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Mar 09 2018

Better together: Open source and standardization in fixed access

Let’s be honest: where would we be without standardization? Telecoms has a long, successful history of coming together as an industry to define standards which then go on to change the world. Just think of residential broadband; the success of bringing affordable broadband to more communities has, to a large degree, been driven by standardization of technologies that have underpinned investment, advancement and adoption.

And yet…

It’s an increasingly fast paced world. The proliferation of SDN/NFV is driving a new generation of virtualized fixed access platforms which rely – which thrive – on a next level of openness. Around the world, software-defined access networks are progressing from the drawing board to the lab and now to the field. In this context, open source has become an extremely valid tool. It helps accelerate global adoption and keeps the momentum going to innovate.

So, does open source spell the end of the road for standardization efforts and commercial software models? I don’t think so; still, there’s a huge opportunity to learn from open source developments as my colleague recently blogged about. It’s about combining the agility of open source with the efficiency and interoperability of standardization.

The BBF’s Open Broadband shares this vision. Standardization remains extremely important. But for all its benefits, we know it’s a time-consuming process that results in long technology cycles. The iterative approach of open software architectures helps to renew the focus on implementation rather than exclusively on specification development. On the other side, the agility of a “fail fast” approach with open source creates much rework and carries an increased risk of divergence and the accumulation of large technical debt.

It’s all about getting that perfect mix of open and standard and that is why Nokia is committed to open industry initiatives, such as ONAP and ONF, and why we also champion standardization efforts in the BBF and ETSI NFV. Open source projects like OpenECOMP and OPEN-O have converged into ONAP to avoid fragmentation and consolidate the architectures and software. Similarly, the BBF is forging an alliance of open source and standardization at the network edge, which could see platforms like ONAP sitting at the top of the software stack. This would bring orchestration flexibility, more types of virtualized access nodes, easy interoperability via standardized interfaces and clear abstraction to isolate the core functionality from specific device implementations.

Open source has become an integral part of Nokia’s R&D process and we know it takes a hands-on approach to understand what makes sense (and what doesn’t). Best-in-class open software practices were heavily used in building our Altiplano framework that lets operators mix and customize Nokia products, 3rd party and open source solutions. These capabilities form the foundation for Nokia’s software-defined access network and led to the first multi-vendor integration in an R-CORD platform at Broadband World Forum 2017, which included our programmable Lightspan access nodes.

At the same event, Federico Guillén, President of Fixed Networks at Nokia, spoke about the power of ‘and’; the need for fixed and wireless, the network and the cloud, to unlock the next phase of broadband innovation.

I’d like to build on that idea and add ‘open and standard’ as another powerful combination for future network evolutions.

 

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About Filip de Greve

As product marketing manager at Nokia, Filip focuses on new market strategies for innovative copper and fiber based access solutions. He holds a Ph.D. in telecomm and has over 10 years experience in the ICT & telecom industry with broad expertise in hardware, software and services. He loves road cycling and thrives on thinking outside the box to explore new ideas and concepts.

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