The Telecom Industry Has Moved to Open Source
Swapnil Bhartiya | 14 February 2019
The telecom industry is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. Whether it’s connected IoT devices or mobile entertainment, the modern economy runs on the Internet.
However, the backbone of networking has been running on legacy technologies. Some telecom companies are centuries old, and they have a massive infrastructure that needs to be modernized.
The great news is that this industry is already at the forefront of emerging technologies. Companies such as AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, DTK, and others have embraced open source technologies to move faster into the future. And LF Networking is at the heart of this transformation.
“2018 has been a fantastic year,” said Arpit Joshipura, General Manager of Networking at Linux Foundation, speaking at Open Source Summit in Vancouver last fall. “We have seen a 140-year-old telecom industry move from proprietary and legacy technologies to open source technologies with LF Networking.”
Now LF Networking has more than 100 members, which represent ~70% of the global subscribers of these telecom players. These members are actively participating in software development at LF Networking. They are collaborating on existing projects, and they are contributing their own in-house code to the foundation and releasing it as open source.
For example, AT&T contributed their own work on virtual networks as ONAP to the Linux Foundation. The project is now being used by in production by other companies, and AT&T in return is benefitting from the work the competitors are doing to improve the code base.
“Over $500 million worth of software innovation, in terms of value, has been created in the open source community,” said Joshipura. “We can now safely say that the telecom industry is going to use open source that is based out of Linux Foundation to build their next generation networks.
What’s incredible about this transformation within the telecom industry is that unlike other industries where developers drive the change, here top leadership has advocated for change all the way down.
LF Networking became a catalyst to help the industry by creating an umbrella project under which various players can gather, contribute, and enrich the technologies involved.
The primary focus of LF Networking at the moment is to see more and more of these technologies in production. “But our next goal is to see how networking enables what we call cross-project collaboration, cross-industry collaboration, cross-community collaboration. How does blockchain impact telcos, how can telcos go cloud-native with Kubernetes… and so on,” said Joshipura.
One of the most promising areas for the networking community is edge computing, as seen in the recent creation of the new LF Edge umbrella project. There is a lot of innovation happening in the space — 5G, autonomous driving, and so on. “Our focus is on figuring out how do these projects come together and collaborate so that there’s more value to our end users, to our members,” he said.
The Linux Foundation has a wide range of projects, many of which are building code individually. Joshipura wants these projects to collaborate closely. “We have the concept of VNF (Virtual Network Functions). How do we make them cloud-native? We created a project called CNF (Cloud Native network Functions), but we need to work with the ONAP community, networking community, and Kubernetes community to solve some of the problems that the networking community is facing,” he said.
With its current momentum and community support, LF Networking is on track to lead the way.
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