AT&T, Verizon join Facebook in Open Compute Project

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Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) welcomed several big telco operators to the Open Compute Project (OCP), including AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Deutsche Telekom, EE and SK Telecom, all of whom want to further collaborate on adapting data center technologies for the telecom industry. They join previous members such as Intel, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Rackspace Hosting.

OCP, founded five years ago, continues to build momentum around open source contributions for networking, servers, storage and Open Rack, according Jason Taylor, president and chairman of the OCP board and VP of infrastructure at Facebook. 

"We are optimistic about the potential of open hardware to bring large-scale gains to the telecommunications industry, and that starts with increased participation," he wrote in a blog. "A number of leading telecommunications companies announced they are joining OCP to support the goal of openly working to drive more efficiency, flexibility, and customization in data center technologies."

Industry expertise is an important part of establishing new opportunities and paths for collaboration around open hardware, he added, noting that Nokia (NYSE:NOK) has committed to incorporating OCP designs into its AirFrame Data Center Portfolio. Equinix and Nexius also joined OCP.

That telcos are embracing a data center-based architecture isn't surprising, but these latest moves are notable given the cultural shift that it represents. The telecom industry historically held onto strict reliability and availability requirements that were not viewed the same way in the information technology (IT) world, where SDN initially took off.

AT&T wants to virtualize 75 percent of its network functions by 2020, and to do that, it's moving to a software-centric network where its central offices will look more like data centers, said Andre Fuetsch, senior vice president of Architecture and Design at AT&T, in a blog post. "In fact, AT&T is heavily involved in an initiative known as 'CORD' (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter)," he said. "We're turning custom hardware devices into apps running on standardized servers. The physical locations where we run our network services increasingly look like what you'd find at a web company."

Mahmoud El-Assir, senior vice president and chief information officer of Global Technology Services at Verizon, said that joining the Open Compute Project will drive "wide-ranging efficiencies into our infrastructure and underscores Verizon's commitment to deliver innovative digital solutions faster for our customers."

There appears to be little shortage of open source initiatives these days. The open source SDN Network Operating System (ONOS) recently celebrated some significant milestones, as well as adding Verizon to its membership roster. The ONOS project, whose mission is to accelerate adoption of open source SDN and NFV solutions, says CORD has emerged as a significant use case as it's specifically designed for service providers to reinvent the central office and, bring data center economies of scale and cloud-style agility to their networks.

AT&T expects to conduct field trials of CORD in the first half of this year, with production deployments to follow.

For more:
- see this AT&T blog
- see this Open Compute blog

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Why AT&T, Verizon, Ericsson and the rest of the industry is embracing SDN and NFV