About Raghavan Subramanian

Product Planner, Open Ecosystems

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.

Open and Automated: The New Optical Network

Communication service providers (CSPs) are increasingly transforming their networks with an eye towards more openness and automation. There has been a continued push to disaggregate optical networking platforms in order to drive down total cost of ownership and provide network operators with the flexibility to upgrade their networks while keeping up with the accelerated pace of innovation across different layers of the network framework stack. The promise of vendor interoperability and automated control through open standards, APIs and reference platforms are the key drivers enabling CSPs to make the shift to open.

There are varying degrees of openness that one can choose to adopt in this transition – from the proprietary systems of today to a fully disaggregated open optical network. The sweet spot in which the industry seems to be converging is to be partially disaggregated, as in the open line system (OLS) model. OLS provides a good trade-off between interoperability and performance; however, we still have a long way to go to make these systems future-proof and deployable. Multiple industry organizations such as the Open ROADM MSA, OpenConfig, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and Open Disaggregated Transport Network (ODTN) are working towards bringing this vision of open networking to reality. Though there are multiple initiatives addressing disaggregation in optical transport, we believe there is a strong need for harmonization among them so that the industry can truly benefit from standardization of common models and APIs.

As optical equipment vendors aggressively evolve their offerings to help enable this open optical transformation, care must be taken to address the key business and technical requirements which are unique to each network operator, depending on the state of their current network infrastructure. There is no one single solution that can be applied across the board, bringing both challenges and opportunities to vendors who have embraced open and disaggregated architectures. The migration to open networking requires the operator to reevaluate the manner in which networks are architected, deployed and operated. Enabling this shift presents multiple challenges (such as network planning and design and multi-vendor control) when it comes to the implementation and operationalization of the various building blocks. Effectively addressing them will be key to this transformation.

Fujitsu believes a collaborative process with CSPs that involves a thorough assessment of the network architecture and OSS/IT workflows, along with establishing a phased deployment plan for implementation of hardware and software solutions, will be instrumental in navigating this transition seamlessly. The enclosed white paper provides an overview of the open optical ecosystem today, identifies and describes some of the key challenges to be addressed in implementing open automated networks, and outlines some migration strategies available to network operators embracing open networking.