ONF launches Ananki to focus on private 5G for enterprise

5G blue
Ananki is set up to deliver software-defined solutions based on ONF's Aether projects. (Getty Images)

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) today announced that it’s spinning out a new business, called Ananki, to commercialize ONF’s Aether platform for private 5G.

It will be focused on the enterprise market, targeting the needs of Industry 4.0.

“This is quite a big step and a big endeavor,” said Timon Sloane, vice president of marketing and ecosystem of the ONF. “We’re really excited about it.”

It’s a first for the foundation, which is backed by some of the industry’s biggest telcos, including AT&T.

Ananki is an “independent venture-backed company,” according to ONF, although it doesn’t reveal the venture companies backing it or how much capital they’re contributing.

“ONF continues to innovate in ways that magnify the power of open systems and open source across our industry,” said ONF Board Chairman Andre Fuetsch, AT&T’s CTO, in a statement. “The ONF board recognizes that the lack of support for open source initiatives from commercial companies remains an inhibiting factor for scaled adoption. To meet this challenge, we have agreed to spin out Ananki as an independent company to pursue commercialization of Aether with a view that this will help accelerate the adoption and impact of open source.”

The way it’s structured, it can be thought of a little bit like Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, in that it’s a Public Benefit Corporation, with social benefits mixed in with the corporate goals of making money. This structure helps ensure that ONF and Ananki remain aligned going forward, Sloane explained.

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Ananki shares common executives with the ONF. The ONF board voted unanimously to create Ananki, yet “ONF isn’t changing anything that it’s doing as part of this,” Sloane added.

ONF’s Aether has been deployed in more than 15 sties as part of the $30 million Pronto Project through DARPA, up and running for almost two years, he said.

A lot of times, great open source platforms get created through ONF and the hope is that someone will come along and commercialize it and take it to the next level – such as solution providers and ultimately users. Operators have used ONF’s solutions, but it’s not the same in the enterprise space, so that’s part of the reason ONF decided to spin out Ananki as a separate entity.

Ananki is making software-defined private 5G as easy to consume as Wi-Fi – “you don’t need to be a 5G expert or know anything about 5G to use it,” Sloane said.

Here are three prongs to Ananki’s promise;

  • Deliver a better 5G experience, with software-defined, automated and AI-powered connectivity and enhanced security.
  • Cloud-first, with pre-integration with a hyperscaler for edge and cloud services.
  • Industry 4.0-ready, with tools for developers to build IoT and Industrial Iot solutions.

Ananki already has commercial partners, end-user trials getting kicked off and modest revenue, “so it’s an ambitious agenda for Ananki,” he said. Red Hat is one example of how this model can work. “We think we have a really unique model with the right skill set and team to be able to do the same for the private 5G space.”