SAN JOSE, Calif. — A group of telecom carriers will demonstrate at Mobile World Congress progress moving their networks off proprietary systems and on to open source software. The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) will show its latest code based on the P4 programming language running on systems using chips from Barefoot Networks, Cavium and Mellanox.
The demo marks a significant change for ONF that initially based its work on its OpenFlow protocol. The group shifted last year to P4, an open source project launched by Barefoot, after vendors hit limits with OpenFlow.
The group’s goal now is to evangelize support for P4 among networking leaders. Broadcom, the dominant vendor of merchant switch chips, is said to be showing interest in P4.
So far Cisco, the leading provider of ASIC-based networking systems is not showing interest P4. ONF aims to cultivate an ecosystem of so-called white-box networking OEMs such as Quanta and Delta using its open source software.
It’s still early days for ONF’s open source code for the style of edge-cloud networks carriers want to deploy. The so-called edge clouds aim to be more open, lower cost alternatives to the central offices carriers use today based largely on systems running a complex mix of ASICs and proprietary protocols.
With the shift to P4, ONF has code for access networks in field trials but software for mobile core nets is still in the lab with trials a year or two away.
“Were at an interesting inflection point,” said Timon Sloane, vice president of marketing and ecosystems for ONF, calling the latest demos a second-generation of software-defined networks (SDNs).
The latest demo is “a glimpse of the edge cloud of the future,” blending in work on SDN standards such as ETSI’s Network Functions Virtualization, he said.
Next page: SDN finds life after OpenFlow
The carrier-led group hosts multiple open source projects to fill out the needs of distributed edge cloud networks. Click to enlarge. Source: ONF