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Linux Foundation launches open source telco project

Sylva to provide solution to "edge/cloud continuum" challenges.

Linux Foundation Europe has launched Project Sylva, an attempt to create an open-source and cloud-native framework for telcos that meets the federated and regulatory challenges of the EU, reduces stack complexity across edge, cloud and application layers and helps reduce transformation costs in a rapidly evolving sector.

Launched on 15 November at the ONE Summit North America in Seattle (somewhat paradoxically), Sylva is the first project to be launched under Linux Foundation Europe, which was set up earlier in 2022.  Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile TIM and Telefonica are founding members, with Ericsson and Nokia on the vendor side.

Project Sylva envisions an environment where compute is distributed much more widely, through use of containerised applications running on “container-as-a-service” (CaaS) platforms via cloud providers – instead of on the traditional vertically integrated stacks and custom hardware that telcos have used up to now.

"Convergence of the CaaS layer could benefit all players of the Telco industry as it could significantly reduce fragmentation and increase operational efficiency" Project Sylva's advocates argue.

A deck shared at its launch suggests a " target architecture based on multi-cluster Kubernetes automated deployments on Bare Metal, managed with [a] GitOps approach (including Infrastructure as code)."

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While Sylva is focused on delivering a framework suitable for European telcos, its organisers stress that the project is open to non-European bodies as well.

“The telco cloud ecosystem today is fragmented and slowing down our operational model transformation" said Laurent Leboucher, group CTO and SVP at Orange, in a press release.

He added: "Despite a transition to cloud native technologies, a real interoperability between workloads and platforms remains a challenge. Indeed, operators have to deal with a lot of vertical solutions that are different for each vendor, leading to operational complexity, lack of scalability, and high costs."

“Sylva, by providing a homogenous telco cloud framework for the entire industry, should help all the ecosystem to use a common technology, which will be interoperable, flexible and easy to operate.”

“[Project Sylva] falls into four broad buckets: security requirements, energy requirements, federated edge requirements, and data trust requirements" Arpit Joshipura, general manager for Networking, Edge and IoT at the Linux Foundation, told The Stack.

“If you can solve these problems across the EU, by default, you have solved these problems across countries – which then you can adapt and upstream it across the globe, whether it's US or China or India or whatever,” he added.

The project partners aim to create a vendor-neutral cloud software framework designed to accommodate telco edge requirements, along with a reference implementation.

According to Joshipura, Sylva is intended to be part of the Linux Foundation’s project ecosystem, working with projects such as CNCF (host-project to Kubernetes), Aunket and O-RAN, along with ONAP. Sylva will pull in aspects of those projects as it works to tackle what the project documents describe as the “edge/cloud continuum”.

See also: Kubernetes has standardised on sigstore in a landmark move

“There are two types of edges. There's a user edge and a service provider edge; user edge is with the user, service provider edge is with a telecom or a cloud service provider. And fundamentally, what is happening is there is a continuum of compute that is needed – from a centralised data centre, to a central office, to a cell site, to end user edge – where your applications need to be running consistently,” said Joshipura.

“That's what is called a cloud compute consistent framework. And that is across everything from open user edge to service provider edge.”

Joshipura told The Stack: “[Telco] network functions need to be agnostic of where they're running. And a lot of that work is already being done by the open source community. So what Sylva would do is it would utilise all that work, and on top of that fill out missing pieces of reference implementation and validation of these functions.

“Most of the top tier [telcos] can get probably 70-80% of the way there, they can get an SDN controller, or they can get a data plane accelerator, they can get a orchestration and automation platform, etc. Those are the projects inside Linux Foundation, then on CNCF you have Kubernetes – if you take all those projects, you can get 70-80% there as a global entity.

“Now, for Sylva, you’ve got to take one more step forward and add the EU specific requirements: on security, on energy efficiencies, on federated edge computing and on data, requirements that come from EU bodies,” added Joshipura.

Following its launch, Sylva is welcome to input from other interested organisations, from within the EU or beyond. It aims to see its first commits in 2023, followed by v1 of its cloud framework later in the year.

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