May was a busy month for trade shows and industry events. So much so, that keynote after keynote, session after session began to blur together. Given the event filled month, I find myself thinking about some events more than others. In particular, I want to take the opportunity to take another look at the Big Communications Event (BCE). It may be a little bit of armchair quarterbacking on my part, but time often adds clarity. There are a few moments from BCE that definitely deserve another look.
The Big Communications Event was a much more intimate event than the likes of Mobile World Congress or the Consumer Electronic Show (The Heavy Reading staff tells us that around 1,100 people attended BCE at the Austin Convention Center this year). Nevertheless, I thought the show’s agenda was very well thought-out, peppered with interesting topics and speakers. In addition, there was an industry awards ceremony and a very relevant NFV Interop demo on display. The venue was nicely suited for the audience and conducive to walking between hotels, restaurants and the convention itself. Cisco had a total of seven speakers in attendance, ranging from keynotes to panelists, including yours truly. But this isn’t about me. I want to point out two other panels that really stood out!
One of these panelist sessions included my colleague Lauren Cooney; “Data Centers and Cloud Services: Using Open Source: A Reality Check.” And with a title like that my initial expectations were set pretty low. Much to my chagrin, the panel turned out to be much better than the title, I’d even go as far as to say that this panel should have been a keynote. Attending this one session was worth the price of admission alone. The panel was comprised of key members from the open source community, including Mark Collier, COO of the Openstack Foundation, Heather Kirksey, Director OPNFV, and Dan Pitt, Executive Director of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) offered perspectives on how these three organizations have worked together on projects of differing sizes and scopes. Randy Nicklas, EVP of Windstream provided insight into how service providers are approaching the challenges and opportunities of using Open Source in real world applications. And Lauren Cooney discussed implementing Open Source from a vendor perspective.
Some of the takeaways from the Open Source panel were predictable – like the notion that service providers may not be as well positioned to write software, as compared to other groups like web providers. Larger telcos seem to have a bigger appetite to take on an Open Source project than smaller players with fewer software resources.
What the Open Source panel did offer me was insight into how Open Source network software is being developed. For instance, I wasn’t as familiar with the linkages between Open Source, OPNFV, and ONF. I didn’t realize that Open Source software projects are run as a meritocracy with the largest contributors having the greatest influence over the project outcomes. Several examples about how projects with highly diverse teams and common goals generally have the greatest impact. For more perspective on the panel, Mitch Wagner of LightReading put out a good article based on some of the panel discussion titled, “Cisco looks to Open Source for Badder Ass Internet” (the title alone makes you want to read it).
The other highlight of BCE that sticks out in my mind is the NFV Interop conducted by the New IP Agency (NIA). This one requires less description. NFV isn’t new, however many operators are still in trials and early implementations of NFV. Determining what works, what works well, and what simply does not work as promised is a continuous challenge for service providers looking to modernize their operations. To help navigate emerging NFV technologies the NIA has taken a leadership role in interop testing of NFV as stated in Iain Moriss article “NIA Replacing ‘Old Standards Bodies,’ Says Cisco.” – and in reality it’s more than just Cisco saying this. With every big change comes concern. This is one to keep an eye on. I also want to thank Babu Peddu who came to BCE to setup the Cisco NFV demo in the NIA interop space. Interop testing always holds a few surprises!
Open Source software and NFV Interop are two items that may have run a little under your radar. I hope this blog brings those two topics back to the surface.