The telecom industry's need for a more cohesive approach to adopting NFV and SDN is being recognized in efforts announced this week by the Linux Foundation and MEF to address standards harmonization and skills training respectively. In each case, an established group seeks to bring some order to what can be perceived as somewhat chaotic efforts to move the industry forward faster in NFV and SDN adoption.
As Arpit Joshipura, head of networking for the Linux Foundation, notes, there is general agreement that the telecom industry wants to adopt software-defined networking and network functions virtualization as rapidly as is possible, both to create more efficient and automated use of network resources as bandwidth demands explode and to more rapidly introduce new services.
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Where telecom is struggling, however, is with trying to push change forward when so many different pieces of network operations -- and company culture -- need to be transformed, all at the same time. That has put pressure on traditional ways of doing business for vendors and network operators alike.
The pace at which that change happens is being enabled in part by the rise of open source approaches to developing technology but as Joshipura says, the proliferation of open source groups -- some of whose work overlaps -- is adding to the confusion in the industry. So the Linux Foundation has issued a white paper and outlined a way in which these groups need to not only be harmonized among themselves but also coordinate efforts with more traditional standards development organizations. (See Time for a Telecom Reboot.)
The second news this week came from MEF, the organization best known for developing Carrier Ethernet standards that enabled interoperability of services between operators, and for its certification processes. MEF has now developed The new Third Network Professional Certification Framework to directly address another problem related to the pace of change within telecom regarding SDN-NFV adoption: the need for retraining and new skills development of the telecom workforce. (See MEF Leaps Into SDN-NFV Skills Fray.)
MEF developed this framework, which will have three different levels of certification, based on extensive survey work of those in the industry and close collaboration with 40 other organizations within the standards and open source communities, says Rick Bauer, director of certifications for MEF .
Those organizations supplied the basic information on what telecom professionals need to know about SDN, NFV, MEF's Lifecycle Services Orchestration and other newer industry basics, including what it means to be agile, that is covered in the MEF certification process.
"The framework we are introducing is the result of, in some cases, years of discussion and over the last few months, very intense discussions with a variety of individuals and organizations," Bauer comments.
That framework will be rolled out over the next couple of years, with major announcements expected next fall and in 2018, he adds. Ultimately, the certification process will help in both the retraining and hiring processes, enabling network operators to quickly establish the level of expertise of a giving candidate or requirements for a specific job.
MEF and the Linux Foundation are two of the organizations coming together around a perceived industry problem, but there are others, many of whom participated in day-long meetings as part of the Linux Foundation's Open Networking Summit in April. There is significant work already underway on this front, Joshipura notes, but it needs a greater deal of organization.
"Once we start discussion, and there are things that are starting, we find areas of common interest," he says. One example is the work that was underway between MEF and Open Orchestration, that continues now that Open-O is part of the Open Network Automation Platform.
"We've done other work outside of networking, with the Open Container Initiative, for example -- and there are definitely projects that are crossing boundaries and moving into common processes -- we just want to take an holistic view of those things," Joshipura says.
Key to that is identifying where open source projects and SDOs touch and/or overlap and working to coordinate efforts between the two organizations. While that sometimes means pulling together two separate bureaucracies, which may be operating on different continents and under different charters, many times the groups share key members, who value being able to reduce or consolidate their investment in open source and standards processes.
The Linux Foundation is willing to be the place where dialogues happen between open source and SDOs, Joshipura says, but he quickly adds that the discussion may also take place within the standards groups such as 3GPP, IETF or IEEE, as well.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading