Gauging Initial Reaction to ONAP at Mobile World Congress 2017

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • The formation of the ONAP project from the combination of open ECOMP and OPEN-O reduces the complexity of the NFV MANO standardization process.
  • While ONAP is a welcome and timely development, some MANO vendors at Mobile World Congress were ambivalent; for them, getting on with the job is more important.

On February 23, the week before Mobile World Congress, the Linux Foundation announced the merger of open source ECOMP and OPEN-O to form the new Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project. Then, on February 27, the very day that MWC opened, ETSI reported that Open Source MANO (OSM) had reached 60 members, including Verizon as its most recent operator member. Thus, MWC was a great opportunity to sound out industry reaction to these moves.

To provide a little background as to why these were significant announcements, a previous blog post – “NFV MANO Standardization: Becoming an Ever More Public Affair” – outlined the ever growing complexity of the NFV MANO standardization process due to the increasing number of “operator-vendor-open source” combinations. At that time (August 2016), it looked as if the industry had at least a three-way split on its hands, with AT&T contributing to ECOMP, European operators championing OSM and Chinese operators aligned with OPEN-O. The blog post also predicted that “a shakeout is both inevitable and necessary to bring about multi-vendor VNF interoperability.”

So, in sounding out operators as well as MANO and VNF vendors at MWC, reactions were generally positive. These were the gist of the comments:

  • “OPEN-O aligns ECOMP with ETSI.” It seemed that some operators and vendors had been wary of ECOMP’s structure not being in clear alignment with the ETSI NFV MANO architecture, so OPEN-O’s influence within ONAP will help bring more architectural consistency.
  • “Developing for two is easier than three.” This is obvious, but clearly true, especially for VNF vendors. But, wouldn’t ‘one’ be even better? Perhaps not, and Verizon’s move seems to reinforce the continuing coexistence of at least two groups. Maybe two groups will foster healthy competition and innovation (we’ve seen that in some ‘standards’ wars before).
  • “It doesn’t really matter anyway.” This was a surprising reaction, but it has been a growing sentiment among MANO vendors in particular as the complexity of the market steadily increased during 2016. They don’t see the immediate need to be aligned with any group and are just ‘watching the needle’ to see if it becomes a business issue. In fact, one MANO vendor quotably remarked, “We’ve never found a VNF we didn’t like.”

That’s the state of play circa March 2017. ONAP has been a necessary and timely development toward NFV MANO standardization, but as the last reaction reveals, many just want to ‘get on with the job’ and make NFV work.

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