The Linux Foundation is looking for managed service providers (MSP) and systems integrators to start contributing to multiple projects seeking to transform networking using open source code.

There are now no less then seven open source projects being managed by The Linux Foundation as part of a larger effort to make networking more agile using various open source network virtualization technologies, says Heather Kirksey, vice president of community and ecosystem development for Networking at The Linux Foundation.

Increasingly at the heart of those efforts is Kubernetes, the container orchestration platform being developed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, an arm of The Linux Foundation. Much of the support for The Linux Foundation projects comes from telecommunication carriers that want to rely on open source software to advance their transition to a 5G network. The largest project by far is the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) that seeks to create a management and network orchestration (MANO) framework on top of Kubernetes. There’s also FD.io, a project that makes use of user space to run a high-performance microservice in a Kubernetes pod. That effort will prove to be a critical element of a larger effort to replace virtual machines and virtual network functions (VNF) with containers that are much more flexible and portable, says Kirksey.

Additional projects from Linux

The Linux Foundation also manages two software-defined networking (SDN) projects, an effort launched to create a network virtualization overlay that would span both containers and virtual machines. Most networking vendors initially embraced virtualization by making their existing cost available as a virtual machine. Since then, many of them have embraced VNFs to create more robust virtual networking services. However, each VNF is still tied to a specific instance of a virtual machine in which the VNF depends. “The problem with networking today is you have to create a steady state and then not breathe on it,” says Kirksey.

The Linux Foundation is now trying to marshal contributions from across the industry to create Container Network Functions (CNFs) that could then either be deployed on lightweight microVMs or on bare metal switches. The end goal is to substantially flatten network architectures by relying on commodity processors to run network functions in place of proprietary custom ASIC processors. 

Kirksey notes that systems integrators such as WiPro, Tech Mahindra, and Accenture are now making larger contributions to open source networking projects. Kirksey wants to see MSPs that have specific expertise in the areas of enterprise networking to contribute to projects. She also wants to make sure that what ultimately gets delivered by The Linux Foundation applies equally to carrier and enterprise networks.

The transformation of networking using open source software is not going to magically occur overnight. It may take several years for The Linux Foundation and its allies to usurp the dominance of proprietary networking architecture in the enterprise. As end customers seek to become more agile while at the same time reducing overall network costs, it’s now only a matter of time before open source initiatives start to have a much bigger impact on the way networks are built, deployed, and managed.

Rather than being on the outside looking in, savvy MSPs would be well advised to join a few of The Linux Networking Foundation projects, if for no other reason than keeping tabs on a series of emerging technologies that appear to be on the cusp of becoming a movement.

Photo: Dusit srisroy /Shutterstock

Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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