ONF operators push reference designs out for membership review

ONF Executive Director Guru Parulkar cautions that vendors that don't choose to be a part of ONF risk being passed over in favor of startup companies. (FierceTelecom)

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is taking another step forward by putting its four reference designs out for review.

ONF Executive Director Guru Parulkar announced during his morning keynote address at ONF Connect that the four reference designs would be under review by ONF's Innovator Members over the coming months.

"So for the next two to three months we are expecting the entire ONF community will have an opportunity to review the documents and provide feedback to operators, to the supply chain partners, to the ONF so we can keep iterating and making them better to suite the community and the industry," Parulkar said in a hallway interview with FierceTelecom.

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ONF's operator membership, which is comprised of AT&T, China Telecom, China Unicom, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT and Turk Telekom, was credited with the release of the following reference designs for review: SDN Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA-RD), NFV Fabric-RD, Unified, Programmable and Automated Network (UPAN-RD), and Open Disaggregated Transport Network.

In March, ONF announced a new strategic plan at the Open Networking Summit, which included an open source approach to its service providers' technologies, splitting up network components and embracing merchant silicon and white boxes. At the same time, the new plan was also designed to encourage vendors to get involved in key areas of the supply chain that relate to the reference designs.

RELATED: ONF adds new partners, edge and access cloud reference designs to its strategic plan

In June, the ONF unveiled the four new specific reference designs that serve as templates to create use cases for edge cloud implementations. The first four reference designs mainly cover access and edge networking including:

• SEBA describes how to assemble a collection of open source components to build a virtualized PON network to deliver residential broadband and mobile backhaul. At ONF on Tuesday, AT&T, Turk Telekom and Duetsche Telekom said they were working on SEBA deployments.

• The NFV Fabric-RD describes an SDN-native distributed spine and leaf fabric that's optimized for access and edge applications making use of the OpenFlow protocol and white box switches. AT&T also announced at ONF that it was deploying white box switches in a live production test at some of its cell sites.

• ODTN-RD was designed to create open multi-vendor optical networks by combining open line systems with a mix of third-party DWDM optics, which brings disaggregation and open source to optical networking. ODTN-RD was designed to put operators in control of projects and to negate vendor lock-in by allowing service providers to select best-of-breed components instead of buying an entire system from a single vendor.

• UPAN-RD is the next generation of SDN in a unified, programmable, automated network solution. UPAN makes use of P4 and next-generation APIs P4Runtime, gNMI/OpenConfig and gNOI to enable flexible data plane programmability, full lifecycle management of white box fabric and network embedded VNF acceleration.

Each of the reference designs are backed by the ONF operator members that plan on deploying those designs in their production networks along with supply chain partners in those areas. For example, Google plans on deploying a component of UPAN this year.

Each reference designs is also supported by an Exemplar Platform that is designed to build out the platforms. The Exemplar Platforms are pre-integrated and can be downloaded, trialed and deployed in production by the corresponding operators.

The endgame for the operator members of ONF is to make production deployments based on the reference design while the corresponding Exemplar Platforms will help the operators build the open-source-based commercial platforms.

"The vendors are already building the Exemplar Platforms that are consistent with the reference designs," Parulkar said. "They are going hand-in-hand. Even today we have reference implementations of these reference designs, and they, the vendors and the operators, will keep iterating and improving upon them."

While AT&T has SEBA in central offices in Georgia and Texas, Parulkar said there were other reference designs that have been more widely deployed in production, but so far haven't been announced.

A familiar refrain from Parulkar and other speakers on the first day of ONF Connect was that there needed to be more vendor participation across the reference designs and Exemplar Platforms. Traditional vendors that choose not to participate could lose out to startups and innovators that are willing to put their time and effort behind ONF.

On Monday, ONF announced that Infosys had signed up as the newest supply chain partner.

"It's not that another partner that is joining ONF, that's not the big news here," Parulkar said. "The big news is, look at the type of company that is stepping up to partner with operators to take this thing forward. And if this is not a wake up call to certain part of our industry, I don't know what will be."