AT&T Spark conference panel highlights open source road map and needs

Reuter's Stephen Nellis, left, AT&T's Amy Wheelus, The Linux Foundation's Arpit Joshipura, Microsoft's Jeff McAffer and AT&T's Catherine Lefèvre talk about open source Monday at the AT&T Spark conference. (FierceTelecom)(Mike Robuck/FierceTelecom)

The telecommunications industry has been around for 141 years, but the past five have been the most disruptive, according to the Linux Foundation's Arpit Joshipura.

Joshipura, general manager, networking and orchestration, said on a panel during Monday's AT&T Spark conference in San Francisco that the next five years will be marked by deployment phases across open source communities and the industry as a whole.

"Its (telecommunications) been disrupted in just the last five years and the speed of innovation has skyrocketed in just the last five years since open source came out," Joshipura said.

Joshipura said that there would be more collaboration across the various open source communities going forward. For example, the OpenStack Foundation's Airship, which launched in May, is being used by the Linux Foundation's Akraino project to further automation. Airship helps cloud operators manage sites across their various stages from inception to updates while Akraino is the Linux Foundation's edge computing systems and applications platform.

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Speaking on the same panel, Microsoft's Jeff McAffer, Director, open source programs office, said there needed to be a maturity model for how open source moves forward.

"I think we're getting to be proficient as an industry." McAffer said. "It means we're starting to understand the security ramifications, starting to take care of our holistic and friction free consumption and engagement with open source, but I'd love to see the industry going further by getting to the next stages of maturity where it becomes a more fundamental part of the business model like we've been seeing with AT&T. Where it becomes a much more fundamental piece of how the software industry itself works.

"I think there will be lots of innovations in technology areas, but I'm really hoping for evolutions in how we actually drive the process itself."

Open source also brings rivals to the same table to work in conjunction on issues that impact all of them. Catherine Lefèvre, associate vice president, network cloud and infrastructure, AT&T Labs, cited the additions of Verizon, Deutsche Telecom and Vodafone to the Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP) that's hosted by Linux Foundation's LF Deep Learning Foundation.

"This is the power of open source: AT&T talking about Verizon, Sprint, in a nice way," Joshipura said.

AT&T's Amy Wheelus, vice president, network cloud, asked the panel about the cultural and organizational challenges that open source presents for service providers and vendors. Joshipura pointed to a report from earlier this year that the Linux Foundation did in conjunction with Dice, which found that 46% of the managers that are hiring sought potential employees with skills in networking that are open source-based.

"The most important asset is people," Joshipura said. "I would say that's kind of the fundamental shift with vendor partners and user partners. What we hear from the community is, 'How do you hire people who are capable of what I call the GitHub era,' or the open source era, and not the suit and tie era?"

McAffer said open source allows vendors and service providers to spin up open source services and applications at a rapid pace with just one command. Vendors and carriers need to be on point when it comes to their engagements with open source communities.

"I think that's one of the big challenges we have as we look to engage more and more with open source," he said. "That's certainly one of the things that we've been seeing at Microsoft.

Lefèvre said vendors, open source groups and carriers needed to consolidate the needs of everyone.

"You need to understand what they (open source communities) were lined up to develop in addition to your own needs," she said. "It's a lot of communication and transparency as well."