One of the open source platforms which was initiated by AT&T, and has gained significant support with other operators, is Open Network Automation Protocol (ONAP). Hosted by the Linux Foundation and based heavily on AT&T’s internal project, ECOMP, plus code from China Mobile, ONAP provides a management and orchestration (MANO) layer for a virtualized, automated network.
Critics argue that ONAP is already anachronistic and clumsy to deploy, and that when true cloud-native networks are implemented – essential to the full vision of 5G economics – most of these MANO functions will be driven down into the Kubernetes containers which will provide the foundational elements. Vendors and operators argue about how many functions will still require their own MANO layer, but this is likely to be far thinner than the current ONAP specifications – or indeed the rival would-be standard from ETSI, Open Source MANO (OSM).
However, some operators feel comfortable with a heavy MANO layer because it fits more easily with the telco-centric view of the operating support system (OSS), and is a less radical leap – architecturally or organizationally – from conventional network operations.
In response to this, an ecosystem is developing around ONAP. One of the criticisms of the platform is that it requires significant, and expensive, integration effort to implement and optimize. But this, of course, provides opportunities for companies providing such services. Amdocs, which helped write the original ECOMP code with AT&T, has positioned itself strongly as the integration partner of choice for ONAP and its efforts have received a new boost via a partnership with Samsung.
The two companies will work together to integrate virtual network functions (VNFs) for operators which are using Samsung 5G systems along with ONAP.
Oren Marmur, head of NFV at Amdocs, told SDxCentral: “This is less related to new capabilities for Samsung Network equipment and very much focused on supporting operators in their journey towards 5G and network virtualization, and specifically the combination of the two.”
Samsung will provide its 5G core VNFs while Amdocs will provide expertise and services in NFV, SDN and ONAP. They will first focus on Samsung’s virtualized centralized unit (vCU) and virtual infrastructure management (VIM) function, and then move to the core and to distributed RAN functions, with the ultimate aim of helping MNOs build an entirely cloud-based 5G network, with ONAP as its management layer.
“The collaboration has to do with onboarding the Samsung VNFs into ONAP and certifying it against both the ONAP standards and framework, as well as to integrate it into the Amdocs NFV platform, which would allow us to jointly address opportunities required for 5G VNFs as well as the required orchestration and automation layer,” Marmur said. “We are going through the standard ONAP based onboarding process, aligning with the ONAP service model, VNF modeling and VNF packaging.”
The onboarding issue is an important one in virtualized networks and one of ONAP’s promises has been to provide a common, streamlined approach to activating VNFs in the cloud-based network.
“It’s starting with the more central mobile core components like VCU, but it will extend across to other pieces of the infrastructure that they have for 5G networks, including vRAN, where they have a pretty rich portfolio as well, and more,” said Yogen Patel, head of products and solutions marketing at Amdocs.
Amdocs virtualization and ONAP customers to date include Bell Canada, AT&T, SES Networks and Comcast.