenDaylight and the AllSeen Alliance, which is developing a framework for the IoT—as examples of the drive within the industry for open software-based solutions.
"This trend towards software dominance is not just happening in networking but throughout the technology industry," he wrote. "Software is defining the cloud, the mobile experience, storage, networking, and more. In fact, software is growing so much that it simply can't be built by any one company any more. Open source and collaborative development are proven models for building better, cheaper software faster."
The OPNFV has more than three-dozen initial members. Among the tech companies are Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks, ARM, Alcatel-Lucent, Citrix Systems and Huawei. Other service providers include Telecom Italia, NTT Docomo, Orange and Vodaphone.