Telco Clouds : All aboard the OpenStack express !!

For all you Telco Cloud builders something is floating up there : they call it Openstack !! OpenStack is a free and open-source software cloud computing platform that is primarily deployed as an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution. The technology consists of a series of interrelated projects that control pools of processing, storage, and networking resources throughout a data center, able to be managed or provisioned through a web-based dashboard, command-line tools, or a RESTful API. It is released under the terms of the Apache License. Founded by Rackspace Hosting and NASA, OpenStack has grown to be a global software community of developers collaborating on a standard and massively scalable open source cloud operating system.

So who is the big user of Openstack besides NASA? Well how about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project , which generates 1PB of data every second ?? CERN started using the OpenStack private cloud back in 2011 in the testing environment, upgrading more recently to the fifth version of OpenStack : the Essex release. Moving to a mammoth-scale infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud based on OpenStack has helped the European Organisation for Nuclear Research ( CERN ) significantly expand its compute resources and support more than 10,000 scientists worldwide using the infrastructure to find answers to questions such as what the universe is made of. The big vision for CERN’s private cloud infrastructure is to be able to scale up to hosting 15,000 hypervisors on the cloud by 2015, running between 100,000 and 300,000 virtual machines !!

A major strength of OpenStack is its ability to more easily enable hybrid cloud platforms – the combination of public and cloud operations that appeal to larger enterprises looking to combine the savings of commodity public clouds for some operations with the security and control of private clouds for other apps. Now that VMware has joined OpenStack consortium the plattform is expected to gain even more momentum as well among major telecom players operating their cloud subsidiaries.

Today’s Telcos are struggling to support ever-expanding demands from both consumers and enterprises, including the need to transmit and store increasing amounts of data. As the Internet of Things grows, these data throughputs will only rise alongside user requirements. According to pundits while other Cloud solutions can provide adequate support for boosted data traffic levels, OpenStack does so in a cost-efficient and elegant manner that other technologies just can’t match. Competitive solutions are three to five times more expensive than OpenStack deployments . OpenStack’s unique features and functionalities , such as allowing service providers to grow or shrink their offerings to match service peaks and no licensing fee , make it an ideal Telco Cloud platform.

DT is one company that has made the Open Source Cloud as the centrepiece of their global services strategy. Deutsche Telekom offers a portfolio of over 30 different cloud services that encompass infrastructure, developer environments, collaboration, business applications and security as a service. By employing the cloud service brokerage strategy, Deutsche Telekom has become the cloud partner that its millions of business customers are looking for. The loyalty and lifespan of those customers will be dramatically increased as they receive innovative, business-critical services from a provider they already know and trust.Deutsche Telekom enhances its set of cloud technologies with OpenStack.

Their open source cloud operating system makes it easy for software partners (ISVs) to integrate their cloud applications in the Deutsche Telekom infrastructure and its new Business Marketplace, removing technical obstacles. Deutsche Telekom’s Business Marketplace is an online platform which will offer cloud services for small and medium businesses started in 2012. Their goal was to offer our customers a rich set of business applications out of our cloud. Most mobile cloud applications are sophisticated mash-ups of all sorts, including applications that incorporate core mobile phone and Telco capabilities, like location, presence, phone calendar, address book, and cameras.

The Business Marketplace consolidates innovative business customer solutions from DT partners. Usability is a particular focus: business customers can find, book and manage the cloud-based applications with a single click. In addition to detailed information on all products, users can also see other customers’ ratings and try out the products free of charge before buying them. Business Marketplace also lets companies keep track of their application licenses and employees’ access privileges at all times, as well as view their billing data. The users receive a single bill for all ordered applications on a monthly basis.

One of the most valuable services, that can enfranchise many thousands of new ASPs, is the ‘Bill on Behalf-of’ (BoBo) ability for them to be paid through their customers’ phone accounts. Comprehensive payments and settlement and the associated business infrastructure, is a critical component of Mobile Cloud Computing and DT are leveraging this element . The operator also plans to contribute to the development of OpenStack and Deutsche Telekom has created a growing team of in house engineers that will work to harden and secure OpenStack. They have already started offering a security package for SMEs to protect them from viruses and attacks from the internet.

DT’s aspiration is for €2bn in additional revenue by 2015 built on a track record of being among the first to bring leading-edge cloud innovation to customers in Europe covering domains like end user computing, enterprise networking and data center. DT firmly believes in developing an open ecosystem. It is not that the telco is afraid to innovate on its own behalf; indeed, it develops many of its applications and platforms in-house. It has, however, become very open to working with partners if they can either speed up time to market or add brand credibility.

Despite its many virtues OpenStack offers risks and rewards to telcos. On the upside, OpenStack allows telcos to more rapidly roll out cloud services at low cost.On the downside, OpenStack standards could allow end-customers to more easily migrate their cloud applications from one OpenStack telco to the next. Telco Cloud service strategies vary : some telcos are simply reselling Office 365 while adding some value-added services. Office 365 resellers include Bell Canada, KCN of the Netherlands, France-Telecom Orange, Telefonica, TeleiSonera, Telmex, Telstra and Vodaphone etc. Other telcos see OpenStack as a potential way to battle Amazon, Google and other cloud providers. Verizon’s buyout of Terremark and CloudSwitch essentially positions Verizon against OpenStack-focused service providers. Its the wild west in the clouds !!

Even the network equipment vendors are clambering on the OpenStack bandwagon . Ericsson is now previewing a tweaked version of OpenStack that will run on its network iron. Ericsson is giving the same server consolidation pitch that has been common in the mainframe market for three decades, in Unix for a decade and a half, and for the past decade or so in the x86 server racket, to push OpenStack into its telco gear. At the heart of the Ericsson Cloud System is what the company calls the Cloud Execution Environment, which runs on x86 iron, of course. It uses the KVM server virtualization hypervisor championed by Red Hat to dice and slice virtual server instances on top of physical server blades and puts KVM and the workloads that run on its virtual machines under the control of OpenStack. And if Ericsson is on board then the Chinese vendors are not far behind !!

Bottom Line : The fact that OpenStack was developed by a group of people who called themselves “open source” rather than a group that named themselves after a rain forest is probably irrelevant. The important thing is that, like Linux, it works robustly and is cheap and was built by people who knew what they were doing. The defining features of OpenStack is scalability and adaptability. As enterprises push for more open APIs into cloud platforms, both to ease the complexity of moving to the cloud and to prevent the dreaded vendor “lock-in,” the pressure will mount on cloud operators of all kinds to embrace OpenStack.

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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