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OPNFV logo For anyone reading this who has been a parent, you will know that the most surprising thing about toddlers is how fast they change. You go away for a couple of weeks of business travel, and when you get back, there’s a different person waiting for you when you get home. And two years old is about the time when the rate of change is at its peak.

That is what OPNFV feels like now: we have navigated the early teething issues and reached a state where there is lots of change and lots of progress. We have labs on every continent, many active projects developing new NFV related functionality, three platform releases, and increasing industry interest. Two and a half years ago, NFV was a promising architecture concept. Today, operators are putting NFVi platforms into production, thanks in part to the work of OPNFV.

Marking the Journey

The initial goal of the project was to characterize requirements and identify functional gaps at the infrastructure level. Today, many of those gaps are filled, and we have cast our eyes to the next set of problems. The big questions for 2017 are related to what services the NFV infrastructure should provide to applications and application managers, to ensure they can continue to function regardless of what happens on the platform. The hot topics of the day are related to service assurance, VNF lifecycle management, and fault management. The focus of OPNFV has broadened beyond basic deployment and performance requirements to include operational requirements of running NFV in production.

This movement inside OPNFV has been mirrored by an explosion of open source activity in this area. OPEN-O, OSM, and ECOMP are leading the charge with open source, end-to-end management and orchestration frameworks, but there are many more projects in this space now than there were in 2014. OPNFV has become a natural place for multi-project collaboration, among standards organizations for the definition of a common information model for VNFs, in management and orchestration, and also for new projects like VPP to integrate into a complete NFV stack.

With a growth in scope has come additional difficulties in ensuring that we are approaching these problems with a consistent approach. It is vital for the industry to collaborate, so that we can solve the right problem once. Working together to have a shared understanding of requirements, and working together to fulfill those requirements in best-of-breed community-driven open source projects has always been the value of OPNFV. Open source principles like “release early, release often” and “upstream first” are crucial to ensuring that we maintain focus and momentum over the coming months and years.

We should also be careful not to lose sight of the next frontier: helping the telecommunications industry take advantage of best practices for the deployment of cloud applications. As we move from a hardware-driven world to the cloud, application architecture and design must change. The advent of containers as the preferred deployment method for cloud-native applications places additional burden on application developers to evolve their development practices and culture. The cultural and technical challenges of this much change are considerable, but if we judge by the last two years of collaboration in OPNFV, the industry is up to these challenges.