Do we still need standards in the age of open source?
There is a sense in our community that while industry-standard interface definitions are important, these do not have to come from traditional “Standards.” Instead they can come from a development community, e.g. from an open source project. Moreover, having these come from an open source project is better because the result is not just a document, but running code. Before I dive into this, let me be very clear: open source has had and continues to have tremendous and largely positive impact on our industry and beyond. It dramatically lowers barriers to entry into the market and in doing so enables small, nimble and highly innovative companies to play on a more equal footing with large established players.
But let me focus a bit more on whether open source eliminates the need for traditional telco standards, as many believe. To illustrate the point, I need to pick on a project, so let me pick on OpenStack. Not because it’s bad… quite the contrary because it is so very good and is quite important to our industry’s transition to NFV. As anyone who has worked with OpenStack knows, developing to the OpenStack API requires specifying:
- Which version of OpenStack you are developing to and which APIs you need.
- Which OpenStack you are developing to (RedHat, Mirantis etc.)
Yes, they are almost the same – but almost is not quite the same as the same. And when you are a small company, having 100 edge clouds that present almost the same interfaces still leaves you with the challenge of scaling to integrate with 100 different – slightly, but still different – implementations. In other words – you are still missing a standard.
This is not OpenStack’s fault, nor is it the fault of the several companies that harden and commercialize it for the market. The primary goal of OpenStack has been and remains to enable its users to get to market as fast as possible and to concentrate their investments where they believe they can add value to the base. Interoperability should be a side benefit (and good open source projects like OpenStack do try hard to maintain backward compatibility, etc.), but it is not a primary goal. In an ideal world, open source projects would utilize formally Standardized interfaces in those areas where these are needed – i.e. where large-scale inter-vendor interoperability needs are expected.
As the development of a Telco edge picks up steam with TIP, Linux Foundation and OpenStack all having launched large scale project focused on the telco edge, ETSI MEC is perfectly positioned to fill that role. Our service APIs are precisely the APIs that exist at the intersection of the needs of a large number (100’s) of global communication service providers (CSPs) and an even larger number (100 000s) of application developers that need to use services exposed by the CSPs. In such an environment a lack of standardization can be a significant barrier to the evolution of the market and we remain the only standards development organization focused on this issue.
Moreover, by serializing these APIs – see https://forge.etsi.org/gitlab/mec - we are enabling software developers (and yes, particularly open source developers) to easily integrate our work in their applications. No more reading standards documents in PDF! Furthermore, to accelerate and encourage the development of new and innovative services in this growing Telco edge ecosystem, we have recently established a working group (DECODE) to focus specifically on issues around enabling the use of these APIs in forums such as open source.
So the conclusion of this post is a call to action – we are here and ready to help you get the Edge done! Let us know how we can help.