Operators pick their own MANO

There’s an old saying in IT that any standard is good enough as long as it is a standard, which loosely translates as ‘we don’t care what it is, only that everybody sticks to it’.

So the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) must be at least a little nervous that certain carriers are busy building their own open source versions of the management and orchestration (MANO) tools they need to effectively provision and deliver virtualised cloud services to their enterprise customers – one of the key functions that the ETSI network function virtualisation industry specifications group (NFV ISG) was originally set up in 2013 to co-ordinate.

The in-house MANO tools we know about so far come from Open O from China Mobile (Open O), Tata Communications (TCS Telco Cloud), NTT (Gohan) and Telefónica (OpenMANO). But there could be many more from different carriers, service providers and operators lurking just beneath the surface waiting for an official announcement.

The telco industry has been complaining for a while that it could not find SDN/NFV components suitable for their needs on the open market, and the fact that some service providers appear to have lost patience with the vendor community should come as no surprise either.

The question is whether this represents a failure on behalf of SDN/NFV suppliers to deliver, or if it just proves that networks and data centres across the world have uniquely individual requirements and that no ‘one size fits all’ approach is ever really going to cut the mustard anyway.

Standardisation is never a simple process – the logistical challenge of getting everybody in a room together in the first place is difficult enough. But ETSI is working hard to keep control over both MANO and broader SDN/NFV standards initiatives to ensure some level of commonality between the different tools under development, not only between its own members but also other standards groups (3GPP, IETF, ONF, OpenDaylight Project and OPNFV to name a few) working on the same type of platforms.

It’s no easy task, but the alternative – which is to let individual service providers and/or vendors to build their own MANO tools, which despite using the same underlying open source code would not necessarily be interoperable – probably presents a future that the telecommunications industry as a whole might want to avoid (again).

Written by Martin Courtney for Axians UK.

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