As our world shifts from “big project” vendors and standards bodies towards open communities focussed on driving deep technology development expertise, we see an increasing need to support the open source software movement. Here’s what open source means to us, and how we’re already using it to drive efficiency gains in our business.

What is open source?

Open source allows for software and its associated source code to be studied, changed and redistributed to anyone and for any purpose. Open source software allows for diverse perspectives and use cases as it’s developed in an open and collaborative fashion.

This open development community is often where new standards and innovation emerge. In fact, the open source ‘revolution’ is happening – and has happened – in other industries such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and automotive sectors, all keen to capitalise upon faster innovation, to better serve customers and differentiate in their market.

Globally, telcos in general are adopting open source to drive value and consistency. We’re no different through our use of numerous programming languages and libraries for applications and the web. It is crucial that we play a part in and take advantage of this approach to thrive and lead in an increasingly competitive market.

To show support for these communities, we recently hosted 120+ attendees from the local and international industry to knowledge share on the Open Source evolution in partnership with Linux Foundation Networking (LFN) and Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

The event featured plenaries, breakout sessions and tutorials on Next Generation Software Defined Network, Automation, and Edge Computing. With the advent of software-based transformation of our network, this event assisted our engineering teams to connect with the industry, understand the impact of open source software for us, and gather new skills.

Following the success of the collaborative event, we wanted to share what open source means to us and why we’re backing it.

Why open source for Telstra?

Open Source allows us to:

  • Share development effort for enabling technologies, lowering research and development costs whilst keeping pace with faster innovation cycles, leveraging from open communities and relying less on vendor product roadmap cycles;
  • Help accelerate product development by leveraging the collective development efforts, whilst maintaining a strong influence in open technologies that we rely on for our products;
  • Independently update and extend capacities in-house whenever we need to, while still retaining differentiating intellectual property, and
  • Become an attractive employer for talent looking to work on open technologies

Now that our network is becoming software centric, Open Source is being used in our engineering and operational groups for monitoring, network management and analytics with a focus on avoiding inflexible vendor roadmaps.

Game changer: We’re benefiting from this Open Source approach to deliver standard services in a standard way, crucially in a ‘language’ that the world understands and can interact with. This is essential as we transform our network into software and keep aligned with the global community.

Getting this functionality delivered into production to drive value for our business has required network integration and hardening – up to a year of effort to achieve component reusability, ongoing support and software currency.

The result has been through a collaborative effort with our partners – Arris, Infosys, TMF (Open API), Amdocs, Sea Street and others. In the future, we will expand this partnership approach to drive the initial innovation to build our business capability, then offload to others to harden, integrate and provide ongoing support.

Benefits and challenges

Not only does open source present a significant development opportunity, but it also offers cost savings in line with our company strategy.

It’s important to understand that open source software is not free, but by using it we should expect a significant reduction in software licensing fees, while being offered fewer restrictions in terms of scalability and distribution.

Simultaneously, we expect reduced hardware costs based on open software – as it runs on lower-cost, more commoditised “white box” setups. As we leverage open source for our data and analytics needs, we anticipate further cost savings in network automation and optimisation.

Cost reductions are great, but we need to be mindful of how we select our technology areas and delivery methods based on our own technology as well as our culture, capability and skills. Taking ownership of the software life cycle in-house brings with it a range of challenges, including the development, deployment and operational costs associated.

Of course, challenges such as these do not outweigh the benefits of leveraging open source technologies in our business and the associated community benefits of sharing our successes. We know using and contributing to open source software helps the broader community as well as our own goals.

We’re excited to take a leadership role in open source, and hope to share the journey with our colleagues in the tech sector.