AT&T chucks $200 million at ONAP startups

US operator AT&T has vowed to invest ‘up to’ $200 million in a venture capital fund focused on telecoms startups working on the Open Network Automation Platform.

ONAP is a Linux Foundation-backed project designed enable the orchestration and automation of both physical and network functions. Essentially it is one of the main initiatives aiming to make the bewilderingly diverse and complex array of technologies contributing to the next generation of networking.

AT&T has an especially active interest in ONAP as it contributed a significant piece of it in the form of its own orchestration platform ECOMP. Earlier this year AT&T decided it had taken ECOMP as far as it could in-house and donated it to the Linux Foundation in order to allow the broader open source community to have a go at it. It was soon combined with the Foundation’s existing open orchestrator platform – OPEN-O – to create ONAP.

You’d think that moment marked the much-needed consolidation of all the various orchestration initiatives out there – surely a pre-requisite if virtualization is going to succeed as a global, industry-wide, standardized thing. However ETSI has other ideas and is persisting with Open Source MANO (Management and Orchestration), which is aligned to its own NFV initiatives.

Hopefully we will one day has one unified MANO initiative for network virtualization but in the meantime AT&T, which remains one of the most proactive players in this field, is clearly committed to ONAP.

This VC fund is a further acknowledgement by AT&T that it can only do so much by itself. It will collaborate with investment firm Coral, and specifically its Communications Industry Platform (CIP) team to scour the world for startups doing clever stuff with ONAP, which the press release defines as ‘an operating system for software-defined networks’.

“This investment is part of our push to address the needs of global service providers,” said Andre Fuetsch, CTO and president of AT&T Labs. “We look forward to collaborating with Coral and other CIP members to find – and even create – startup companies to build disruptive technologies to solve these challenges.”

“The CIP solutions are targeted at large, move-the-needle opportunities initiated by our strategic collaborators,” said Yuval Almog, Chairman and Founder of Coral Group. “We are pleased to welcome AT&T to the CIP.”

Operators have been moaning for a while about how slow progress on virtualization has been and AT&T has been conspicuous in actually taking matters in-hand itself. While it has relinquished control of ECOMP, the recent acquisition of Vyatta shows it remains actively engaged in pushing the whole mega-project along.

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