Telcos turn to OpenStack for network virtualization

OpenStack — a collection of open source software projects that allow users to develop and manage a cloud infrastructure in a data centre — has emerged as a key technology underpinning the push by telcos to virtualize their networks.

Opening the OpenStack Summit in Austin Texas, Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Forum, the global body behind the project, said that ATT stood out as an early telco adopter of OpenStack, but had since been joined by many others.

The telco won the OpenStack Superuser award at the summit.

“Two years ago we started talking about NFV [network function virtualization] at our summit in Atlanta, and then it was mostly ATT,” Bryce said.

“Since then there have been a lot of different approaches [to NFV] in the telco industry but in the last year there has been a coalescence around OpenStack among many of the largest global telco companies.”

He said that since then a number of telcos had got involved and started to make contributions and have seen that they could push OpenStack in a direction that would be useful to them.

“They have brought focussed contributions and design efforts into specific components of OpenStack that have made it a much better fit for those use cases,” he said.

“There are things that have been built in the last two releases that would probably have been further down the line if it were not for their focus, but they add to the overall capability. That’s one of the cool things about OpenStack.”

The Forum divides OpenStack use cases into four sectors: Public, cloud; private cloud; telco and NFV; and research and big data.

Bryce said that telco and NFV had been the fastest growing sector in the last two of the Forum’s six-monthly user surveys.

Sorabh Saxena, SVP, software development and engineering at ATT, said that OpenStack was at that core of the telco’s ATT Integrated Cloud (AIC).

The AIC is a major project that aims to virtualize and cloud-enable 75 per cent of the company’s network architecture by 2020 in response to massive traffic growth.

“ATT is fully committed to OpenStack and has been for a while,” Saxena said.

“We knew he had to transform our approach to building networks …and the answer is to transition from purpose-built network appliances to open, white box commodity hardware that is virtualized and controlled by AIC,” Saxena said.

“We are also liberating the network functions from the same purpose-built appliances into stand-alone software components.”

“OpenStack sits at AIC’s core and that has catapulted us forward in our cloud journey,” Saxena said.

“Today the AIC production platform is already leveraging 10 OpenStack projects and before the end of the year we will be adding three more.”

He said the aim was for AIC to have “a single code base for both carrier grade and enterprise workloads.”

Verizon also spoke at the summit about its commitment to OpenStack.

A Verizon spokesman said that “OpenStack has the maturity to deploy and satisfy the needs of our infrastructure today, and seeing the size of the community here [at the Summit] today, it has the momentum to get where we need it to be to enable the functions of the future.”

He added that Verizon was “laying the foundation for the next generation of Verizon’s network based on open source software and commodity hardware [and] automating everything.”

“We are virtualising all our applications and software-defining the network around those with the ultimate goal of making them 100 percent programmable to drive down costs, increase operating efficiency and drive down time to market.”

Verizon announced at the summit that, in collaboration with Big Switch Networks, Dell and Red Hat, it had completed, across five of its US data centres, what it said was “the industry’s largest known network function virtualization OpenStack cloud deployment.”

It said that deployments were in progress in additional domestic data centre and aggregation sites and that the design would be adopted in edge network sites by the end of the year.

“Verizon worked with Big Switch Networks, Dell and Red Hat to develop the OpenStack pod-based design that went from concept to deployment of more than 50 racks in five production data centres in less than nine months,” Verizon said.

Other major telcos identified at the summit as making major commitments to OpenStack were China Mobile, Swisscom and Comcast. Another telco, NTT, won the Superuser award at the last OpenStack summit in Tokyo.

OpenStack Summit coming to Sydney

Bryce announced that the OpenStack Summit would be held in Sydney in the week beginning 6 November 2017. OpenStack Summits are held approximately every six months.

The next is scheduled for Barcelona October 25-28, and will be followed by one in Boston week beginning May 8 2017.

The author attended the OpenStack Summit as a guest of the OpenStack Forum.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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