Intel acquires ONF dev team as foundation adopts new operating model

The Open Networking Foundation’s (ONF) development team transferred to Intel, as the group shifted away from its traditional reliance on internal engineering to a more member-driven model of operating.

As part of the shakeup, ONF’s former VP of marketing and ecosystem Timon Sloane stepped into a new role as the group's General Manager. Sloane told Fierce more than 40 employees moved to Intel. ONF, which previously had a staff of more than 55, is now down to a team of around 11 people.

Guru Parulkar, ONF’s former executive director, was among those who made the leap to Intel. According to his LinkedIn page, Parulkar assumed a new position as VP of Software within Intel’s Network and Edge business. In addition to Intel acquiring ONF’s team, he indicated it also acquired Ananki, a business ONF created in September 2021 to commercialize its Aether platform for Private 5G. Parulkar served as Ananki’s CEO following its spin out from ONF.

The employee transfer came as ONF released the entirety of its portfolio to the open source community, including its projects around SD-RAN, SD-Core and Aether in the mobile arena, SEBA and VOLTHA for broadband, and SD-Fabric, P4, PINS, ONOS and Stratum work for SDN P4 Programmable Data Planes.

“Now that the ONF’s projects have reached maturity and market adoption, it is time for the projects to be released into the open source community. This has always been our vision,” Andre Fuetsch, ONF Chair and AT&T EVP and CTO, said in a statement. “We are excited to enter this next phase of ONF’s journey.”

Going forward, ONF said it will rely on community contributions to advance adoption and development of its projects, but plans to create Area Governing Boards consisting of elected industry business leaders to guide the work in key areas. Community-chosen Technical Steering Teams will continue to oversee technical decisionmaking and roadmaps for the projects. 

Speaking about the move, Sloane told Fierce "over the years, the ONF’s partner-funded development model helped create the seed platforms that have initiated this transition, with a number of ONF’s platforms now deployed in production, and others well on their way. The time is right to build upon this success by focusing on expanding adoption and growing the community around the ONF projects."

He added: "With this highly synergistic shifting of resources, ONF can now benefit from a stronger community as it transitions into a more classic, open source organization focused on building and enabling the community through collaboration."

But AvidThink founder Roy Chua told Fierce the ONF move is “curious” for a number of reasons, especially given the momentum and market interest behind its projects like Aether.

He explained ONF is “becoming more like a typical open-source organization,” which on one hand opens the door to more contributors but on the other undermines a unique model it had previously touted as “key to its success to date.” Thus, Chua said “it's unclear whether projects that did not start out in the open but were closely managed will be as successful as other models.”

Given the employee transfer, Chua added “the success of ONF projects going forward could hinge on how much Intel contributes and drives each of those, and how aligned these are with Intel's own vision, ambition and roadmap. It's too early to tell and unclear how the integration of the development team will be organized and executed.”


This story has been updated to include comments from ONF's Timon Sloane.