Open source network functions virtualization (NFV) took a major step forward today with the announcement of a new Linux Foundation initiative, the Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV), that aims to advance software-based networking, storage and communications.

OPNFV complements what the Linux Foundation is already doing through the OpenDaylight project, which is building an open source software-defined networking (SDN) platform with broad support from industry partners. The NFV initiative will create solutions that virtualize other parts of network communications, making it possible to implement a network that is fully software-based and open source.

In the Linux Foundation's words, OPNFV "will establish a carrier-grade, integrated, open source reference platform that industry peers will build together to advance the evolution of NFV and ensure consistency, performance and interoperability among multiple open source components. Because multiple open source NFV building blocks already exist, OPNFV will work with upstream projects to coordinate continuous integration and testing while filling development gaps."

OPNFV already has the backing of a remarkably long list of big names in the server, cloud computing, storage and communications world that have signed on as founding members. In fact, there are so many organizations of note that it's worth listing them all here: AT&T, Brocade, China Mobile, Cisco Systems, Dell, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, NEC, Nokia Networks, NTT DOCOMO, Red Hat, Telecom Italia and Vodafone.

Silver-level founding members include 6WIND, Alcatel-Lucent, ARM, CableLabs, Cavium, CenturyLink, Ciena, ClearPath, ConteXtream, Coriant, Cyan, Dorado Software, Ixia, Metaswitch Networks, Mirantis, Orange, Sandvine, Sprint and Wind River.

Readers may notice that not all of those companies traditionally have had a strong relationship with the open source community (though some certainly have). The fact that the Linux Foundation has been able to assemble such a broad and diverse base of support is a sign of how committed the channel is to transitioning from hardware- to software-based infrastructure while also keeping standards open. If there was ever a question about what open source software's role will be in the future, here's a big part of the answer.