NFV Specs/Open Source

Showdown at the OpenStack Corral

Conventional wisdom says telecom network operators hesitate when it comes to deploying OpenStack as their cloud platform for virtualization. On panel discussions, including many I've moderated, they openly wince at its mention, worried that it simply isn't carrier-grade stuff.

Some folks even talk out loud -- for attribution -- about their fears that OpenStack isn't ready for prime time in carrier networks. (See BT Says OpenStack Still Not Up to Spec.)

Yet we now have Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) vying for the title of biggest OpenStack champion. On the heels of last week's announcement by Verizon and three of its vendors that it had turned up a production virtualization network built on OpenStack that it called "the world's largest," AT&T used a blog, which you can read here, to celebrate its selection as an OpenStack Super User in what it insists is the largest deployment to date.

Bragging about using OpenStack? What is the carrier world coming to?

Well, it's clearly coming around to open source, for one thing -- not that this particular transition has been a rapid or easy one. In addition to the carrier activity, there has been considerable effort on the part of vendors, including the ones Verizon mentioned in its announcement, (Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), Big Switch Networks ) and companies such as Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Metaswitch Networks , which have been pushing the ball forward as well. (See Verizon NFV Plan Pushes OpenStack Forward, The State of OpenStack & NFV and Nokia Counts on CloudBand Boost.)

Both AT&T and Verizon are clearly heavily engaged, agreeing to discuss what are arguably riskier positions than "staid" telecom companies are used to taking on what Verizon's Chris Emmons even calls "the bleeding edge" of technology development. And both companies are stressing their determination to keep feeding what they find and develop back into the open-source community to keep the ball rolling forward. No forking here, folks. (See OpenStack, Open Source Key to Verizon Virtualization.)

Learn more about the future of open source in telecom at our upcoming Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, May 24-25. You can register now.

At the OpenStack Summit, Sorabh Saxena, SVP-Software Development & Engineering for AT&T Services Inc. described the company's OpenStack journey in a video you can see here.

That's not to disparage efforts by other global operators or to say that US-based firms are dominating the OpenStack discussion. I expect to hear a lot more about this when we gather in Austin on May 24 and 25 for our Big Communications Event, and as one of the moderators, I'm even hoping to provoke some debate on the topic.

Clearly everyone is welcome at this particular showdown. Just don't be bringing any knives to this gunfight, such as anything that smacks of a proprietary solution.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

SeniorPr44670 5/4/2016 | 1:48:24 PM
Re: Cloud-ready Agree

DIY (Do it yourself) open-source is inherently risky because:
  1. Hiring engineers to deploy, maintain code
  2. lack of certification on hardware used
  3. similary lack of certificaition with other software solutions, example storage/networking and cloud management
  4. security certification
  5. support 24x7 

Vendor supported opensource provides an "insurance policy" that the solution 
  • certified on hardware platforms
  • certified with other software solutions
  • security certification and fixes when vulneratbilities are disclosed
  • a support line

SeniorPr44670 5/4/2016 | 1:43:36 PM
ticker symbol correction Carol

Very good post, one correction, the ticker for Red Hat is RHT on NYSE (not RHAT on Nasdaq)
cnwedit 5/3/2016 | 5:47:24 PM
Re: Cloud-ready There are risks involved in hitching your wagon to a single vendor, to be sure. 

I think, for telecom folks, the risk for open source stuff is different and potentially scarier because the process for dealing with vendors through complex RFPs is well-established. Whereas building on an open source platform is an unfamiliar process. 

The best of both worlds for telecom in open source is having a trusted vendor agree to fill in the gaps around the open source stuff, including providing support and a "throat to choke," so to speak. We're seeing a lot of vendors step up to this. 
Mitch Wagner 5/3/2016 | 5:42:13 PM
Re: Cloud-ready Sure, open source isn't risk-free and does require cultural changes within the network operators. 

However, everything carries risk with it. 

I'm thinking of the school of thought that considers open source more dangerous than a vendor-backed proprietary solution. That assumes your vendor will be around for the long haul – companies do die out – and that your product continues to be supported. Meanwhile, network operators can have vendor support for open source and get the best of both worlds in that regard. 
cnwedit 5/3/2016 | 3:54:31 PM
Re: Cloud-ready I have also been hearing more and more about the maturation process of OpenStack. But I'd disagree that using open source isn't a risk-free proposition for network operators. 

It is a totally different model, one they need to know could work long-term, so that the risk factor was predictable and the mitigations obvious. And they needed vendor partners who would step up and agree to provide support. 

We're seeing both those things happen and the open source process continues to make improvements - all of that combined is making OpenStack a more viable option. But there are still naysayers. 
Mitch Wagner 5/3/2016 | 3:32:51 PM
Cloud-ready A couple of the folks I've been talking to say that OpenStack is, indeed ready for big carrier and enterprise installations -- if it's been customized and battle-hardened. 

Really, anyone who thinks open source is inherently risky is failing to keep up with industry developments. At this point, that's like proclaiming that the Internet will never catch on. 
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