In a showing of unprecedented SDO collaboration, in mid-January industry experts from across a broad cross section of the communications and computing ecosystem came together in Louisville, Colo., to solve some of the current challenges in operations and virtualization.
This ETSI Industry Specification Group for network functions virtualization (NFV) "Workshop on Information Modeling for NFV," hosted by CableLabs, turned out to have an amazing atmosphere of collaboration driven by the evolution of technology and the increasing costs of operating networks. (See Capturing the Promise of Virtualization)
These industry experts represented a broad range of computing and communications standard development organizations (SDOs) and open source groups, including 3GPP SA5, ATIS, BBF, DMTF, ETSI NFV ISG, IETF, ITU-T, MEF, OASIS TOSCA, OCC, ONF, OPNFV and TM Forum, among others. (You can view the meeting presentations at the ETSI NFV ISG website here.)
In the past, these groups have operated somewhat as separate islands. But a recognition that technology evolution and rising, scale, complexity and volatility of networks was creating overlaps in these previously separate silos provided the incentive to come together for this unprecedented workshop.
The workshop was organized around the subject of the different groups' information models and how they might be harmonized and/or integrated. There were four main parts to the workshop. In the first part, each group presented an overview of what their organization was doing. In the second part, each presenting group discussed what they saw as the important issues and made proposals for addressing them. The third part was made up of discussion around how all the various issues and proposals might be consolidated and what next steps should be. The final part focused on what people felt comfortable including in a public statement.
In the discussions a few themes emerged. One was that there was a need to develop common terminology because people from different groups were using the same words to describe different things and different words to describe the same thing. This challenge may seem trivial at first, but you have to remember that the communications industry is broadening in scope and pulling in a range of other industry segments, including cloud, computing, open source and more, and each segment has their own terminology.
The most important theme of the meeting centered on why the collaborative effort is necessary. Perhaps not so surprisingly, opinions varied widely on this topic. Some thought harmonization in very limited areas where different groups overlapped (touch points) was important -- for example, harmonizing only at one layer such as architecture, interfaces, schema, specific data models and etc. Others thought full harmonization of a core information model was important. (See The Quest for the NFV Über-Model.)
However, there seemed to be general agreement that the objective was to find a way to build a better foundation for automation of network operations. This led some to a call for an initial focus on economic justification through business models and use cases.
The workshop ended with an agreement for representatives to go back to their respective groups, discuss the workshop and come back together for a teleconference in March. It was also decided not to have any kind of a formal organization structure at this time, but rather for an informally organized small group to engage in further explorations.
In the end, this was a very important event. It was not important for what it finished, but rather for what it started -- a conversation between these important organizations in a collaborative atmosphere. Early accomplishments are likely to be modest. Even in the long run, they are unlikely to solve the network operations problem, but they can make it easier for others to deliver solutions.
Note: This description is based my observations and does not reflect the positions of any of the groups represented at the meeting.
— Mark Cummings, CTO, Orchestral Networks, special to The New IP