Open-source software (OSS) serves as the foundation of IT infrastructure worldwide, allowing e-commerce platforms and innovative over the top (OTT) players to bring services to market quickly.
OSS is gradually driving the innovation agenda for communications service providers (CSPs), and by extension, it is now challenging the dominance of proprietary solutions in the telecoms industry. OSS holds the potential to play a key role in telco cloud deployments, a market that will potentially grow to $29 billion by 2025, finds global tech market advisory firm ABI Research.
CSPs that wish to keep abreast with OTT and web-scale companies may have to implement the same technologies and agile processes to stay competitive and rapidly innovate. OSS and by extension, cloud technologies, promise nimbleness, but whether CSPs can seize the opportunity remains to be seen. Telecoms are driven by standard bodies that have long cycle times to next-generation technologies. On the other hand, open-source is characterized by an agile approach that moves faster.
“Though CSPs are at different timeslots in their digitalization journey, they should collectively propel the open-source agenda forward. A close collaboration between standard bodies and open source communities is a step in that direction,” says Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.
A key consideration before OSS garners vendors’ support is the means of monetization. There are two main monetization models that vendors can potentially use to commercialize OSS. Namely, there is the support model and the alternative where the core of the product is open source, but vendors add proprietary bells and whistles on top. Red Hat pioneered the support model and it remains the leading vendor in commercializing OSS using that option. Other companies such as Cloudera and Hortonworks have successfully embraced underlying OSS to offer enterprise-grade modules under a commercial license.
In telecoms, the adoption of OSS is already underway among CSPs and it will almost certainly be mainstream by 2025. For example, CSPs like Orange and Bell Canada have created internal open-source groups in a bid to become more well versed in interacting with community-developed software.
To that end, CSPs no longer hold reservations in adopting OSS but are now considering ways to include it in their network operations and commercial undertakings. In fact, the industry at large stands to benefit from OSS innovation with the introduction of IT and cloud solutions. But, unlike the IT domain, telecoms infrastructure is characterized by stringent performance, reliability, and security requirements that require telco-specific arrangements.