Open Source MANO Projects – What Did We Learn From the SDN NFV World Congress 2017?

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• This year’s SDN NFV World Congress was marked by the two major open source MANO projects firing salvos at each other.

• At the end of the day, operators will choose what ‘works on the ground’, and that will be sourced from vendors and systems integrators, not open source groups.

This year’s “fifth anniversary of NFV” SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague, Netherlands prompted many appraisals of industry progress. One of the most fundamental developments during this period has been the inexorable rise of open source software. This has been particularly surprising in the NFV Management and Network Orchestration (MANO) space, generating a vast amount of activity and subsequent consolidation that has now distilled into two major open source projects vying for leadership: Open Source MANO (OSM) and the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). With an OSM Workshop on the Monday and an ONAP Mini-Summit on the Thursday, the two projects comprehensively “bookended” the Congress. Operators and vendors sometimes referenced one or other (or both) during the intervening days, so there could be no doubt as to their importance to the industry.

But what are we to make of the continued parallel existence of two very influential open source MANO projects? How did they fare and what will be the likely outcome? These are a few GlobalData observations and opinions:

They are definitely competing
Despite the soothing talk from some, OSM and ONAP were evidently locked in a battle for dominance. It doesn’t really matter whether their overall scope differs (which it does), or how “ETSI-compliant” they are (or not). Both address the crucial pain point in NFV: managing the VNF lifecycle across the offline and online worlds for a diverse array of wildly differing VNFs. If there is going to be a universal solution to VNF lifecycle management that makes life a whole lot easier for operators and VNF vendors alike, one of these projects will eventually have to win out; the stakes are high.

Size doesn’t necessarily matter
Both OSM (more low key) and ONAP (far more blatantly) talked up their “vital statistics” such as operator affiliations, vendor affiliations, alignment with other standards or open source groups, release numbers, code contributions, code size, numbers of downloads, Wiki growth and so on. It’s clear that both are focused on winning the hearts and minds of operators. ONAP even declared itself already to be the “De Facto Automation Platform for Carriers” based on the fact that more that 55% of global subscribers are represented by its operator affiliates. But do numbers like this win the argument? Unlikely.

Operators will adopt an approach that works ‘on the ground’, not in the ‘number cloud’.
Numbers can sway, but reality always kicks in. This brings us to one of the largely unreported and most overlooked facts emerging during the Congress. Telefónica revealed that it was well down the path in selecting its “OSM Provider/Integrator” partner for over twenty of its territories. So, just like AT&T selecting Amdocs for ECOMP/ONAP integration, we will soon get to know Telefónica’s chosen OSM integrator partner and that will be not only revealing but quite possibly very disruptive. Someone has to make open source MANO work in every operator’s specific context, even for an operator like Telefónica which has been at the forefront of MANO development since the beginning.

That last point is a very timely reminder that, for all of the SDN NFV World Congress open source MANO project ‘banter’ aimed at the operator community, ‘making it work’ will remain where it has always been – with vendors or systems integrators. SDN NFV World Congress 2018 will likely reveal a reshaped NFV MANO industry landscape.

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