May 26, 2016

Telecom Companies Collaborate Through OPNFV to Address Unique Business Challenges

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Prodip Sen
Prodip Sen, CTO, NFV at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise says open source was the best way to accomplish faster market adoption of NFV.

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is an emerging alternative to using dedicated hardware appliances, particularly for service providers, where quick, flexible responses to traffic pattern shifts and user demand changes are essential. It implements network tasks like access security, load balancing, and packet filtering as software modules suitable for virtualized cloud environments.

Despite these advantages, NFV adoption was slow when the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)'s NFV group finished its initial standardization work. So some of the ETSI founding members considered how they might accelerate adoption of the technology.

"We realized that the standardization process in telecommunications takes too long," said Prodip Sen, who was at the time working at Verizon, and is now CTO, NFV at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. "The typical process takes many years. Service providers couldn't afford to wait that long for this technology to be adopted. The agility and rapid pace of change in the market doesn't allow that. So we were looking for ways to accelerate that standardization.”

Organizing Open Source with The Linux Foundation

They latched onto the idea that open source was the best way to accomplish faster market adoption. But they all came from telecommunications companies with no experience in open source. So they approached several organizations to learn more about open source and find out how they could get NFV going.

“We wanted to get some education in it, and also wanted help in forming our NFV effort,” Sen said. “That's where The Linux Foundation helped us: they educated us on what was involved, provided us with workshops and discussions to help educate our colleagues, and worked with us to step us through the process of formation of the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project itself.”

OPNFV was launched in September 2014 as a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project.

Since then, reports Sen, "The Linux Foundation has been very helpful in providing us with information, resources and the learnings from other open source projects, allowing  us to run and improve the working of OPNFV itself."

Making More Contacts in the Open Source Community

Thanks to OPNFV's partnership with The Linux Foundation, group members have met and acquired new participants, and has been networking with other players in the open source community, says Sen.

"One thing that has been very useful for us has been the ability of The Linux Foundation to make connections with other open source organizations who are perhaps going through similar issues, and help us learn from each other about best practices," says Sen, who is now chair of the board for OPNFV.

The Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit , an invitation-only event held in March, was a good example of this, says Sen.

“The event gave us an opportunity to connect to others who are on the same journey as we are on - to develop open source software for a particular purpose -- and  helped us realize the commonality of many of the challenges we face," Sen said. "We heard from others who are struggling with many of the same issues, and had already dealt with some of these. This has been very helpful to us.” Sen said.

For telecommunications companies either looking to adopt, or that are currently using NFV technology, collaboration is vital.  The open source environments that The Linux Foundation provides are good learning platforms that set businesses up for success.

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