Linux and Open Source in Telecommunications
Lock-in is an economic issue, not a technical one. It presents a technology “exit barrier” and takes four steps. First, vendors' offers initially vary—with low cost but proprietary solutions, well-integrated by having just enough standard interfaces and APIs (proprietary is often called “value added” or something similar). Next, vendors offer business-case compelling information, based around the presumed low cost of their solution. The third step is encouraging a strong roll-out of the solution to establish a sufficiently large installed base to start raising costs (license, support and so forth). The fourth and final step is when suppliers raise pricing up to, but not beyond, the point where additional roll-out of their equipment is slightly less expensive than replacing everything with an alternative vendor's. The exit barrier has been raised, and you are now locked in.
There are five major .orgs (Figure 4) active in the space of accelerating the adoption of carrier grade platforms that are based on COTS hardware and software. These organizations are CP-TA, OSDL, PICMG, SA Forum and the SCOPE Alliance. In the following sections, we present each of these organizations, discuss their goals and highlight their contributions.
The Communications Platforms Trade Association (CP-TA) is a group of communications platform and building block providers dedicated to accelerating the adoption of SIG-governed, open specification-based communications platforms through interoperability testing and certification. With industry collaboration, CP-TA plans to drive a mainstream market for open industry standards-based communications platforms.
The Service Availability Forum (SA Forum) is a consortium of communications and computing companies working together to develop and publish high-availability and management software interface specifications.
The OSDL Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) initiative is an industry forum that supports and accelerates the development of Linux functionality for telecommunication applications. The goal of CGL is to make Linux better for the telecommunication industry. A Linux kernel with carrier grade characteristics is an essential component in open, standards-based communication platforms and architectures. OSDL specifically focuses its work on the Linux operating system and collaborates with other industry organizations to drive adoption of open standards and open-source software. It works closely with each group to ensure that efforts are complementary and deliver value to the market.
The SCOPE Alliance is an industry alliance committed to accelerating the deployment of carrier grade base platforms for service provider applications. Its mission is to help, enable and promote the availability of open carrier grade platforms based on (COTS) hardware and software and Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) building blocks and to promote interoperability to better serve service providers and consumers.
The PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) is a consortium of more than 450 companies who collaboratively develop open specifications for high-performance telecommunications and industrial computing applications. The consortium has resulted in a series of specifications that include CompactPCI, AdvancedTCA, AdvancedMC, CompactPCI Express, COM Express and SHB Express. The goal of PICMG is to offer equipment vendors common specifications, thereby increasing availability and reducing costs and time to market.
The OSDL Carrier Grade Linux working group was established in January 2002. Its goal is to identify requirements for enhancing the Linux operating system to achieve an open-source platform that is highly available, reliable, secure and scalable, and suitable for carrier grade systems. The CGL working group has the vision that next-generation and multimedia communication services can be delivered using Linux-based platforms. To realize this vision, the work group developed a strategy to define the requirements and architecture for the Carrier Grade Linux platform and promote development of a stable platform for deployment of commercial components and services.
The CGL working group focuses on two areas: carrier grade enhancements to the operating system that are related to various requirements, such as availability and scalability, and software development tools. Today, more than two-dozen OSDL member companies from all over the globe are actively involved with the CGL initiative. Member companies cover the whole ecosystem: carriers, network equipment providers (NEPs), telecom equipment manufacturers (TEMs), platform providers, independent software vendors (ISVs), middleware providers and Linux distributors.
The CGL working group also identifies existing open-source projects that map to the CGL requirements. The result is the CGL Development Guideline Web site (see the on-line Resources). This is an effort from the CGL initiative to survey open source for projects that can potentially provide implementations for the requirements defined in the CGL Requirements Documents. This site is maintained and updated frequently.
The CGL working group collects requirements from multiple industry sources and develops use cases for the various proposed capabilities and functionalities. The working group then sorts and prioritizes the input from the industry, member companies and end users to identify open-source projects that are working on these areas. If no open-source project exists, the working group starts new open-source projects to develop these capabilities and focuses its resources to develop solutions with high potential for mainstream acceptance. In many instances, member companies have (re)released previously proprietary technologies as open source to accelerate the availability of these capabilities in Linux.
The CGL initiative released the original CGL Requirement Definition Document in 2002 (v1.1) and has issued two revisions (v2.0 and v3.2), and it also has established a registration process for Linux vendors to register compliance of their Linux distributions.