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ONAPONAP, a framework that’s being spearheaded by The Linux Foundation and promises to transform how network and cloud services are delivered, was made generally available yesterday.

The Amsterdam release of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) combines software-defined networking (SDN) technologies, which were originally developed by AT&T and The Linux Foundation, to provide a next-generation services framework that can now be deployed on top of any hypervisor environment or public cloud computing service. Previously, ONAP has only supported OpenStack.

Arpit​ ​Joshipura,​ ​general​ ​manager for networking​ ​and orchestration for ​The​ ​Linux​ ​Foundation, says Amsterdam is a seminal moment because the ONAP community was able to bring their efforts together in a few short months after AT&T agreed to contribute an OpenECOMP framework that it had been developing on its own to The Linux Foundation. Prior to AT&T making that decision at the beginning of this year, The Linux Foundation had been working on a similar Open-O framework.

The future of ONAP

Joshipura says ONAP will effectively become a de-facto standard platform for delivering virtual network functions (VNFs) across a modern microservices architecture that will eliminate the need for many of the physical networking and security appliances that make distributed networks too inflexible to meet requirements for delivering IT services on demand. While a virtual machine can be provisioned in a matter of minutes, the associated networking services for those virtual machines often still require weeks to configure.

With this release of ONAP, The Linux Foundation has also expanded the definition of VNFs to include both software delivered on a virtual machine, and a container based on technologies such as Docker that can be deployed either on top of a hypervisor or on a bare metal server. That’s a significant distinction because going forward much of the IT services industry is still unsure to what degree networking and cloud services will be delivered using containers, compared to relying solely on virtual appliances.

Joshipura says The Linux Foundation is now moving on to focus on a Beijing release of ONAP that is scheduled to be rolled out in 2018. That release will focus on use cases such as enterprise IT environments, Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, and 5G networking.

Potential impact for MSPs

ONAP is significant to both carriers and managed service providers alike because it promises to substantially reduce the capital costs associated with building out next-generation networking and cloud services. Rather than having to invest in the development of, for example, an automation platform or an application programming interface (API) framework, carriers and MSPs will be able to leverage the collective efforts of AT&T, China Mobile, Orange, Bell, Vodafone, and other members of The Linux Foundation participating in the ONAP project. That ONAP platform, Joshipura points out, now also includes an implementation of the SDN controller developed with the help of The OpenDaylight project.

In the months ahead, MSPs will need to reevaluate where they are making technology infrastructure investments. There may be some advantage to be gained from investing in lower-level commercial technologies to deliver one service or another in the short term. But increasingly some form of the core platform technologies used to deliver a modern IT service will be available for free.

Photo: Chutima Chaochaiya/

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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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