Open source and collaboration stacks up in telco virtualization on the cloud

OpenStack Ecosystem Technical Lead Ildikó Vancsa drives NFV related feature development activities in projects like OpenStack’s Nova and Cinder, as well as onboarding and training. The Network Virtualization event team caught up with her ahead of Network Virtualization & SDN Europe in May.

“I’m an open source advocate both personally and professionally and when the movement towards virtualisation and the cloud started, telcos started looking into OpenStack and we began to explore how they could use us,” she explained.

“It has been a very interesting journey, even if it hasn’t always been easy. Virtualisation really is a transformation both from mind set perspective as well as technology perspective,” she said.

The concept sounds simple enough – lift functions from a physical hardware stack and put it into a virtual machine in the cloud. The realty is quite different. In an ideal world, Vancsa suggested you would just rewrite everything from scratch, but this approach is not possible.

“It’s a short sentence to summarize it but it’s a really hard thing to do; especially because those functions are often tightly coupled with specialised hardware,” she said.

This hardware traditionally represented the whole functions stack, all the way out to software. As Vancsa put it: “We needed to support this journey while at the same time looking for where network functions can go. We need to be able to support the legacy network functions as well as providing an environment for new applications, written with the with this new mind set”.

“We do not have to reinvent the wheel and we [OpenStack] didn’t try that. We worked with companies and vendors in the in the NFV and networking space to be able to plug the components that they prefer to use into OpenStack and provide the functionality that they need,” she said.

OpenStack has now moved away from being one huge code stack to become more modular, offering standalone components such as load balancing as a service.

One crucial aspect of getting OpenStack right is collaboration across telco as open source becomes more and more widespread. In Vancsa’s words: “Back in the old days you had one vendor and they supplied your hardware and software and it was all tightly integrated and, no questions asked, it was supposed to work.”

“As open source has become more popular in telecom environments, we see more operators picking up commodity hardware and have a couple of vendors supplying software. So they might have one vendor supplying the MANO components and another for the orchestration layer,” she explained. “This means it is critical to keep an eye on interfaces and interoperability.”

For Vancsa, collaboration, open infrastructure and open source software are vital for virtualization to succeed, especially as telcos move more into the cloud, and events such as Network Virtualization & SDN Europe are vital for this.

“You get the chance to talk to people and basically make the first connection after which is just so much easier to collaborate on other forums,” she enthused.

 

Ildikó Vancsa was also a panellist on a recent webinar from Network Virtualization & SDN Europe on Virtualzation and the Cloud. You can listen to the webinar on-demand here. Network Virtualization & SDN Europe 2019 takes place 21-23 May at the Palace Hotel in Berlin. Find out more here.

Airship launched by AT&T and SK Telecom

AT&T and SK Telecom have jointly announced the launch of a new open infrastructure project called Airship, intended to simplify the process of deploying cloud infrastructure.

Airship uses the OpenStack-Helm project as a foundation, building a collection of open source tools to allow operators, IT service providers or enterprise organizations to more easily deploy and manage OpenStack, focusing more specifically on container technologies like Kubernetes and Helm. The mission statement is a simple one; make it easier to more predictably build and manage cloud infrastructure.

“Airship gives cloud operators a capability to manage sites at every stage from creation through all the updates, including baremetal installation, OpenStack creation, configuration changes and OpenStack upgrades,” SK Telecom said in a statement. “It does all this through a unified, declarative, fully containerized, and cloud-native platform.”

The initial focus of this project is the implementation of a declarative platform to introduce OpenStack on Kubernetes (OOK) and the lifecycle management of the resulting cloud, with the scale, speed, resiliency, flexibility, and operational predictability demanded of network clouds. The idea of a declarative platform is every aspect of the cloud is defined in standardized documents, where the user manages the documents themselves, submits them and lets the platform takes care of the rest.

The Airship initiative will initially consist of eight sub-projects:

  • Armada – An orchestrator for deploying and upgrading a collection of Helm charts
  • Berth – A mechanism for managing VMs on top of Kubernetes via Helm
  • Deckhand – A configuration management service with features to support managing large cluster configurations
  • Diving Bell – A lightweight solution for bare metal configuration management
  • Drydock – A declarative host provisioning system built initially to leverage MaaS for baremetal host deployment
  • Pegleg – A tool to organize configuration of multiple Airship deployments
  • Promenade – A deployment system for resilient, self-hosted Kubernetes
  • Shipyard – A cluster lifecycle orchestrator for Airship

“Airship is going to allow AT&T and other operators to deliver cloud infrastructure predictably that is 100% declarative, where Day Zero is managed the same as future updates via a single unified workflow, and where absolutely everything is a container from the bare metal up,” said Ryan van Wyk, Assistant VP of Cloud Platform Development at AT&T Labs.

While the emergence of another open source project is nothing too revolutionary, AT&T has stated it will act as the foundation of its network cloud that will power the 5G core supporting the 2018 launch of 5G service in 12 cities. Airship will also be used by Akraino Edge Stack, another project which intends to create an open source software stack supporting high-availability cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications. Two early use-cases certainly add an element of credibility.

Orange and Red Hat push open source NFVi development

At the OpenStack Summit 2017, operator Orange has joined forces with equally colourful open-source software vendor Red Hat to promote NFVi innovation.

Sadly the two companies have missed a trick by declining to name their mutual endeavour Orange Hat, but we mustn’t let that detract from the underlying cleverness. Orange seems to reckon network functions virtualization infrastructure is best done in the open-source environment and Red Hat unsurprisingly agrees.

The result is that they have started a joint engineering programme to support NFV in OpenStack and other open source communities. While the two of them have also, for some reason, chosen not to refer to themselves as Naranja and Sombrero Rojo respectively in Spanish-speaking countries, they have directed to the Openstack BGP VPN project, which has embellished the acronym magnificently in naming its reference implementation BaGPipe.

“We are keen to spearhead development for technology platforms that can power our future networks, like OpenStack, and are teaming closely with Red Hat to drive innovation in open communities to help shape them in line with real-world requirements,” said Christian Gacon, VP of Wireline Networks and Infrastructure at Orange. “Red Hat, as an open source solutions leader, is then able to seek to bring that innovation to production-ready fruition in its Red Hat OpenStack Platform.

“Our joint work on the BGP VPN project is a great example of an important piece of networking technology that we are enhancing for modern communications, as the industry strives towards more dynamic, agile and self-adaptive networks. As we work on an industrial roll out of NFVi, we are confident that standardizing on open source can bring interoperability to the ecosystem for large, scalable cloud environments. We recognize Red Hat as a valuable partner to enable us to onboard VNFs from a variety of different vendors.”

“Orange is embracing a role as a modern open communications provider, not only by deploying a fully open technology platform with Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat Ceph Storage but also by adding its expertise to community development efforts,” said Darrell Jordan-Smith, VP of Global Information and Communications Technology at Red Hat. “We’re very pleased that our technologies power Orange’s standardized NFVi platform and we’re excited to continue our collaboration in open source initiatives, aimed at delivering new business value to the industry.”

To be honest we’re struggling to add much more colour to the announcement than those quotes so we’ll leave it there, other than to note that this seems to be another example of operators choosing to take virtualization matters into their own hands in the absence of sufficient progress from the traditional networking vendors.