DARPA starts a 5G open-source stack project with the Linux Foundation

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has begun a broad collaboration with the Linux Foundation, hoping to spur open-source development of technologies for use by the U.S. government that include secure 5G network software and applications.

The US GOV OPS (Open Programmable, Secure) umbrella organization’s first project, OPS-5G, will focus on a software stack for 5G, the network edge and IoT. According to a newly established website about the project, OPS-5G will define and test an “end-to-end 5G stack” and include elements from multiple Linux Foundation projects, including LF Networking, LF Edge, Zephyr Project and Cloud Native Computing Foundation, along with other top-tier projects that call the Linux Foundation home.

“The project formation encourages ecosystem players to support U.S. government initiatives to create the latest in technology software,” according to DARPA and the Linux Foundation. According to the two organizations, OPS-5G’s goal is to “create open source software and systems enabling secure end to end 5G and follow-on mobile networks” and address “feature velocity” in open-source software, mitigate security concerns such as large-scale botnets that leverage IoT devices, network slicing on “suspect gear” and “adaptive adversaries operating at scale.”

Mike Woster, head of ecosystems at the Linux Foundation, said that the Linux Foundation’s breadth of projects means that between existing open source projects and new ones that may be initiated under the US GOV OPS umbrella, it will be possible to stitch together a “full, 5G end-to-end 5G reference architecture.” The umbrella project also gives DARPA a place to push the results of its research and development into open-source collaborations. The overall goal is to accelerate 5G software development ranging from specific applications to network feature support, and orchestration and analytics, by borrowing from and building upon existing open-source projects and new ones.

The US GOV OPS project will launch as a standard open source project, with a charter similar to other projects within the Linux Foundation; which already is home to a number of projects related to Open RAN, edge computing, Kubernetes and others that will enable US GOV OPS to “build on a secure code base for use by the U.S. government,” according to a release.

But “It’s more than just code,” said Woster, head of ecosystems at the Linux Foundation. “Open source development and open development is really around having a neutral governance framework; open, transparent development processes; that it’s secure, that the intellectual property is properly managed and that the velocity for developers … that all of that matches the needs of the developers.”

“DARPA’s use of open source software in the Open Programmable Secure 5G (OPS-5G) program leverages transparency, portability and open access inherent in this distribution model,” said Dr. Jonathan Smith, program manager for DARPA’s information innovation office, in a statement. “Transparency enables advanced software tools and systems to be applied to the code base, while portability and open access will result in decoupling hardware and software ecosystems, enabling innovations by more entities across more technology areas.” 

The Linux Foundation 5G project is just one of the ways that the U.S. Department of Defense is supporting or exploring the use of 5G. Carriers are deploying 5G at military bases to test various use cases, and earlier this week, Federated Wireless announced that it is leading a project to use 5G in CBRS spectrum to modernize operations at a Marine Corps warehouse in Albany, Georgia. DARPA has also supported research into ad hoc spectrum sharing with its three-year Spectrum Collaboration Challenge. Some of the work from SC2 has informed DARPA’s continued support of research into the possibility of more granular CBRS sharing.

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