OpenSAF Developer Days 2009

I just returned from the second annual OpenSAF Developers Days. This was a two-day event that included discussions on the latest developments in the project, some of the new standards that have been defined by the Service Availability Forum and the project’s road map plans for the next release. The event was hosted by Huawei at their corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, China. One of the reasons the project choose to do the event in China this year is because they wanted it to be accessible to the ever-increasing number of development teams in Asia Pacific. From the turnout I would have to say this was a very successful event. The event was attended by major TEMs from Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, as well as by leading platform providers and operating system vendors.

In case you are not familiar with OpenSAF, it is an open source implementation of the Service Availability Forum’s (SAF) standard for application high availability. Specifically it is based on the Application Interface Specification (AIS) but also adds other capabilities that are key for high availability such as hardware interface and system management. The project is 100 percent open source and uses the LGPL license. The OpenSAF project is about two years old now, however it was changed to the LGPL license in January 2008 and since then has experienced significant growth. There were over 200 individual contributions in 2008, which is the sign of a strong, active community. OpenSAF is being developed into LTE gateways; IMS servers and other core and edge devices and some of the devices are in operator networks today.

As with any new project, there are doubters about the success of OpenSAF. The most common objection I hear is why would an equipment provider switch from their legacy, field-tested and fully integrated HA solution to this new OpenSAF technology? Actually there are many reasons but it always boils down to the benefits that companies receive with open source. Staying with your legacy software may have short-term advantages; you can get that current project out faster, you don’t have to modify or port your applications and your developers are familiar with it. But in the long run companies always benefit from leveraging a community of developers, the fast innovation of open source, the ecosystem of a standards-based solution and the flexibility of suppliers. We have all seen this with Linux for the operating system and then with Eclipse for tools. High Availability is now commonly regarded as a standard component of a Carrier Grade Base Platform and the inevitability of open source HA software being combined with open source Linux to create this base platform is undeniable. For some companies it will take longer than others but it is just a matter of time.

Some of the most interesting sessions at the Developer Days event were discussions about the newer SAF standards for platform management (PLM) and software management framework (SMF). Integrating software management (in place or hitless upgrades) and hardware management (monitoring and managing HW failures) into an overall HA solution completes the Carrier Grade Base Platform. Both PLM and SMF are relatively new standards that the OpenSAF project is looking at for the next release. Another interesting discussion was around creating more modularity for the project. Initially the OpenSAF code was pretty monolithic and this made the code unwieldy for some projects or devices. Not all devices need the same amount of availability, so creating modularity around services with inter-dependencies allows for much more flexible deployment. It seems to be clear that the project has made great progress in the last year, and from the look of the information presented at Developer Days, the remainder of 2009 and 2010 seem to be poised for great success. All the presentations from Developer Days are available on the OpenSAF website.