What is ONAP and what does it mean for you?

We take a deep dive into what ONAP means, and how it will affect the way your organization works.

What is ONAP?

The Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) is an initiative created by the combination of the ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy) and Open-O (Open Orchestrator) projects into ONAP, to bring the capabilities for designing, creating, orchestrating and handling of the full lifecycle management of Virtual Network Functions, Software Defined Networks, and the services that all of these things entail.

In essence ONAP is the platform above the infrastructure layer that automates the network. ONAP allows the end users to connect products and services through the infrastructure, and allows deployments of VNFs and scaling of the network, in a fully automated manner. The high level architecture of ONAP contains different software subsystems that are part of a design-time environment, as well as an execution time environment to execute what the designed platforms.

The project is under the governance of the Linux Foundation, and founded by AT&T and China Mobile. This has brought together many of the key players in the industry, like Vodafone, Orange, Bell Canada, Ericsson, Reliance JIO, Nokia and more. These key players are now defining the next generation of Network Orchestration.

What’s all the fuss about ONAP?

As ONAP enables VNFs, and other network functions and services to be interoperable in a automated, policy driven real time environment. This provides everyone (as ONAP is fully open sourced, and the code is free for everyone to see and consume) the ability to fully create, design and deploy for Automated Network Services. The ramifications of this are huge, as Chris Rice, the Senior VP Domain 2.0 Architecture at AT&T Labs puts it:

We’re certainly going to get help from the rest of the ecosystem and the vendors, but this is something that’s really going to affect the way that we build networks going forward. This is a fundamental shift in the way we build networks, we’re going to build them in a software-defined way.

Or as Arpit Joshipura, the General Manager of Networking & Orchestration for the Linux Foundation puts it:

ONAP is releasing the software from Linux Foundation to the community. ONAP gives them the platform and access to over 10 million lines of code; this is the single largest networking initiative, and I would say the largest open source networking project that exists today in the industry.

ONAP is planned to bring the DevOps best practices and agile deployment methods to the Telecom world. This will make use of today’s cloud technologies and network virtualization capabilities will lower the bar of entry for more and more players. It will also enable operators to add new features quickly and deploy them on the fly, reduce operational costs significantly, and have much more control of their network and the services that are available with it. This is a win-win situation for both service providers and end customers, as the network with be able to work in a much more efficient matter in the constantly connected world we live in. Consumers will also benefit from the new services and the improved experience of this “smarter” network.

Madam Yang Zhiqiang, Deputy General manager at China Mobile explains:

The introduction of SDN/NFV raised the capability requirements for operators for independent operation and development, bringing the world of DevOps to Telcos. And lower the bar for entry into the operator space.

The importance of Open Source

Open source took a big part in disrupting and reshaping the new cloud stack which was driven primarily to allow agile software delivery through DevOps. With the move to cloud, we’re seeing the expansion of the same open source disruption into the Telco/Networking space. AT&T realized that open source is not just a disruption, but rather a opportunity, and understood that for these projects to succeed, they needed to release them to the community. 

We’ve stated before that Openness is the True Path of NFV, and the Open Sourcing of ONAP further emboldens that case. The release of ONAP into the world as Open Source software thus carries a large significance.  Under the governance of the Linux Foundation, the open source model levels the field for all the players in the game, whether it’s the Operators, Service Providers, Hardware Manufacturers, or Software Defined Networking companies. This joint platform aims to bring full standardization to the Network Automation and Orchestration space, and spur on additional innovation. The convergence of more and more companies around this model, shows that the vision of a standard NFV based Networking platform is near.

Zhiqiang continues:

With the goal of industry convergence rather than fragmentation, and as two largest operators worldwide, China Mobile and AT&T, our collaboration in the open source orchestrator project will draw and pool more industry resources and lead to an alignment of standards

While Rice says:

We’re very excited to have the community to be a part of it and again this has really built for service providers by service providers.

In addition, open source is paving the way for service providers to accelerate their metamorphosis of internal processes and organizational changes from a more manual operator driven to a automated software driven approach. Things like Service Configurations, VNF Configurations and integrations, and more will take on a more “DevOps” like approach, as the network moves towards becoming more and more autonomous.

More about ONAP

The ONAP project was officially launched in February of 2017. Since then over 1,000 people have already joined the ONAP project, expanding the scope to over 30 projects, and continuing work on merging OPEN-O and ECOMP within the unified project. On April 5th, 2017, the Open Network Automation Platform code and documentation were officially released to the global community, with the intent of further increasing the collaboration around ONAP.

Additional useful resources: