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Paving the Way to Faster Innovation Through Open Controls, Information Models, and APIs

Harald Bock

October 24, 2019
By Harald Bock
VP Network & Technology Strategy

A Look at Telecom Infra Project’s CIMA Workstream

There are a variety of industry initiatives fueling the trend of open and disaggregated networks, an area that I have been focused on in my role for the past several years. At the forefront of these initiatives is the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which boasts diverse ecosystem members of over 500 organizations, both inside and outside the traditional telco space.

At first glance, TIP seems like an unusual forum – one driven by Facebook, a recognized global leader in online social media and social networking, in order to “help the industry build the networks of the future and create business opportunities for new and existing companies, alike.” While Facebook has been a driving force, the progress the group has made has been propelled equally by active participation by many of the world’s leading telco companies, including NTT, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, Vodafone, Telia Company, and TIM Brasil.

The objective behind TIP is to essentially create an ecosystem of disaggregated network functions that can be combined into open network architectures that remove the vendor lock-in that slows down innovation and the introduction of new technologies. The use cases of the resulting network architectures, equipment, and associated software have clear ramifications for the telco environment, but also extend into the market segments in which data center connectivity is critical to business success, hence the broad industry interest and membership.

Earlier this year, I was excited to take on the role of a workstream co-lead within TIP, as I’ve never been more optimistic about the positive impact that open, disaggregated networking technologies and architectures can have on future networks and services. In recent engagements with customers in this role, I’ve seen heightened interest in open networking as suppliers bring to market new tools and solutions that allow our industry to keep pace with end-user service demands while lowering operating expenses.

Within TIP, the Open Optical and Packet Transport (OOPT) workgroup focuses on IP/optical networking in the context of open and disaggregated architectures.

Within OOPT, the Controls, Information Models and APIs (CIMA) workstream, which I am co-leading, is focused on defining the APIs, information models, and control architectures that allow network operators to build open and disaggregated network infrastructures. Well-defined APIs are, in fact, required to isolate/decouple network functions from each other. This allows the exchange or upgrade of individual functions independently from others. This capability, in turn, plays a key role in realizing the promise of openness and disaggregation:

    • Faster introduction of new technologies into networks
    • Simplified integration of newer, best-in-class product generations
    • Reduced vendor lock-in, and…
    • Faster deployment of new network services

The OOPT project group, which is co-chaired by Hans-Juergen Schmidtke of Facebook and Victor Lopez of Telefónica, is currently divided into five different subgroups, focusing on different parts of the networking stack.

CIMA is not trying to invent new APIs to achieve this objective but rather, wherever possible, trying to identify existing API definitions that will fulfill requirements and enable needed network functions. In case there are gaps identified in API or information model definitions, CIMA will feed these into the related API definition or standardization that is already ongoing in multiple industry initiatives and standards developing organizations.

The CIMA workgroup relies on input from other TIP workgroups – the use cases and architectures we work on are defined by the Converged Architectures for Network Disaggregation and Integration (CANDI) workgroup. Also, other workgroups, such as the Physical Simulation Environment (PSE), have specific requirements for the input data and APIs they need.

During the last few months, we spent a lot of time aligning with the different teams. This remote alignment effort, while logistically challenging as the global participants are spread out in different time zones, gave us a better understanding of what we were trying to achieve, as well as allowed us to define our joint priorities, agree on architectures and use cases, and even walk through quite detailed workflows required in network operations.

In this productive phase, the ECOC 2019 event in Dublin earlier this month provided us the opportunity to present results and continue some of this work more efficiently in face-to-face meetings. During a full day of public workgroup meetings at the conference, I had the chance to present CIMA workstream achievements as well as see the progress across all the OOPT project groups. I also welcomed the opportunity to meet many of the other contributors in person. It was great to discuss next steps and objectives with the whole group of participants, which includes network operators, equipment vendors, and universities and research institutes.