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Open NFV. Of Course.

Oct 3, 2014

Dan Pitt comments on the announcement of the Open Platform for NFV.

I am delighted to finally see the announcement of the Open Platform for NFV, which I have been aware of for several months. This open-source software effort, housed in the Linux Foundation, should speed the adoption of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) by operators. The NFV effort in ETSI (the European Telecommunication Standards Institute) has raised awareness of the benefits of creating virtual, software-based versions of expensive networking appliances, and ONF has been pleased to help the group exploit software-defined networking (SDN) as an enabler of NFV. The ONF group working on Layer 4-7 is charged with meeting our commitments to ETSI under the MOU we signed last March, and our focus is not on starting with paper products but rather with something that promotes real experience, like a proof of concept (PoC). We have learned that PoCs yield valuable results, in learning and implementation artifacts. From a PoC can come both specifications (paper) and code, both of which have their utility.

Since NFV inherently prizes software as the embodiment of network functions, it makes perfect sense for the industry to invest in OPNFV. The already-large community of promised contributors indicates that resources are available to contribute code reflecting real-world requirements, especially from the operators. And since we know that most operators lack large teams of software developers, this sort of shared development compensates for that. It’s too early to say exactly where the “platform” part leaves off and the “NFV” part begins, as these virtual network functions (VNFs) are valuable, but a properly structured platform opens the door to a multiplicity of innovative VNFs running on it. Hopefully the NFV Infrastructure (NVFI) and Virtualized Infrastructure Management (NIM) will embody straightforward interfaces or plug-ins for the VNFs, some of which might even be written by the operators themselves. If all goes well, we might see the telco industry shed its reputation as being slow-moving. OPNFV is certainly the right sort of accelerator.

From our standpoint in ONF as the champion of open SDN, we embrace the value of open-source software. Indeed, as networking evolves to become a part of computing and more of a software discipline, industry conventions increasingly are reflected in popular software interfaces, tools, and packages rather than in paper standards. Our successful experiments last year have led us to a much bolder program in open-source software for SDN, to complement others like OpenDaylight and ON.Lab. Open-source projects in particular can evolve rapidly to meet market requirements. We especially applaud those projects whose licensing terms encourage the giving back of improvements. Yes there is value in the shared development alone but when open-source efforts serve mostly as a nucleus around which to build proprietary solutions their potential benefit to the network operator industry is stunted.

We in ONF look forward to collaborating with OPNFV. We are delighted to once again see prominent ONF leaders and contributors in leadership positions in OPNFV. SDN enables so much value in NFV it’s only natural for our movements to work closely together, now in open-source software, too.

– Dan Pitt, Executive Director