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Service providers of all sizes and types should take note of some changes occurring across the open-source community—changes that promise to accelerate the adoption of software-defined networks (SDN).

The first is a decision by AT&T to open source the ECOMP management and orchestration (MANO) framework it developed via the Linux Foundation. Through a variety of working groups, the foundation has been accelerating the development of core network function virtualization (NFV) software and associated SDN technologies. But a big piece missing from that equation has been the management plane.

Arpit Joshipura, general manager for networking and orchestration for the Linux Foundation, says the foundation still needs to harden ECOMP for production environments. But AT&T has already been working on ECOMP for years as part of its overall 5G networking strategy, which suggests ECOMP is pretty far along in terms of being ready for prime time.

In the meantime, two other open-source networking groups have decided to merge their respective development efforts. The Open Networking Foundation and ON.Lab will be fusing their respective efforts to create an Open Innovation Pipeline based on open-source software that has been hardened to a point that enables service providers to implement it in a production environment.

In fact, Guru Parulkar, executive director of the Stanford Platform Laboratory and the ONOS/CORD projects within ON.Lab, says that the two organizations have been working to harden open-source technologies to meet the unique requirements of service providers.

In general, service providers are looking to open source networking technologies because licensing commercial software at scale is often cost prohibitive. The challenge they have faced is that many of the core open-source network virtualization and SDN technologies they need to drive the delivery of application services at scale have been too immature to implement.

However, as the year continues to progress, it looks like service providers will be the downstream beneficiaries of much of the work carriers such as AT&T and Verizon have put into hardening these technologies.

It may be a while longer before these open-source networking technologies find their way into mainstream enterprise environments. But as far as service providers are concerned, 2017 will most likely be the year they look back on as that time when every aspect of delivering a service over a network changed completely.

Mike Vizard has more than 25 years of experience covering IT issues in a career that includes serving as director of strategic content and editorial director for Ziff Davis Enterprise.