Open source drives the networks of the future

Cédric Ollivier, a Network Automation Expert at Orange, has just been elected to the Linux Foundation Networking governing board as the developers' representative. For both Cédric and Orange, this appointment recognises the quality of the contributions made to the open source community over the years.

"By fostering the creation of technologies with a de facto standard, open source is responding to challenges shared by all carriers".

Linux Foundation Networking (LFN), the networking division of the Linux Foundation, is a not-for-profit consortium that brings together thousands of contributors, including some of the largest companies in the industry, with the goal of redefining the way in which the networks and services of tomorrow are created. “The open source world is based on merit, where peer validation is the ultimate expression of recognition”, said Cédric. “It is an honour to have been elected to the LFN governing board. Above all, the contributions published by Orange show just how involved we are in these issues and confirm our commitment. For Orange, open source is not just a way to foster collaborative research and innovation, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to make real change in the telco ecosystem. The stakes are quite clear; by developing more unified interfaces, we simplify our integrations (how software and equipment is installed on an information system) and, in short, our business”.

A driving force for virtualisation

LFN is working on about 15 major projects, related in particular to strategic subjects such as network virtualisation and orchestration. For example, the OPNFV (Open Platform for Network Function Virtualization) project, in which Orange is the leading contributor, aims to develop a platform to integrate virtual network functions into the cloud. “With network virtualisation, software takes precedence over hardware. This means short releases, with numerous updates and as many versions to be tested quickly. In response to this technical development, automating testing is a crucial factor”. It is one of the first tools made as part of the OPNFV project. Orange currently uses it internally to test its infrastructure.

Creating a de facto standard

The Group is also very active in the ONAP (Open Networking Automation Platform) project, supported by carriers including Orange, AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone. The advantage for those involved lies in having a shared voice when prompting suppliers to integrate technology into their products. This leverage has meant Orange could use ONAP to ensure better automation of its future 5G network, for example. The same collaborative approach is being adopted with the CNTT (Common NFVI Telco Task Force), whose ambition is to create and document a common infrastructure for virtualising network functions. By fostering the creation of technologies with a de facto standard, open source is responding to challenges shared by all carriers and helping to develop more efficient networks.

Companies — more “open” than ever?

This is how open source is gaining traction in the strategies of players such as Microsoft, for example, which bought software hosting giant GitHub for $7.5 billion in 2018. Cédric Ollivier explains why open source is good for the industry: “Embracing open source means that we no longer only have access to our internal skills and knowledge, but to that of all the industry experts. It is an infinite source of help. No company is capable of financing such research and innovation potential on its own. It also provides a way in which to strengthen brand image because contributors speak at conferences, publish reports and feature in projects. It is not about using open source for everything, but about understanding the benefits that those in the same industry can obtain by pooling certain resources. In terms of network virtualisation in particular, we want to show that it is in carriers’ best interests to work together towards a common goal”.

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