Project Sylva Initiative Lays Cloud-Native Foundation for Telco Services

At the ONE Summit North America 2022 event this week, the Linux Foundation Europe consortium launched an open source Project Sylva framework that leverages cloud-native platforms such as container network functions (CNFs) and Kubernetes to create a Telco Cloud Stack to promote interoperability.

Arpit Joshipura, general manager for networking, edge and internet-of-things (IoT) at the Linux Foundation, said Project Sylva is mainly advanced by telecommunications service providers in Europe as a means to reduce the operational friction that occurs in the absence of standard interfaces.

Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Orange, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, along with Ericsson and Nokia, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form the Sylva project to address those challenges. Ultimately, the goal is to create a global set of standards that would make it simpler for both carriers and enterprise IT organizations to add innovative services by making it simpler to add and replace CNFs, says Joshipura.

CNFs are rapidly emerging as a more portable alternative to virtual network functions (VNFs) that are tied to specific implementations of a virtual machine. Rather than investing in infrastructure projects that don’t provide a lot of differentiated value, networking vendors will compete based on the capabilities provided by a CNF that could employ GitOps workflows to easily plug into an open source framework that is designed from the ground up to promote interoperability, says Joshipura.

It may be years before Project Sylva fully delivers on that promise, but contributors to the project are committing to building a reference implementation of a cloud software framework that will both define and prioritize requirements for production-grade platforms. That framework will encompass a wide range of open source platforms that are currently being advanced by various consortiums operating under the Linux Foundation umbrella, Joshipura explains. As a result, CNFs will be deployed much like any other cloud-native software artifact.

It’s not clear how many CNFs are being deployed alongside VNFs in telecommunications networks, but as as deployment increases, the overall speed of innovation should significantly improve. Carriers are going to find they are less locked into the platforms provided by any given networking vendor as they take advantage of containers to add additional functionality across a federated set of services, Joshipura says.

Of course, the same principles that telecommunications providers are employing to advance interoperability across those services will also eventually be applied by enterprise IT organizations. The only fundamental difference will be the level of scale at which CNFs are deployed and managed. The biggest challenge in the years ahead will be managing a mix of CNFs alongside VNFs and other legacy appliances that currently provide the foundation for delivering and managing network services.

Regardless of how quickly the transition is made, it’s clear an open source networking era is on the horizon. That new era has the potential to transform how networking services are deployed and consumed in much the same way as it has transformed how applications are delivered.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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