How OpenStack and containers power up modern telco services

For a few years now, OpenStack and containers have been top-of-mind for service providers (SPs). In fact, most telecommunications companies are already using OpenStack and considering containers in their operations. A new paper written by experts in the open source community takes a closer look at the power of combining OpenStack and Kubernetes, an open source platform that automates Linux container operations.

Many SPs are actively pursuing ways to modernize their network infrastructure with open source, network functions virtualization (NFV) and containers to improve agility and to prepare for 5G, the next generation of services they’ll deploy. Their outdated, traditional infrastructures made of proprietary hardware appliances won’t work; instead, they are pursuing a software-defined model often built with commercial, off-the-shelf, x86-based technology and open compute platforms.

Because containers are lightweight, independent, self-contained and often stateless, they deliver new ways to manage OpenStack infrastructure code. Typically, it takes the creation and maintenance of heavyweight golden machine images or brittle, state-maintaining configuration management systems to manage the code, and each approach adds complexities and restrictions.

As the paper states, OpenStack is proving a viable option as a platform for building private clouds, and its multi-tenant cloud infrastructure is a natural fit for Kubernetes with several integration points, deployment solutions and ability to federate across multiple clouds. There are generally three ways containers and OpenStack intersect:

  • Infrastructure containers make it easier to add new components for services, upgrade versions of software quickly and rapidly roll updates across machines and data centers.
  • Hosted containerized application frameworks on cloud infrastructure let development teams write new containerized applications and quickly provision Kubernetes clusters on OpenStack clouds.
  • Consistency and interoperability of application programming interfaces (APIs) across OpenStack and Kubernetes clusters mean Kubernetes can directly attach to, use, or connect to a variety of OpenStack capabilities, such as OpenStack Neutron that delivers networking as a service and Ceph, an open source storage solution.

The paper also details how various organizations are using containers in production. A major U.S. mobile carrier, for example, is using container technology to deploy and manage OpenStack itself. The goal: build a 5G infrastructure on containerized OpenStack. The initial use case will be the deployment of virtualized network functions (VNFs) for the emerging 5G networking, according to the paper, and containerization will let the carrier deploy, manage and scale its OpenStack infrastructure in a more reliable, rapid, zero-touch manner.

As of now the carrier is still testing this approach, but the paper explains that they have committed to getting 5G service into production before the end of the year. OpenStack and container technology will form the backbone of this service.

The paper, “Leveraging Containers and OpenStack,” was published by the OpenStack Foundation and developed by SIG-Kubernetes, an OpenStack special interest group focused on cross-community efforts with Kubernetes. Collaborators include representatives from AT&T, Betacloud Solutions, Catalyst IT, CERN, Huawei, Linux Academy, the OpenStack Foundation, Red Hat, SK Telecom and Vexxhost. Red Hat’s Daniel Mellado, Luis Tomás, Mikhail Fedosin and Flavio Percoco were among the 17 SIG-Kubernetes community members who authored and edited the paper.

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