Q&A: T-Systems' Clauberg says industry needs more collaboration

T-Systems' Axel Clauberg says he hopes for better collaboration between standards bodies and open source groups. (Pixabay)

It's one thing to get some of the leading open source communities and standards development organizations (SDOs) on a conference panel, but it's a different ball of wax to get them to collaborate in a meaningful way across the industry.

Axel Clauberg, T-Systems

At last week's Open Networking Summit in San Jose, California, Axel Clauberg spoke about the need for collaboration between the open source groups and SDOs ahead of a Friday morning panel that was comprised of many of the leaders of those organizations.

At this start of this year, Clauberg slid over from his role as Deutsche Telekom's vice president, aggregation, transport, IP (TI-ATI) and infrastructure cloud architecture, to Deutsche Telekom's enterprise division, T-Systems. At T-Systems, Clauberg holds the title of vice president, strategic portfolio management and CTO of telecommunications services.

Clauberg serves as the chairman of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and he also worked at Cisco for 13 years. All in all, Clauberg has seen the industry from various points of view over the years, which validates his call for more industry collaboration.

In this FierceTelecom Q&A, which was edited for clarity and length, Clauberg discusses some of the open source groups and SDOs, and why collaboration is key. The interview with Clauberg took place at ONS the day before the Friday morning keynote panel.

FierceTelecom: What will you talk about during tomorrow morning's keynote panel that features various standards bodies and open source communities?

Axel Clauberg: When I look from the perspective of the operator, we have a lot of organizations active here. We have organizations like O-RAN looking at the segregation in the radio space and simplifying the network and making it and more scalable and opening up the interfaces. We have the Linux Foundation driving the open source. We also have organizations like TIP.

For me, the biggest nightmare would be if we would have competition between the organizations, competition and overlap. Because we as operators don't have enough resources, don't have enough skilled resources to actually reinvent the wheel in different organizations. So for me, driving collaboration between the organizations and doing this in an agile and fast way is very important. There are some good signs that this is now working out. So last year at ONS Europe in my keynote I wanted to make an announcement and I couldn't because it was not public yet. It became public this week and it was the O-RAN and Linux Foundation partnership.

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FierceTelecom: So that partnership is a particularly important one for the industry?

Clauberg: I think it's a good one that happened because the alternative would have been that O-RAN develops its own open-source community. I think we have to make use of the strength of the various organizations for accelerating innovation in this industry. The strength of Linux Foundation is definitely to manage that open-source communities and everything around them. The strength of O-RAN is to define architectures and open up the interfaces and so here the two things come together nicely.

So to bring TIP into the picture as well, the strength of TIP on one side is the development of open hardware and on the other side the integration. Obviously, I think things will converge and come closer together. So we announced from the TIP side a collaboration with the Open Networking Foundation as another proof point that was started in the Open Optical Packet Transport group from our side, and that helps the Open Networking Foundation as well to get broader traction for the activities they are driving.

FierceTelecom: Deutsche Telecom is an operator member of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Are you on that board as well?

Clauberg: DT was a founding member of ONF and I personally sat on the ONF board for more than five years, so I'm still following what's happening there, but you can't be present everywhere. I have a day job as well and I always joke that chairing TIP is my night job, but I need to focus on my day job as well

FierceTelecom: Do you think the Linux Foundation has gotten too big?

Clauberg: Yeah, well I wouldn't say that I have a concern that the Linux Foundation is too big. It's sometimes economies of scale, which lead to that effect. I think the important thing is the governance model for the organizations. I think that is right for Linux Foundation. It's a lean setup and the control is with the members and it's interesting to look at open-source organizations and compare them with standardization organizations.

We see less politics on the open-source organizations and we're still, I think, moving a bit faster, but one cannot live without the other so we still need standards. We also need the implementations to accompany those standards.

FierceTelecom: Do you think the standards bodies are moving fast enough?

Clauberg: I would say it helps to accelerate the development of standards sometimes. We see areas where this is working really well. For example take MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum), which is also fairly old organization founded, if I'm not mistaken, in the early 2000s. MEF was the first standards organization really partnering with the open-source communities and that was extremely successful. We see that now also, and the link to my day job when I look at topics like SD-WAN where the data models and the standards that are being made in MEF are accompanied by open-source implementations. That is a true value.  All these examples prove “Hey it's possible to accelerate,” and those standards were based on that successful collaboration. We still have to recognize that creating global standards is a sometimes a painful process, but without global standards we wouldn't be able to use our phone globally so there is a value in those standards.

FierceTelecom: If you could change one or two things in the industry right now, what would those be?

Clauberg: I think the collaboration between the two (open source and standards), and not seeing one as the enemy of the other, but seeing that as a true partnership. That’s what I would seek.

FierceTelecom: But service providers, such as AT&T and DT, are driving that collaboration, right?

Clauberg: I think the way we are supporting standards development inside the operators is changing. In the past, this was a separate team going to the standardization activities. They took the task from the engineering department or architecture departments, and took that into standardization. That has changed. Now, we have the architects and the engineers driving certain technologies, working in the standardization whether it's 3GPP or whether it's open-source related. I think you see the difference is that people are really pushing for what they need to come up with, which is more performant and simpler solutions.