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AT&T: OpenStack Needs Central Leadership

Mitch Wagner

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- AT&T says it needs help from the OpenStack community to make the open source cloud management platform carrier-ready, beefing up SDN support, performance, security and rock-solid stability. And the community needs central, coordinated leadership to make that happen.

"We're making great progress with OpenStack but we can't do it alone," Greg Stiegler, AT&T assistant vice president of cloud, said during a presentation at OpenStack Days Silicon Valley in early August. "The velocity we really need requires collaboration and joint development with other, like-minded, participating companies. Large operators, specifically." He echoed a clarion call AT&T issued in May to bring together operators and vendors to work on OpenStack. (See AT&T Rallies Carriers Around OpenStack.)

Perhaps sensitive to the perception of being a large company bigfooting all over an open source community, Stiegler took pains to open his talk by establishing AT&T's credentials as part of that community.

OpenStack Man
Greg Stiegler, AT&T assistant vice president, cloud.
Greg Stiegler, AT&T assistant vice president, cloud.

Open source is driving AT&T's cloud initiatives, Stiegler said. The company deployed OpenStack initially in 2011, with the Diablo release of the open source cloud platform. The AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) is built on OpenStack, and AT&T has made the decision to stay as close to the standard, trunk release of OpenStack as possible. "It keeps AIC from becoming one of those frankenclouds," Stiegler said.

AIC is AT&T's reference architecture for data centers, including switches, storage, servers and software, scheduled to be deployed in more than 100 data centers by the end of the year. AIC is now deployed in 74 zones in 10 countries and the operator aims to get to 105 zones by the end of this year.

Open source is "all about the power of the community and what we can do together, not alone," Stiegler said, quoting the Beatles: "In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make."

Stiegler named several areas OpenStack needs to focus on for maturity, including a couple of areas where he said OpenStack falls short of Amazon Web Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Azure:

  • Carrier grade performance on the full stack, including storage and networking. AWS provides this performance, as does Azure.
  • Automated lifecycle management and transparent, seamless upgrades. "AWS has mastered this. We have not," Stiegler said.
  • Top-to-bottom security
  • Unified container strategy
  • More collaboration, integration and testing across projects
  • Rock-solid stability, comparable to the most stable clouds in the world
  • SDN support

OpenStack today has limited scalability, Stiegler said, though he added that he understands the Mitaka release increases scalability significantly. AT&T has pushed MItaka deployment out to 2017.

The OpenStack community needs to do a better job of coordinating, with a "unified roadmap leader," Stiegler said. "This does not mean this is the king, this is the dictator, or anything like that. But it does mean there is some coordination," he said.

AT&T has company among service providers supporting OpenStack. AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are vying for the title of biggest OpenStack deployment. (See Showdown at the OpenStack Corral.)

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), the largest US cable operator, has deployed OpenStack in national and regional data centers. (See OpenStack Underpins Comcast Elastic Cloud and Comcast & OpenStack by the Numbers.)

But all is not kittens and rainbows. In October, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) threatened to dump OpenStack in favor of proprietary technologies unless vendors can overcome potential technology showstoppers. By March, OpenStack had improved, but there were still open issues, BT said. (See BT Says OpenStack Still Not Up to Spec, OpenStack Doubts Surface After BT Ultimatum, and BT Threatens to Ditch OpenStack.)

Related posts:

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

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