The OpenConfig collaboration between Internet and telecom giants could well represent how the New IP evolves in a couple of significant ways. First of all, the goal of the effort is enabling a programmable management plane, which will, in turn, automate configuration management in a way that is multi-vendor, breaking the chains of vendor-specific processes that today hold back a network operator's ability to easily scale their networks. (See Google: OpenConfig Grows, Goes Commercial.)
Rapid scaling, automation and open networks are all hallmarks of the New IP. As Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Bikash Koley, principal architect and manager of network architecture, noted in a presentation last week at Light Reading's The New IP event, the old IP approach involves 50-plus network devices, more than half-a dozen equipment vendors and multiple platforms for each. The configuration management requirements for all that equipment are overwhelming -- Google alone makes over 1,000 configuration changes a day.
Getting to the New IP means finding a more rational and automated fashion to manage configuration changes across the many different network platforms and vendor gear.
Secondly, and as importantly, OpenConfig is an operator-driven collaboration that is moving quickly to remove roadblocks that hold all network operators back. While the collaboration itself is informal -- it uses a GitHub open source process and doesn't involve lawyers and extensive paperwork or financial commitments -- the end result is intended to have widespread impact.
According to the group, OpenConfig is communicating with industry vendors as a "reality check" of its work, and is feeding that work into industry standards groups, notably the IETF. The commercial deployments expected this week will involve multiple vendors' gear. (See Google, AT&T, BT Unite on Network Data Models.)
Having produced vendor-neutral Yang-based data models for Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and policy routing, OpenConfig is turning its attention to MPLS and more, including a device meta-model, and it is continuing to expand its membership. The original four partners -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Google -- have been joined by Cox Communications Inc. , Facebook , Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK).
So two of the largest web players and four of the largest US ISPs are working together on underlying technology that benefits them all and moves them closer to the New IP.
This whole process was kicked off earlier in 2014, when Google challenged network operators to join it in creating these new open data models. It was an admission, Koley said at the time, that the Internet giant couldn't do this alone because an industry-wide approach would be significantly more valuable than a one-company approach. (See Google to Open Key Network Models for Industry Comment, Standardization.)
Interestingly, another service provider exec in attendance last week -- NTT America CTO Doug Junkins -- said the OpenConfig approach is an interesting way of doing what his company has already done internally, and that is automate configuration management for the vendor gear it uses. Junkins couldn't say whether the global NTT organization would adopt OpenConfig, but he can see the value of the process.
So, an informal, network-operator driven approach to solving a basic problem and bringing a software-defined networking approach to the management plane of the network could prove to be the model for how to address other common problems of network operators going forward. This isn't all that different from the open source projects being conducted today, but OpenConfig has moved even faster than most of those.
Is that because of Google's leadership? Tell me what you think.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading