The Linux Foundation today officially launched its latest collaboration project in the networking space with the debut of the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) has sometimes been confused with Software Defined Networking (SDN), which is an area the Linux Foundation's OpenDaylight project addresses.
Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, told Enterprise Networking Planet that NFV will have a large impact on the telecom industry and the goal is for the OPNFV project to help accelerate progress and adoption.
The founding members of OPNFV span service providers, hardware suppliers and software vendors and include: AT&T, Brocade, China Mobile, Cisco, Dell, Ericsson, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, NEC, Nokia Networks, NTT DOCOMO, Red Hat, Telecom Italia, Vodafone, 6WIND, Alcatel-Lucent, ARM, Broadcom, CableLabs, Cavium, CenturyLink, Ciena, Citrix, ClearPath Networks, ConteXtream, Coriant, Cyan, Dorado Software, Ixia, Metaswitch Networks, Mirantis, Orange, Sandvine, Sprint and Wind River.
Prodip Sen, CTO of NFV at Hewlett-Packard (HP), is the board chair for the OPNFV project. Sen explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that NFV is different than SDN, but the two technology approaches are also very complementary.
"SDN is about making the network programmable, so it's more useful to applications," Sen said. "NFV is a little different in that it's about taking functions we do in the network and virtualizing many of them to leverage cloud technology."
Sen added that NFV has evolved and SDN is an enabler for NFV deployment, as there is a need to have the underlying network control to be flexible.
In terms of why the Linux Foundation decided a new project was required instead of simply extending the OpenDaylight SDN project, Zemlin said that it's all a matter of focus. While OpenDaylight is focused around the SDN controller and its associated functionality, the OPNFV effort is about a broader network deployment for NFV and functions like a firewall or a load balancer.
With many Linux Foundation Collaboration Projects, there is an initial open-source code contribution that serves as the foundation, which is not the case with OPNFV. Zemlin explained that OPNFV should be thought of as a mid-stream integration point for existing open-source NFV projects. While OPNFV will at some point in 2015 have some form of release, the initial focus is on helping upstream open-source projects by submitting code.
A OPNFV hackathon event is currently scheduled for next week, where developers will figure out what's needed and what a future release might include.
"OPNFV is about disparate pieces being brought together, but that's not all it's about," Sen said.
Sen emphasized that in the traditional telecom model, there would be multiple years of standardization before anything is actually deployed. The need for NFV is immediate, and so a better, faster approach is required to accelerate NFV deployment.
"We chose the open-source approach as a way to create an industry standard in terms of interoperability," Sen said. "The reference platform we're building here is being driven by NFV requirements."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.