When BT's Peter Willis last week told the OpenStack community to shape up or face being excluded from the operator's virtual enterprise CPE plans, he gave vent to industry concerns that have been festering like a hidden wound. (See BT Threatens to Ditch OpenStack.)
Publicly, operators have been expressing strong support for OpenStack , an open source platform being touted as one of the key technologies that will underpin future NFV deployments.
In private, it seems to have been quite another matter -- until, that is, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s chief researcher for data networks broke ranks at this month's SDN & Openflow Conference in Düsseldorf and exposed the ugly truth.
OpenStack is simply not up to the job, said Willis, and it won't be until its backers have addressed six major technology shortcomings, including a lack of scalability, security and backwards compatibility.
If OpenStack cannot rise to the challenge, then BT is giving serious consideration to the use of another technology, and that could mean the proprietary VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) system.
There is even now the possibility that supporters of Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. (OPNFV), another open source platform, look to capitalize on signs of OpenStack weakness and pitch OPNFV as an alternative.
This would be a dramatic turn of events. One of OPNFV's initiatives involves building an open NFV infrastructure that includes OpenStack and members have previously indicated their aim is not to "fork" OpenStack in this way. Yet service provider discontent could produce a reaction.
"Business interests within operators, often in contrast to their CTO offices, are skeptical that OpenStack-based NFV implementations can be rolled out any time soon," says Caroline Chappell, a principal analyst of NFV and the cloud with Heavy Reading . "[That] is a touchy point for all those that have nailed their colors to the OpenStack mast."
Interestingly enough, BT's comments came in the same week that VMware unveiled changes to its service that could help to reduce what is known as the "VMware tax" -- with pricing seen as a barrier to operator adoption -- and promised to provide better support to carriers.
But the challenges to OpenStack aren't coming just from OPNFV and VMware, notes Chappell.
"Alternative open source approaches to cloud resource management are bubbling up from the Kubernetes and container camp -- Kubernetes being based on Google's Borg cloud orchestration capability," she says.
"The OpenStack community is making strenuous efforts to embrace Kubernetes and other container orchestration technologies, but this rapid evolution of cloud and the fact the next big thing to OpenStack is already appearing over the horizon is another complication for operators and vendors," adds Chappell.
The new crop of orchestration offerings is clearly designed to address the various shortcomings of OpenStack, as Chappell discussed in a prescient Heavy Reading report published earlier this year. But the proprietary nature of many technologies is giving rise to what Axel Clauberg -- Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s resident NFV expert -- has described as an "orchestration zoo." (See Taming the NFV 'Orchestration Zoo' and Nothing Is Sacred, DT's Clauberg Tells BTE .)
Ideally, OPNFV would help to integrate these new capabilities into OpenStack as quickly as possible, but the organization appears to have become bogged down in a debate over next steps.
"[OPNFV] faces the conundrum of whether it focuses for now on stabilizing and hardening the base NFVi [network functions virtualization infrastructure] it's created or whether it moves on to address the NFV-O [NFV orchestrator]," says Chappell.
For BT, at least, the whole issue is not receiving the attention it should, and that could be a major setback for the industry at large.
"We are acknowledging an issue that we feel is not being as widely recognized as it needs to be and in many cases this is preventing large-scale deployment," said Neil McRae, BT's chief network architect, in comments posted on the Light Reading website in response to the original coverage of Willis's remarks. "For vendors in the NFV/SDN space it's going to be a barrier to sales for sure."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading