We were invited to a breakfast meeting with Al Blackburn, VP for AT&T Domain 2.0 Architecture and Planning. They made progress in using ODL in AT&T’s Network on Demand service, and said that one of the toughest challenges was to break down the silos that prevented different groups from collaborating. This is understandable for telcos with a strong tradition of reliable service and a history of vertical integration.
However, as AT&T works in a new environment of rapid changes, he said that project managers and developers who prefer to see all project status to be on track (or in green status) need to be accustomed to the status of Yellow as the new Green. This means that AT&T needs to work faster and develop and deploy new services much more quickly than before. This also means that the traditional reliability of the network need not be applied across all customers. Of course, some circuits like those used in brokerage trading need to be extremely reliable, but other networks may be able to reestablish themselves after a few seconds, and that may be perfectly acceptable.
Another interesting observation was that it’s possible to use multiple SDN controllers—AT&T has deployed ON.lab’s Open Network Operating System (ONOS) for some parts of the network, running with the ODL controller managing other sections. This shows that for a larger network, it is not an either-or decision, and controller federation is required.
This was also echoed by my meeting with Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO of HP’s NFV. He laid out a evolutionary path toward adoption of NFV. Early steps of the journey are simply virtualizing physical network function (P2V, or physical to virtual conversion), and moving toward cloudifying the services to be truly elastic. Federated systems and controllers will also be a reality. He also believes that NFV may be a clear driver of SDN since ROI may be clearly demonstrated.
OpenDaylight is part of the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project, so we should see more NFV-related projects within ODL. We need to remember that OPNFV isn’t a product or even a single software release, but a collection NFV Infrastructure and Virtual Infrastructure Manager components of the ETSI NFV architecture.
OpenDaylight has more progress on the telco front. AT&T, Clearpath Networks, and Nokia have joined ODL. I met with Marc Cohn (SVP of marketing) and Cliff Young (CEO) of ClearPath, and Clearpath sells a platform product for orchestration of WAN network services. Although orchestration seems to imply the operational improvements are critical, he said that for vCPE, cost is a critical matter. So, as we have seen in other changes in the past, CapEx reduction is a catalyst, and then other issues such as OpEx become more important. Other factors that drive Cleatpath's deployment is a small footprint (small VM size) and use of open standards, which also drives costs down.
So the lessons: CapEx reduction does not go out of style, even in the era of agility.
I’ll report on other items from ODL in a future blog.