Communications service providers (CSPs) are always looking for ways to become more operationally efficient and deliver new services more quickly. A new architectural approach that has compute, networking and storage resources distributed outside of centralized data centers, referred to as the "distributed cloud," is finding favor -- even in advance of 5G deployments. Several open source projects are developing solutions that will play an important role in CSPs' distributed cloud implementations.
Heavy Reading research shows that most CSPs have either already deployed or are planning to deploy a distributed cloud. Many are doing so to more efficiently support the continued exponential growth in data traffic. Just as important, though, is the ability to support Internet of Things (IoT) services and potentially enter adjacent markets. Of course, the distributed cloud will also be important for 5G, which brings the promise of higher bandwidth and lower latencies that will usher in a completely new set of services.
The distributed cloud will see resources placed at numerous locations, including the customer premises, mobile basestations and central offices. As such, there is no single "edge." Understanding which functions should be placed where and how to optimize the infrastructure will be among the CSPs' big challenges. This helps explain why there are so many open source projects addressing distributed cloud opportunities. Akraino, StarlingX, and Central Office Re-architected at Data Center (CORD) are focused on creating a new software stack for the edge. Others, like Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP), are focused on management and orchestration (MANO).
The question of whether CSPs will consume open source solutions is mostly settled, with more CSPs engaging directly with open source projects. This allows them to both influence the solutions and learn how to work more collaboratively in their own organizations. Some try to use community versions of code, thinking it will be less expensive, but soon find that a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach brings with it business and security risks and unexpected costs. As discussed in the Red Hat webinar, Open Source for Telecommunications Service Providers – from the Core Datacenter to the Network Edge, using a vendor-supported distribution that is hardened and supported over time can be a more beneficial approach for CSPs.
The distributed cloud offers great potential
CSPs have an opportunity to dramatically change how they architect their networks, reducing their costs through greater efficiencies while positioning themselves to deliver new services and generate revenue.
Although there will certainly be challenges along the way, the potential is too great to ignore. CSPs' move to distributed cloud can be expedited with consistent hardware platforms running validated and supported open source networking solutions. Those that optimize their distributed cloud infrastructure for a variety of workloads stand the best chance of succeeding in a rapidly changing competitive environment.
I encourage you to check out a recently published white paper from Intel (available here), which expands on the topics presented in this post.
This content is sponsored by Red Hat.
— Roz Roseboro, Principal Analyst, Cloud Infrastructure & Management, Heavy Reading