What is Open anyway?

Operators are insisting on Open, vendors all claim to be Open, but what is Open, and how open is Open?

A seemingly bewildering number of open source networking initiatives have opened up in the past 2-3 years — each promising to deliver an Open way to deploy SDN, NFV management, service orchestration, infrastructure management and so on within the network.

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In telecoms we are used to identifying and then becoming scornful of buzzwords. This is because a word becomes so “hot” that it starts to lose its meaning. So “Cloud” or “Big Data” or even “5G” have become words that are used to signify a loose concept, and tend to get attached to technology initiatives to lend them weight. The latest word that does a lot of heavy lifting as a signifier, without always meaning the same things to those that use it, is the word Open.

“Open” is without doubt the buzzword of 2016 in the telecoms software and infrastructure space, driven by the increasing realisation that NFV and SDN development and deployments will not offer telcos the flexible, vendor-neutral, environment they were hoping for if, at their core, they rely on a certain vendor implementation of cloud or NFV management.

One way this realisation manifested itself was in orchestration, where around 18 months to two years ago vendors each brought their own orchestrator to the market, in some way adhering to an ETSI model for NFV MANO that itself was a bit gappy.  Because of these gaps OpenStack, the de facto open source approach to cloud management, was deployed to provide extensions to support NFV MANO — meaning that each implementation was a question of interpretation by the vendor concerned. The end goal of NFVSDN — the open, vendor neutral network that can be controlled by a master OSS, as contrasted to dozens of OSS managing vendortied network elements, was receding.

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