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ONF lays out innovation roadmap for SDN and NFV

The Open Networking Foundation unveils its Open Innovation Pipeline to guide the next phase of development of software-defined and virtualised networking tech

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) has announced an Open Innovation Pipeline to guide the industry towards the next phase in the lifecycle of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV), with network device disaggregation, open source platforms and software-defined standards all high on the agenda.

The Innovation Pipeline came about following the alignment of operations between the ONF and the Open Networking Lab (ON Lab), which are in the process of merging.

ON Lab previously created two frameworks for open source SDN and NFV for comms services providers: Central Office Re-architected as a Datacentre (Cord) and Open Network Operating System (Onos). This is an approach that has been well received as the telecoms sector embarks on a major programme of transformation to build networks fit for future demands.

The two organisations now plan to industrialise and open up the process that enabled the creation of the Cord and Onos frameworks, taking advantage of ONF’s relationships with telcos to lay out paths towards operational deployment.

“The ONF’s Open Innovation Pipeline lowers the barrier to entry by providing a broadly applicable framework built on open source building blocks to deliver complete solutions for network operators,” said Guru Parulkar, executive director of ONF, ON.Lab and Stanford Platform Lab.

“Perhaps more importantly, this pipeline allows members of all types to bring their unique innovation and value into the system. Operators, suppliers and integrators all have a role to play, and the pipeline helps integrate these contributions into consumable systems for operators.”

The ONF said now that the SDN movement was well advanced – having set in motion the disaggregation of networking hardware and software, and fostered the emergence of a range of open platforms – it was time for a unifying effort to help the industry build systems out of the various components.

Furthermore, suppliers have tended to use open source to build closed and proprietary networks that do not really benefit the wider ecosystem.

The organisations hope the Innovation Pipeline will counteract this by giving suppliers access to operators, and by enabling ONF members to contribute to the various standards to pull networking innovation into operator proofs of concept, trials and eventual deployments.

The scheme will also drive a software-defined standards approach to interoperability application programming interfaces (APIs) and data models to promote interoperability around the wider open source ecosystem.

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“It is important to us that all the pieces of this ecosystem can play well together. We see this expanded focus as central to enabling the crafting of systems from the disaggregated components now taking shape across the industry,” said the ONF’s vice-president of standards and membership, Timon Sloane.

“At Google, we’re heavy users of open source, and today open source solves many infrastructure problems,” said Urs Hölzle, ONF chairman and president and senior vice-president of technical infrastructure at Google.

“The networking space has been slowest to offer end-to-end open source alternatives. SDN is a chance to rearchitect how networks are built and, while so doing, presents the perfect inflection point for open source to take on a pivotal role,” added Hölzle.

Alex Choi, CEO and executive vice-president of South Korean telco SK Telecom’s corporate research and development centre, added that SDN and NFV were vital to accelerating network value.

Choi’s team is currently working on projects to ensure South Korea maintains its substantial lead in networking technologies and plans to bring to market one of the world’s first commercial 5G networks by the end of the decade.

“At the same time, SDN standards alone won’t drive the necessary innovation. We believe the ONF’s new charter around software defined standards and its commitment to bringing diverse innovation to market through the Open Innovation Pipeline will allow organisations such as ours to accelerate network innovation,” he said.

Read more on Software-defined networking (SDN)