LF Networking, a one of the Linux Foundation’s umbrella groups of projects, is claiming the first open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) for 5G virtual network functions (VNFs). However, it will not go down well with advocates for excluding Chinese companies from the emerging cloud-based 5G ecosystem – the seed code for XGVela was donated by China Mobile, and of the other seven founding supporters, three are also Chinese (the other two operators, China Telecom and Unicom, plus ZTE).
The project has also gained public interest from two stalwarts of the cloud-based networks migration, Intel and IBM’s Red Hat, as well as Ericsson and Nokia, which are less often associated with open source initiatives when they touch on 5G.
The aim of the work is to draw on general PaaS functions developed in existing open source efforts, and adapt and enhance them for specific telecoms requirements – rather than starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel in various ways. The project will run upper layer services as PaaS functions, aiming to make it easier for operators, especially those without significant inhouse cloud resources, to virtualize their networks.
Testing, compliance and integration are all big challenges for those operators. While a few cloud pioneers may build large teams with the necessary cloud and integration skills, as Rakuten did to implement its cloud-native network (see separate item), most operators will find it difficult or expensive to acquire and manage such skills.
XGVela aims to provide a more open and standard way to address these processes, drawing on work already done by two other LF Networking projects, the Common NFVi Telco Taskforce (CNTT) and the OPNFV [Open Platform for NFV] Verification Program. Using containers for network functions, rather than the older and more cumbersome virtual machine (VM) technology, is one way to simplify deployment. This is the focus of CNTT, which has been updating VM specifications for some telco workloads to support containers in a consistent way.
The OPNFV Verification Program, which supports compliance testing for NFV, is also expanding to support CNTT architectures by adding testing automation for 5G. Now, the group has also created a sub-committee to focus on validating and testing cloud-native network functions (CNFs) for operators.
“NFV continues to evolve as telcos increasingly adopt cloud-native technologies,” said Heather Kirksey, VP of community and ecosystem development at the Linux Foundation. “Change, however, brings challenges, especially to areas like compliance, testing, automation, and integration.”
“Open source communities provide de facto standards, open interfaces and automation tools, which are crucial for NFV adoption,” said Xiaodong Duan, director of networks and IT at the China Mobile Research Institute, boasting that the operator had initiated the world’s largest NFV cloud deployment last year.