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TIP tackles the growing complexity of open design

Axel Clauberg outlined the challenges facing the telecom industry in his opening address at the recent Telecom Infra Project (TIP) summit.

The TIP chairman and vice president, technology innovation at Deutsche Telekom described how the relentless growth of IP traffic is causing production costs to rise yet the average revenues per subscriber for bundled communications services is flat or dipping. “Not a good situation to be in,” he said. The industry is also investing in new technologies including the rollout of 5G.

Niall Robinson

The industry needs a radically different approach if it is to achieve capital efficiency, said Clauberg, and that requires talent to drive innovation. Garnering such talent needs an industry-wide effort and this is the motivation for TIP.



Established in 2016, TIP brings together internet giants Facebook and Microsoft with leading telecom operators, systems vendors, components players and others to co-develop open-source designs for telecoms. In the last year, TIP has added 200 companies to total over 500 members. 

TIP used its second summit held in Santa Clara, California to unveil several new project groups. These include End-to-End Networking Slicing, Edge Computing, and Artificial Intelligence and Applied Machine Learning. 

There are three main project categories within TIP: access, backhaul, and core and management. Access now includes six project groups including the new Edge Computing, backhaul has two, while core and management has three including the new network slicing and artificial intelligence initiatives. TIP has also established what it calls ecosystem acceleration centres and community labs.

“TIP is definitely bigger and, I think, better,” says Niall Robinson, vice president, global business development at ADVA Optical Networking. “As with any organisation there is always initial growing pains and TIP has gone through those.”


Open Optical Packet Transport

ADVA Optical Networking is a member in one of TIP’s more established projects, the Open Optical Packet Transport group which announced the 1-rack-unit Voyager packet transport and routing box last year.

OOPT itself comprises four work groups: Optical Line System, Disaggregated Transponders and Chips, Physical Simulation Environment and the Common API. A fifth group is being considered to tackle routing and software-defined interconnection.

Robinson highlights two activities of the OOPT’s subgroups to illustrate the scope and progress of TIP.

The Common API group in which Robinson is involved aims to bring commonality to the various open source groups’ application programming interfaces (APIs).


Open is great but there are so many initiatives out there that it is really not helping the market

The Open Networking Forum alone has several initiatives: the Central Office Rearchitected as a Data centre (CORD), the Open Networking Operating System (ONOS) SDN controller, the Open Core Model, and the Transport API. Other open initiatives developing APIs include OpenConfig set up by operators, the Open API initiative, and OpenROADM.

“Open is great but there are so many initiatives out there that it is really not helping the market,” says Robinson. An operator may favour a particular system vendor’s equipment that does not support a particular API. Either the operator or the vendor must then develop something, a situation in the case of an operator that can repeat itself many times. The goal of the Common API group’s work is to develop a mapping function between the software-defined networking (SDN) controller and equipment so that any SDN controller can use these industry-initiative APIs. 

Robinson’s second example is the work of the OOPT’s Disaggregated Transponders and Chips group that is developing a transponder abstraction interface. The goal is to make it easier for vendors to benefit from the functionality of a transponder’s coherent DSP independent of the particular chip used.

“For ADVA, when we build our own gear we pick a DSP and we have to get our firmware to work with it,” says Robinson. “We can’t change that DSP easily; it’s a custom interface.”

The goal of the work is to develop a transponder abstraction interface that sits between the higher-level functionality software and the coherent DSP. The transponder vendor will interface its particular DSP to the abstraction interface that will then allow a network element’s software to configure settings and get optical monitoring data.

“It doesn’t care or even know what DSP is used, all it is talking to is this common transponder abstraction interface,” says Robinson.


Cassini and Voyager platforms

Edgecore Networks has contributed its packet transponder white box platform to the TIP OOPT group. Like Voyager, the platform uses the Broadcom StrataXGS Tomahawk 3.2 terabit switch chip. But instead of using built-in coherent interfaces based on Acacia’s AC-400 module, Cassini offers eight card slot options. Each  slot can accommodate three module options: a coherent CFP2-ACO, a coherent CFP2-DCO or two QSFP28 pluggables. The Cassini platform also has 16 fixed QSFP28 ports.

Accordingly, the 1.5-rack-unit box can be configured as a 3.2 terabit switch using QSFP28 modules only or as a transport box with up to 1.6 terabits of client-side interfaces and 1.6 terabits of line-side coherent interfaces. This contrasts with the Voyager that uses up to 2 terabits of the switch capacity with its dozen 100-gigabit client-side interfaces and 800 gigabits of coherent line-side capacity.

There have also been developments with TIP’s Voyager box. Cumulus Network has replaced Snaproute to provide the platform’s Linux network operating system. ADVA Optical Networking, a seller of the Voyager, says the box will likely be generally available in the first quarter of 2018.

Robinson says TIP will ultimately be judged based on what it ends up delivering. “Eighteen months is not enough time for the influence of something like this to be felt,” he says.


TIP Summit 2017 talks, click here

Reader Comments (3)

"There are three main project categories within TIP: access, backhaul and core and management."

Sentences like this are why the Oxford Comma exists.

January 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJPW

Perhaps it is because I've worked in standards and some of these "open" initiative organizations in the past, but Niall's quote (*) struck me as funny, and I think the only way to respond is with XKCD.

(*) "Open is great but there are so many initiatives out there that it is really not helping the market"

January 9, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermatt traverso

JPW - amended, thank you.

April 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterRoy Rubenstein

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