March 9, 2016

Open Source SDN Orchestration: Real Time OSS Foundation for Service Agility

xipeng headEditor's Note: This article is paid for by Huawei as a luminary sponsor of Open Networking Summit, to be held March 14-17,2016, and was written by

Next-generation networking technologies such as SDN, NFV and cloud computing are enabling autonomous, real-time telecom operations. However, many conventional operational support systems (OSS) are based on proprietary software, which leads to fragmented technologies and interoperability issues for carriers.

To address this issue, The Linux Foundation, China Mobile and Huawei in February held a press conference, together with China Telecom, KT and 10 other industry partners, announcing the OPEN-Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O) to develop the first open source software framework and orchestrator.

OPEN-O will integrate open networking technologies and enable carriers to quickly and cost-effectively implement SDN and NFV through open source code development. The project will also aim to accelerate multi-vendor integration, service innovation and improve agility across network operations.

We talked with Dr. Xipeng Xiao, CTO Office, Huawei West Europe, about the issues facing the telecommunications industry, the promise of open source SDN orchestration (SDNO), and the OPEN-O project in advance of the Open Networking Summit, to be held next week.

What is the most pressing problem for the telecom industry that SDN, and specifically SDNO, is trying to solve?

Operators’ top desire for SDN is ‘Service Agility’. That is the ability to support automation across the full service life-cycle for network services that span multiple domains and vendors. Operators face many challenges with service agility today:

  • When provisioning an existing service, it can take more than a week for residential service, and more than six weeks for an enterprise private line or VPN service.

  • When upgrading or replacing network devices, operation support systems (OSS) integration commonly takes more than three months.

  • When introducing a new service, it’s common to take more than a year.

What causes this poor service agility for operators?

Analysis reveals that a lack of accurate and global service and resource inventory in existing OSS makes localized resource checking a necessity. This causes manual and sequential processing among all the involved network domains.

Also, insufficient abstraction and modeling of services and resources in existing OSS means OSS modules aren't sufficiently reusable. This leads to more OSS development and integration work, time, and cost. For example, typical OSS consists of multiple software systems each with its own model and API’s. Adding support for new services or devices may mean that each of those systems needs to be updated and tested.

How does SDN orchestration aim to improve these issues for operators?

SDN Orchestration (SDNO) aims to deliver service agility by doing three things differently:  

First, building an accurate service and resource inventory so that provisioning of existing services can be automated. To achieve this, operators need a real-time, centralized, shared inventory system that combines the ability to discover and reconcile all information. Such information is retrieved either automatically from the active network resources, or manually from passive network resources. Central to the success of this shared inventory is use of a Common Information Model across all OSS modules.

Second, introducing abstraction and modeling for services and resources. While the exact models are to be defined by the industry, the goals are clear. When introducing a new service or device, if only one attribute or feature changes from the existing setup, SDNO should require incremental modeling and configuration work only for those changes. Past modeling and configuration for other attributes should be reusable.  

Third, going open source. Without open source, vendors will compete to provide their own SDNO. This will result in many abstraction and modeling approaches, and a lot of controversy and confusion. That will discourage operators from migrating from traditional OSS to SDNO.

What are the benefits of creating an open source orchestrator?

Open source makes it easier for vendors to cooperate and define the best abstraction and modeling methods for both service and devices, as the open source SDNO solution belongs to the community, not any specific vendor.

And operators can adopt the same open source SDNO solution, or a big part of it.  

With a single open source SDNO, vendors can pre-integrate their devices to it.  This way, when an operator wants to introduce a new device, the previously time-consuming and costly OSS integration can be saved.  

How do you envision the migration away from OSS taking place?

Migration from today’s OSS to SDNO can be done service by service. For example, an SDNO module can be first introduced for VPN, replacing existing OSS modules for provisioning/assurance. This can then be extended over time to support other services.

Can you please summarize the benefits to vendors and operators in collaborating on open source SDN orchestration with a project like OPEN-O?

Through an accurate inventory of services and resources, abstraction and modeling, and open source, SDNO has the potential to deliver service agility.  Although it’s understandable that to avoid risk, some operators may not want to replace existing cumbersome OSS that “works”, those brave enough to migrate will get significant saving in OSS development & integration, and gain significant competitive advantage from service agility.  It is time for the industry to act to achieve an open source SDN Orchestration.  Huawei will contribute code, and work with other industry partners, to help make the SDNO, NFVO and the overall Open-O a success.

This article was sponsored by Huawei.

Dr. Xipeng Xiao is Head of CTO Office, West EU Marketing, and a member of Huawei’s Marketing Professional Committee (MPC). Prior to Huawei, he served as Marketing Director at Riverstone Networks and Director of Product Management at Redback Networks. He also served as a Senior Manager at Global Crossing Telecom where he deployed and managed Global Crossing’s IP/MPLS network. Dr. Xiao has authored multiple Request for Comments (RFCs) for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).  

Dr. Xiao is a frequent speaker at a number of industry forums and conferences, and he serves as a member of the technical steering committee of the MPLS World Congress. He is the author of the book, “Technical, Commercial and Regulatory Challenges of QoS: An Internet Service Model Perspective”. Dr. Xiao holds a Doctor/Master’s degree in Computer Sci. from Michigan State Univ. & Zhejiang Univ., respectively.

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