Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Friday, November 17, 2017
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AT&T Networking Code Goes Open Source 

(Supphachai Salaeman/Shutterstock)

Network virtualization functions are poised to be automated, prompting the Linux Foundation to launch an open networking automation initiative aimed at leveraging a code donation to the open source group by networking giant AT&T.

AT&T's (NYSE: T) ECOMP software will serve as the framework for the open networking automation project, providing "real-time, policy-driven software automation of network virtual functions," the foundation announced on Wednesday (Feb. 1). ECOMP stands for "enhanced control, orchestration and policy."

The company describes ECOMP as a framework for leveraging cloud technologies (initially the AT&T integrated cloud) along with network virtualization to offer new network services. At the same time, the architecture looks to expand "operational automation."

ECOMP stresses the ability to handle diverse workloads, AT&T said. The second iteration of the platform leverages cloud capabilities ranging from real-time instantiation of virtual machines on commercial hardware to dynamic assignment of applications and workloads while moving applications to different VMs on servers at different datacenters. The approach also seeks to dynamically control computing, memory and storage resources used by applications.

Meanwhile, network function virtualization focuses on "transforming network appliances into software applications," the telecom giant said.

"ECOMP represents one of [AT&T's] most important open source contributions to create a fully open network automation platform," the Linux Foundation noted in a statement.

Along with AT&T, other companies signing up for the open networking automation effort include Amdocs, Bell Canada, Brocade, Ericsson, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Metaswitch and Orange. The project is covered under the Apache 2.0 license. The Linux Foundation said it was establishing a governing and membership structure to facilitate code scans.

The open source group added it would provide more details on the network automation initiative during its Open Networking Summit from April 3-6 in Santa Clara, Calif.

According to a company white paper on the ECOMP architecture, AT&T engineers said, "We expect network elements and services to be instantiated by customers and providers in a significantly dynamic process with real-time response to actionable events."

The telecommunications giant has positioned the network automation platform as "optimized to deliver an open management platform for defining, operating and managing products and services based upon virtualized network and infrastructure resources and software applications."

Other industry efforts such as the Open Compute Project have attempted to address network bottlenecks via approaches ranging from open network switch interfaces to broader efforts aimed at moving software-defined networking into datacenters. These and other efforts are part of a broader effort to disaggregate current networking infrastructure.

"Networking has to be disaggregated" to get to a "framework for a software-defined world," an executive with Dell's former networking unit asserted in releasing a switch abstraction interface to the Open Compute Project in 2015.

The latest open source effort aimed at automating network virtualization indicates that momentum is building to address networking bottlenecks created by data-intensive applications and workloads.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 25 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as Executive Editor for Electronic Engineering Times.

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