ONAP: Riding the open-source wave towards network automation

As digitization becomes increasingly important, communication service providers (CSPs) are constantly looking for innovative solutions driving more automated control into their networks. In the quest towards enabling faster service delivery and reducing operational expenditures, CSPs are faced with multiple challenges along the way that need to be addressed in order to achieve their business goals. Today’s operational support systems and networking infrastructure need to be refreshed in order to keep up with the scale and rising bandwidth demands, further accelerating the need for automation driven by SDN and NFV technologies.

In addressing some of these challenges, the telecom industry has started to embrace open-source solutions, bringing about more collaboration and harmonization. The ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform) project hosted by the Linux Foundation is a classic example of this. Over the last year we have witnessed an increased momentum among CSPs and vendors alike embracing ONAP as a unified orchestration and automation framework, with several of them making active contributions towards enhancing the project. At its core, ONAP provides a comprehensive platform for real-time, policy-driven orchestration and automation of physical and virtual network functions that will enable software, network, IT and cloud providers and developers to rapidly automate new services and support complete lifecycle management.

ONAP provides a common modular reference framework that defines key functional blocks and standard interfaces, which form a basis for service definition, resource onboarding, activation and control, and data analytics across a broad range of use cases. Common information models, external API support and generic management engines decouple the specific services and technologies, providing users with the flexibility to develop additional capabilities enabling new blueprints. With CSPs’ networks continuously evolving, the increased complexity of managing and implementing service offerings across multi-domain, multi-layer, multi-vendor environments is furthering the need for a unified approach to service orchestration and network management across legacy and modern infrastructures.

Although there is a high level of industry consensus on the architectural principles and interface definitions guiding the development of ONAP, we have a long road ahead towards secure and stable deployment in live networks. There are multiple options network operators are considering in integrating ONAP into their existing OSS environments. As with many open-source projects, we believe there will be markets for various distribution models providing network operators with flexibility on how they choose to consume ONAP and associated offerings, including: 

  • Integrated solutions with carrier-grade versions of individual ONAP modules  
  • Service models, applications and micro-services built to run in ONAP environments
  • Compliant networking infrastructure (physical/virtual), including PNFs, VNFs, domain controllers, etc. that plug into ONAP

There are multiple complexities involved in introducing ONAP into an existing OSS playground and the ability to successfully deploy and automate service delivery across the many network domains. Managing this incremental shift towards adopting ONAP modules / components, and having them co-exist with existing management systems, will be critical to enabling a smooth transition. The rise of 5G further necessitates the need for a scalable architectural platform to onboard and activate new services enabling a wider range of business opportunities for network operators, and to this extent ONAP seems like an attractive option. Having fully embraced open-source as a key catalyst to network automation, Fujitsu is actively engaging in the ONAP ecosystem. We are contributing to the development and extension of the ONAP framework towards addressing new use cases in partnership with network operators, with the goal of further driving community collaboration. As we continue to ride the open-source wave, we look forward to seeing the industry make this important digital transformation together.

About Raghavan Subramanian

Product Planner, Open Ecosystems