SANTA CLARA, Calif.—As networking makes its inexorable move toward cloud native models and development, participants here at this week’s Open Networking Summit made several key announcements toward that end.
Chief among these was the initial release of the code for the newly combined network management and orchestration effort, dubbed ONAP. The Open Network Automation Platform is an open-source project that earlier this year was created by merging two others: AT&T’s ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy) and the OPEN-O Project, which was backed by China’s biggest operators, China Mobile and China Telecom.
The management and orchestration layers of SDN work on top of virtual controllers like OpenDaylight and ONOS to make it easier for network operators and enterprise users to create new services and applications quickly using microservices and container technologies such as Docker. While the code is declared “production ready,” there is still a ways to go for ONAP to meld code bases and become fully realized.
“The actual work for the aggregation of the code bases is a point of discussion for that community right now. There’s a proposal on the table brought forth by AT&T and China Mobile,” said Phil Robb, vice president of operations for Networking & Orchestration for the Linux Foundation. “It makes a lot of sense. We’ll see how the community actually goes with that. We have our first face-to-face meeting the first week in May.”
ECOMP as a fully functional unit will be included in ONAP, Robb said, and to that will be added some additional modeling tools, an software development kit (SDK) for onboarding of virtual network functions (VNFs) and some “nuggets” of OPEN-O where it isn’t duplicative of ECOMP.
ECOMP, which AT&T debuted at last year’s Open Networking Summit, has been in use at the carrier for more than two years and was released as open source in February.
ONAP, which operates under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, announced several new supporting members this week: Platinum member Reliance Jio—India’s largest 4G carrier—and Silver members Ciena, Microsoft, New H3C Technologies and Wind River; and Associate member Open Networking Foundation.
Sailing on the Danube
Another important open-source framework, OPNFV (the Open Platform for Network Functions Virtualization), made news as it released its “milestone” fourth iteration, dubbed Danube. The framework acts as a collecting point for other open-source projects—OpenStack, OpenDaylight, ONOS and several others—which allows users to build and test their software-defined networks and virtual functions for specific use cases, also called scenarios or stacks.
Danube establishes support for the forthcoming ONAP platform; support for accelerated data plane projects, including the FastDataStacks project and the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK)—which also became a Linux Foundation project this week—IPv6 and VPN support; and support for a CI/CD, or continuous integration and continuous development tools for integrating and launching code into an application.
The release “reflects how the various open-source projects have all been maturing so we can really point to an end-to-end NFV enablement stack,” said Project Director Heather Kirksey of the Linux Foundation in an interview with eWEEK. “We can now point to a set of stacks that will enable NFV.”
AT&T also make other news around a successful trial that brought together white box switches built by Edgecore hosting Barefoot Networks’ new Tofino programmable chip and Snaproute’s network operating system—all carrying live customer data.
The combination of the Snaproute controller working with the P4 (Programming Protocol-Independent Packet Processors)-enabled Tofino creates new forms of visibility and control over network data packets.
Snaproute plugs into AT&T’s ECOMP framework to make use of the orchestration layer, while also programming network traffic through the Tofino chip on the switches.
“The programmability allows carriers to supply differentiation for their end users,” said Snaproute CEO Jason Forrester, meaning the ability to collect metadata off packets to inform other applications. On the operations side, it now becomes easy to automate the deployment of the switches and network policies, he said.
Toward the Next Generation
Robb of the Linux Foundation became the interim director of the OpenDaylight controller project earlier this year when Neela Jacques stepped aside. Despite it not being the hot new project on the block anymore, Robb is very satisfied with its progress, citing its place in the majority of OPNFV scenarios as well as in ONAP.
“[OpenDaylight] just graduated high school, and it’s on its way to college,” said Robb, who indicated that he will lose his “interim” title soon. “When we started this, people didn’t really know where an SDN community controller was going to fit. Was it going to be the central [focus], or was it going to be something smaller and more specific? With ONAP, it’s a cog in a larger wheel, a very important cog, but that’s a fine role to play.”
Where all of this is leading is a way to manage networks, compute and storage at scale with standard tools and application programming interfaces (APIs). This is a necessary piece to keep up with exponential growth in traffic that is expected over the next few years as 5G networks start to proliferate and to enable users to build and deploy new services faster.
There’s still a long way to go, but as the progress so far has been steady, real solutions are emerging that prove the validity of the open-source networking vision, said keynote speaker Martin Casado, partner at investment firm Andreesen Horowitz and founder of the NSX network virtualization technology.
“In the very beginning this was a group of dreamers. They were academics and startups that didn’t know what they were doing,” he said in an interview with eWEEK. “The ideas are largely the same, but now, this is mature. There are real production deployments, real companies, real products, real success cases. Being part of this journey for 10 years it’s awesome to see this happening.”
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.