We cannot underestimate the impact that ‘softwarization’ is having on today’s information and communication technology (ICT) industry, or what will it mean for the industry of the 5G era.
Despite being expensive and error-prone, manual configuration of ICT resources was the norm for many years. In the large datacentres introduced over the past 15 to 20 years, this manual configuration became an impossible feat. The Internet companies, or ‘over-the-top’ players, managing these gargantuan datacentres began to pioneer the development of automation mechanisms – softwarization mechanisms – to configure the hundreds or thousands of servers and other resources found in a modern datacentre.
This automation is now making its way into the telecoms industry at an astounding pace.
Telecoms companies are calling for more softwarization. Standards development for network-function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) has received strong support from telecoms players hoping to introduce more softwarization and benefit from the use of general-purpose, ‘white-box’ hardware. This trend has gathered great momentum, and our Focus Group is building on the trend, making a valuable contribution to its momentum. In this trend towards softwarization and white-box hardware, we see the growing influence of the open-source community on the business of telecoms companies – and this will be one of the most exciting areas of our Focus Group’s work in 2016.
The ITU-T Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 (‘5G’) has received an extension to its lifetime, with a new mandate to undertake in-depth studies into areas such as network softwarization and slicing, emerging networking technologies, mobile backhaul and fronthaul, and end-to-end quality of service (QoS).
On Monday, 7 December, we presented the findings of our analysis of how emerging 5G technologies will interact in future networks. We took an ecosystem view of 5G research of development, identifying 85 ‘gaps’ in existing standards to be addressed in the approach to year 2020. The Focus Group’s report on this analysis is available here…
I offered an update on our Focus Group’s work in a recent ITU interview, giving me the opportunity to highlight the transformative effects that softwarization is having on the ICT industry and how our Focus Group’s work is part of a strong trend towards more collaboration between open-source and telecoms communities.
Our new Terms of Reference ask us to engage open-source communities, influencing and taking advantage of their work by introducing them to the problems that telecoms players will need to solve as they develop the 5G ecosystem. We are an open group, and participants are not required to be members of any particular organization. Our informal working methods have proven very effective, and I welcome you to join our mailing list and join the debate.
Peter Ashwood-Smith is a Huawei Senior Researcher and Technical VP-Optical, and Chairman of the ITU-T Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 (5G). He has worked on the design, standardization, implementation, deployment, and large-scale support of many modern transport networking protocols which have been deployed worldwide in hundreds of networks. Peter’s recent work revolves around Transport SDN/NFV and the complex traffic engineering problems and high-speed architectures required to support them. He also currently works on CPRI transport challenges over packet networks for next-generation 5G front-haul. Peter currently holds nearly 100 patents in networking and related fields including the basic design of GMPLS. He holds BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science.