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8 August 2019

SES, Amdocs deliver satellite-first ONAP – a virtual evolution

By becoming the world’s first satellite fleet operator to embrace ONAP (Open Network Automation Protocol), SES has reaffirmed its growing commitment to mobile connectivity as the company seeks to offset its waning video business. Naturally, SES doesn’t want anyone to interpret the move in such a way, yet the initiative could prove crucial in delivering next-generation video around the globe as service providers migrate to virtualized network functions.

SES has teamed with Amdocs to develop a standards-based network automation platform built on the aforementioned open source initiative ONAP, driven by AT&T, marking the start of an ambitious cloud virtualization project – setting the bar for the satellite community. Amdocs’ network function virtualization (NFV) technologies, hosted on Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, will allow SES to extend network functions rapidly and at scale.

There are two main management and network orchestration (MANO) platform approaches for NFV – ETSI’s Open Source MANO (OSM) and ONAP from the Linux Foundation (of which SES is a founding member). But these have introduced new complexities – when AT&T put its ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration Management and Policy) MANO architecture into open source, resulting in ONAP, it contributed 8 million lines of code.

This is important for bringing the very different traditions of MNOs and of the open cloud world closer together. The gulf between the two communities has slowed progress in several key areas of virtualization, particularly the management and orchestration (MANO) of all those virtualized components and functions. The split between ONAP, the Linux Foundation would-be standard for MANO, and ETSI’s Open Source MANO (OSM) remains unresolved despite some steps towards greater cooperation between the two groups.

Rumors surfaced last year that Telefónica would be joining ONAP, sparking suggestions that ONAP could converge with ETSI’s Open Source MANO (OSM), for which Telefónica provided a lot of seed code for as both organizations address the management and orchestration of virtualized networks, but nothing arose from this hearsay.

Amdocs has been a key developer of ONAP, along with Radisys and Tech Mahindra, all developing NFV integration services. We have also seen US network equipment vendor Adtran working alongside open source projects for virtualized networks to accelerate the path to software-defined access networks, including ONAP’s MANO platform, as well as ON.Labs’ ONOS (Open Network OS) SDN controller, VOLTHA (Virtual Optical Line Terminal Hardware Abstraction) and Open Daylight. While all slightly different, the general idea here is to save operators a bunch of integration work.

SD-Access enables the centralization of elements in a network such as high-level analytics – enabling operators to easily launch OTT services with less expense and complexity. SD-Access makes this transition easier as operators no longer need vendor-specific platforms and can bring in a self-service activation model to differentiate from the pure play providers, in addition to making significant truck roll and call center savings.

SES also came out with second quarter results a fortnight ago, showing first half 2019 revenue down 4.2% to €950.6 million, for which the Video segment declined 8.8% to €603.8 million, while the Networks division increased 5% to €346.8 million.

“While the market environment in Video remains challenging, we’ve delivered value to customers across our core neighborhoods and are starting to see benefits of bringing together our infrastructure and MX1 businesses into a single operational unit,” said a statement from SES’ first half results report.

We’re not quite sure what the company means by “single operational unit”, but it sounds awfully familiar to a standpoint we took following our NAB meeting with MX1 earlier this year, when a representative explained that SES was evolving into much more than a satellite company. After publishing a summary of this briefing, SES strangely and fervently argued against what its subsidiary had just told us, saying we had got the wrong end of the stick. We think SES at the time was misguided as to the message we were attempting to convey and this week’s embrace of ONAP frankly underscores that initial message, so there is an element of irony here. Burying the hatchet with SES is a top priority for the Faultline Online Reporter as we hit the floor at IBC next month.