Broadband Forum and ONF collaborate on automation and virtualization in access networks

In yet another example of open source groups working together, the Broadband Forum and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) announced on Monday that they have signed an agreement to mutually drive automation and virtualization across access networks.

Over the past several years, open source communities and standards development organizations (SDOs) have started to collaborate with each other in order to speed up the development of new applications and services while not duplicating each other's efforts.

The Broadband Forum and the Open Networking Foundation both play in the broadband space, which is in the midst of a refresh across service providers' access networks. Broadband providers are looking toward open source and standards-based options to break down vendor silos while also easing their migrations to automated access networks.

The work between the Broadband Forum and ONF will include the former's Open Broadband-Broadband Access Abstraction project working in tandem with ONF's SDN Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) platform.

The Broadband Forum's Open Broadband-Broadband Access Abstraction (OB-BAA) is an open source project that enables software-defined networking-based management and control of multi-vendor, multi-technology access networks via a standard abstraction northbound interface.

The abstraction simplifies and reduces development upstream in management and control software for physical network functions (PNFs) and virtual network functions (VNFs.)

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SEBA describes how to assemble a collection of open source components to build a virtualized PON network to deliver residential broadband and mobile backhaul. SEBA uses a disaggregated white-box approach for building next generation access networks by using open source. 

With SEBA, functionality that traditionally ran on chassis-based OLTs and on BNG routers is run in the cloud while the hardware is a collection of white-box OLTs, switches and servers. SEBA blends together the collection of open source hardware and software into a comprehensive platform that exposes northbound FCAPS interfaces, making it easier to integrate a SEBA POD with an operator’s OSS/BSS system.

ONF’s Virtual OLT Hardware Abstraction (VOLTHA) open source software project, which is a component of SEBA, abstracts a PON network to make it manageable as if it were a standard OpenFlow switch. 

The Broadband Forum and ONF see BAA and SEBA/VOLTHA as complimentary since they are different pieces of the same broadband puzzle. Both can solve different carrier problems, while addressing operators’ desire to move to agile, software-defined access networks via open and standardized interfaces.

A white paper providing more detail on the relationship between OB-BAA and SEBA/VOLTHA open source projects can be found here.

Collaboration is key for open source and SDOs

Previously, vendors, service providers and systems integrators complained that some of the various open source groups and standards groups duplicated each other's efforts while forcing the industry to choose sides.

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Over the past year or so, a wave of collaboration has swept the telecom industry, including last week's news that MEF and ONUG were collaborating on SD-WAN.

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In April, the Linux Foundation and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which have taken different approaches to NFV, announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding to more closely work with each other. In addition, MEF and TM Forum have contributed to the software releases of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP.)