The Linux Foundation's LF Networking project group this week took the latest step in delivering an open-source platform to enable telecom providers to deploy next-generation network services.
The "Casablanca" release of ONAP (Open Networking Automation Platform) contains new features to enable 5G management, cross-carrier networking and automation, as well as new resources to ease deployment and integration of the platform, said LF Networking officials.
Part of this push includes the recent release of the group's OPNFV (Open Platform for Network Functions Virtualization) project, dubbed "Gambia," which is expanding its compliance, verification and testing program to include ONAP and other virtual networking functions (VNFs).
Although much progress has been made on the road to 5G, including new chipsets, radios, forthcoming phones and so on, one of the most critical pieces to making 5G a reality is starting to be fleshed out with ONAP Casablanca.
Making 5G a Reality Is the Goal
"5G is a very substantial motivating factor for going to ONAP," Phil Robb, vice president of operations, Networking & Orchestration, for The Linux Foundation, told eWEEK. "The reason operators are going to ONAP is because they must have ubiquity in this platform. You can't roll out services if all of the VNF vendors have to do something different and eclectic. If they are porting their apps, it takes forever to on-board functions and service delivering slows to a crawl.
“There's far too much opportunity in 5G and demand from us as consumers for what 5G is supposed to deliver to have that kind of lag."
The roadmap for enabling 5G in ONAP, which will continue through 2019, Robb said, includes extending "zero touch" orchestration to radio access networks. In addition, ONAP is working on network optimization, real-time analytics, closed-loop automation and network slicing—or the ability to create specific paths for data through a network.
Casablanca also further modularizes the set of functions ONAP provides as containers, which is critical in creating a fully distributed platform that runs from a telco back office all the way to new small-cell antennas that will be rolled out for 5G networks.
"Having different components of ONAP being able to run out at the edge to manage those virtual network functions that are much closer to the end user—that's all part of the distributed design," Robb said.
Blueprints in the Works for Key Use Cases
With more than 70 network operators and partners working on ONAP, key use cases are being created to enable seamless connectivity between all the parties. For instance, Vodafone and China Mobile have rolled out a "blueprint" for cross-domain and cross-layer VPN functionality. The software-based controller in ONAP acts as a super controller over both the optical transport and internet networks, which enables an end-to-end service through multiple domains, Robb explained.
The other key pieces of ONAP's release include "deployability" resources—installation guides, best practices, white papers and the like to get all partners up and running quickly, taking into consideration that not all networks are alike or have the same level of expertise.
"No two operators are going to work the same way; no two are going to involve their legacy systems in the same way," Robb said. "Across the board there is significant development effort from one release to the next to accommodate deployability and deployment management of that system depending on how the operator needs to use it.
“The open-source stuff is a technology component,” he said. “It's not a solution. This is part of a big cultural shift for these organizations, so there's lots of opportunities for vendors to help provide solutions. LF is doing fundamental documentation and training, but to get to the point of easy consumption [of ONAP], that's an opportunity for a vendor.”
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.