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OpenWiFi: How it Works and What You Need to Know

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OpenWiFi represents a promising leap forward in wireless network innovation, offering enterprise and carrier-grade Wi-Fi solutions with a focus on reducing costs and fostering rapid development. It is designed to be used by service providers, enterprises, and other organizations that want to deploy high-performing Wi-Fi networks without vendor lock-in.

What is OpenWiFi?

OpenWiFi is an open-source, community-driven project, launched in 2021 by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). It encompasses both a disaggregated software system and a collaborative approach to open Wi-Fi technology development, breaking away from traditional closed proprietary systems. The community includes ODM vendors, software DevOps, OEM, and system integrators. This collaborative approach enables a more versatile and flexible approach to Wi-Fi infrastructure.

As an open-source project, OpenWiFi’s inherent flexibility means that it can be tailored to meet the diverse needs for a variety of users. ODM vendors can seamlessly integrate OpenWiFi platforms into their existing hardware offerings or create entirely new stand-alone solutions. Vendors and operators can also leverage the OpenWiFi project to expand their software stack or selectively use only the necessary components tailored to their specific needs.

The Business Case for OpenWiFi

OpenWiFi offers 2 key benefits: cost reduction and accelerated innovation.

OpenWiFi’s open-source nature, disaggregated architecture, and automation-driven operations contribute to substantial reduction in both upfront deployment costs (CapEx) and operational expenses (OpEx). By avoiding vendor lock-in and enabling multi-vendor deployments, organizations can optimize their Wi-Fi infrastructure costs. Additionally, OpenWiFi’s suite of advanced features, encompassing Wi-Fi 6, Passpoint, and OpenRoaming capabilities, enables established and emerging vendors to deliver enterprise-grade Wi-Fi solutions with lower development overhead.

In addition to cost reduction, OpenWiFi fosters rapid innovation by providing a common framework for control, data, and management layers, enabling suppliers and service providers to concentrate their efforts on developing new services instead of the underlying Wi-Fi infrastructure. The cloud controller SDK’s open north-bound APIs facilitate seamless integration of over-the-top Wi-Fi applications across multiple vendor solutions, reducing integration costs and accelerating time to market.

What Makes OpenWiFi Unique

OpenWiFi stands out from traditional Wi-Fi solutions through its unique combination of community-driven development, a fully disaggregated open tech stack, enterprise-grade quality assurance, and rigorous product compliance testing. This distinctive approach empowers users, ensures seamless integration, and delivers unparalleled reliability.

OpenWiFi’s community-driven approach breaks away from traditional vendor-centric development. Instead, OpenWiFi’s development is shaped by the collective needs and expertise of its user community. This open collaboration fosters rapid innovation and ensures that OpenWiFi features are tailored to address the specific requirements of its users, eliminating the need to wait for lengthy release cycles from traditional vendors.

OpenWiFi’s fully disaggregated open tech stack provides users with the flexibility to mix and match different vendor solutions for their Wi-Fi infrastructure. It eliminates vendor lock-in, allowing users to choose components based on their specific needs. The tech stack includes standardized APIs and data models for access points and controllers, ensuring seamless integration and interoperability. Additionally, it offers scalability, Wi-Fi meshing, extensible Radio Resource Management (RRM), Passpoint (802.11u), and configuration, telemetry, and analytics tools.

The TIP OpenWiFi project upholds enterprise-grade quality by incorporating best practices from web-scale software development and the Wi-Fi OEM industry. This commitment is evident through continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices that ensure consistent software builds across hardware platforms. DevOps-managed release engineering further streamlines the release process. The community’s contribution to automated testing guarantees software stability and reliability, ensuring that updates maintain the highest performance and reliability standards.

The OpenWiFi community maintains enterprise-grade quality by actively overseeing and enforcing compliance of OpenWiFi-based products with the software tech stack. This rigorous evaluation includes thorough testing of each access point hardware SKU, verifying their software capabilities. Cloud solutions are tested for seamless interaction with any OpenWiFi compliant access point. The implementation of the OpenWiFi cloud controller SDK northbound API is meticulously scrutinized to ensure proper functionality. The interoperability of multi-vendor OpenWiFi networks is validated, including meshing and Radio Resource Management (RRM) capabilities.

Additionally, OpenWiFi incorporates Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP), which leverages Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) over the public internet. This is a key element for secure deployment, as it eliminates the need for manual configuration, simplifies network setup, and enhances overall security.

The OpenWiFi Community Ecosystem

The OpenWiFi community ecosystem is made up of over 100 service providers, software OEMs, and hardware ODMs. This vibrant community is working together to advance the development and adoption of OpenWiFi.

OpenWiFi’s adoption is gaining momentum, with over ten service providers actively conducting trials for various use cases. Five ODMs have already delivered OpenWiFi-compatible Whitebox Access Points, expanding the hardware options for network deployments. Additionally, eight Wi-Fi OEMs are leveraging the OpenWiFi stack to develop solutions across WLANaaS, automation, analytics, and device security, demonstrating the platform’s versatility and adaptability. OpenWiFi supports the latest Wi-Fi standards, including Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E, ensuring its compatibility with both indoor and outdoor environments.

Multiple ODMs, including Edge-Core, HFCL, CIG, Actiontec, CyberTAN, Arcadyan, Wallys Communications (SuZhou), Lindsay Broadband, and Inventum, are actively contributing to the hardware portfolio, ensuring a diverse range of options to meet a variety of end user requirements.

What’s Next for OpenWiFi?

OpenWiFi is a promising solution that has the potential to revolutionize the Wi-Fi industry. By providing a open and disaggregated approach to Wi-Fi infrastructure, OpenWiFi can help organizations to reduce costs and improve agility.

As the OpenWiFi community continues to grow and mature, we can expect to see more innovations for OpenWiFi networks.

Alex Cronin, IT Solutions Architect

Alex is a solutions architect with over 15 years of broad infrastructure experience, specializing in networking and cybersecurity. He aims to deliver solutions that are impactful, scalable, and cost-effective. Alex is a trusted advisor to organizations and IT leaders, helping them make informed decisions about their IT landscape and aligning people, processes, and technology with strategic ambitions.

View more work by Alex

 

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