Open Networking Foundation bows Continuous Certification Program, partners with OCP

Legacy certification in the era of open source is painfully slow, so the Open Networking Foundation is turbo-charging the process via a new program. The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) formally announced its Continuous Certification Program on Tuesday, but it's been in the works for a while, according to the ONF's Timon Sloane, vice president of market and ecosystem.

Traditionally, testing and certification required crafting a standard, which can take months or even years, writing a test plan and then testing the actual product in a lab, among other steps.

"With traditional certification, what we've experienced is it's broken," Sloane said. "What we’ve found in this open source, cloud era is that things are just moving too fast for traditional certification."

The Continuous Certification Program is enabled across the ONF's entire portfolio, which includes broadband, mobile and software-defined networking (SDN) infrastructure elements.

Sloane said that while ONF previously had more than 100 products certified for OpenFlow, it struggled to come up with solid certification process for its Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) framework.

"For about two years, we've been trying to figure out a CORD certification program of some form, and we really had to struggle with this challenge," Sloane said. "But we recognized while we're looking at this that there's an opportunity to rethink things because it happens in the cloud era that if you're doing CI/CD development, that's continuous integration and continuous deployment, you have tests that are kept up to date with the code on a day-to-day basis

"Our projects have all this testing capability built right into them using the best practices of cloud development. What we've created is this continuous certification and it really fits into this notion of CI/CD. So augmenting CI/CD, which is this cyclic process, with continuous certification where certification happens automatically as part of this automated development pipeline."

ONF products are constantly tested and a live Jenkins dashboard provides the status of each project, both currently and in past stages. The end result of the new certification program is that certification is constantly evolving on the fly.

"This is really creating an ecosystem whereby we're designing something that makes it easier for operators and others to identify a software release, identify a set of hardware that's compatible with that release and be able to consume it with much more assurance that the whole thing will work as a cohesive whole," Sloane said. "That's the vision and goal and coming together."

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Sloane said the ONF's previous work in certification, along with its own engineering team and lab, provided the in-house know how to build and run the certification program.

"We're the only open source organization to have an engineering team that can take on something like this," he said.

The certification program kicked off with founding vendor members Edgecore Networks, Accelleran, Delta, Inventec, MiTAC, Sercomm, Stordis and Wywinn. Operator backers from the ONF for the certification program include AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, T-Mobile, Google, NTT Group and Turk Telekom.

As proof that the certification is ready for prime time, Sloane said MiTAC has tested and verified its server with the current branch of the ONF's SDN Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) reference design.

A lynchpin for the new certification is the ONF's partnership with the Open Compute Project (OCP.) The partnership will include running the ONF's certified, open source software on OCP's cloud hardware. Sloane said the Continuous Certification Program works in tandem with the OCP's Recognition Program and Marketplace for integrated hardware and software solutions.  Over the next four to six weeks, the ONF will launch its own marketplace for certified hardware and software solutions.

"With OCP, we're going to be certifying hardware as part of our open software solutions," Sloane said. "We're going to work together with OCP and directly collaborate to make it easy for operators to source fully open and tested solutions. The ultimate vision here is being able to build open networks together with OCP."