NFV MANO Standardization: Becoming an Ever More Public Affair

David Snow - Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure
David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • AT&T’s decision to open source ECOMP and its selection of Amdocs as a partner illustrate that traditional standardization by cooperation behind closed doors is being superseded by public and open initiatives.
  • The number of operator-vendor-open source combinations for NFV MANO continues to increase. A shakeout is both inevitable and necessary to bring about multi-vendor VNF interoperability.

The NFV management and network orchestration (MANO) market doesn’t take a break, even during the summer holiday season. The news that AT&T has selected Amdocs “to serve as integrator for companies adopting AT&T’s open source Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy (ECOMP) platform” has highlighted the unusual ecosystem dynamics of NFV and the MANO ecosystem in particular. Rather than the usual press release format, where a vendor touts the fact that an operator has selected or deployed its solution, here we have an operator, a vendor and a yet unnamed open source software community all working together towards producing a solution which, it is hoped, will be adopted by all other operators.

Maybe, though, this isn’t quite as new as it seems.

Traditional telecoms standards bodies, operators and vendors have always worked together in a triumvirate. For NFV, however, it’s been said that the new standards bodies are actually the open source software communities, as traditional standards bodies just cannot move fast enough. That debate aside, what is certainly different about this new telecoms industry modus operandi is that cooperative work, which used to be largely hidden from view in working groups, is now considered important enough to make public headlines from the very start.

Why is that? Simply because there are so many different approaches to architecting good VNF-interoperable NFV MANO:

  • Operators Lead In Different Directions

Until AT&T made ECOMP public, many would say that Telefónica was one of the most visible operators in terms of promoting carrier-led MANO ‘standardization’ projects. Telefónica is certainly still in contention as a leading operator in the Open Source MANO (OSM) project, but along with AT&T, it’s not the only large operator with a big say; for example, China Mobile has a leading role in the Open Orchestrator (Open-O) project.

  • The Vendor Spectrum Continually Broadens

Until now, large end-to-end network equipment and telco IT vendors have been the most visible in battling it out for MANO mindshare, although transport vendors such as Adva and Ciena are also very active. Now, however, cloud management platform (CMP) vendors such as, Gigaspaces and Red Hat which have quietly been assimilating telco-specific requirements are coming to the fore, broadening the vendor spectrum yet further.

  • Open Source Communities Proliferate Wildly

Maybe the most significant dimension in the MANO standardization process is the sheer number and variety of open source communities emerging. Their scope frequently overlaps and their code contributors and code maturity varies greatly. Yes, they are ‘open to all,’ but from an individual player perspective, there are simply too many of them to choose from and, more importantly, to participate in.

With all three dimensions and considerable variance within each of them, the operator-vendor-open source community NFV MANO ecosystem is getting ever more complex to negotiate and may even be heading towards a state of ‘analysis paralysis.’ That is why we may start to see more significant announcements of intent like AT&T’s, which while not being welcomed by all players, at least charts a course towards clarity and practical implementation.

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