DARPA, Linux Foundation Partner to Advance 5G

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A new agreement will create an open-source software ecosystem to support government technology research and development.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is partnering with a major technology consortium to establish an open-source software development collaboration ecosystem to advance emerging technologies such as 5G, according to a Wednesday press release. 

The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit organization that hosts open-source efforts including Kubernetes and the O-RAN Alliance’s software community, signed a cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, with DARPA to create a “broad collaboration umbrella” called US Government Open Programmable and Secure, or US GOV OPS. DARPA’s Open Programmable Secure 5G, or OPS-5G, effort will be the first project included under the umbrella, according to the release. 

Mike Woster, Linux Foundation’s head of ecosystems, told Nextgov in an interview that talks with DARPA began a year ago—the OPS-5G broad agency announcement was originally published in Jan. 2020—and he expects more announcements to be made with other government entities under the collaboration umbrella in the coming months. In addition to 5G, which through OPS-5G is the near-term focus of the collaboration, the project aims to address internet of things, security and edge technologies, Woster said. 

In the press release, Dr. Jonathan Smith, a program manager with DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, said DARPA’s use of open-source software for the OPS-5G program “leverages transparency, portability and open access inherent in this distribution model.”

“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,” Smith said. 

Smith told Nextgov the CRADA creates a vehicle for technology transition by providing a mature, open-source 5G software platform that is used by equipment vendors and mobile network operators. In turn, the benefit to the Linux Foundation is that DARPA expects security results from OPS-5G performers to be a factor in platform choice, according to Smith.

“Availability of open portable software with a substantial developer population creates an ecosystem where future DARPA initiatives in mobile networking can be validated in realistic systems,” Smith said. 

Linux Foundation will link the OPS-5G program to an Office of the Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering project called MOJITO, which stands for Multisite OPS-5G Joint Independent Testing Option, Woster said. The integration, testing and evaluation partner for OPS-5G is the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific. 

OPS-5G creates capabilities to address feature velocity in open-source software, a trillion-node Botnet of Things (BoT), network slicing on suspect gear and adaptive adversaries operating at scale, according to OPS-5G BAA. 

“We are eager to ally with DARPA and its intent to accelerate secure, open-source innovation and U.S. competitiveness across breakthrough technologies,” Arpit Joshipura, Linux Foundation’s general manager for networking, edge and IOT, said. “This partnership enables transformational change across open software and systems, leveraging the best-shared resources across the ecosystem.”  

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