By way of highlighting the integration going on between the telco and IT worlds, Swedish kit vendor Ericsson this week joined the OpenStack Foundation as a Gold Member, confirming the open source standard as that which will power Ericsson’s cloud offering.
With virtualisation evolving rapidly, telecom equipment vendors are facing a situation where they could all end up developing what is effectively the same open source software to manage the cloud, and running said software on commodity hardware. The key to staying in the game, highlighted by Ericsson’s wording in the announcement is that these open-standard cloud computing solutions have to be ‘telecom grade’.
While he acknowledged that it’s a big shift for an industry that has historically built networks around specialised appliances, the ‘open’ approach does not mean moving everything to x86 hardware and disrupting the vendors’ business model as makers of both network hardware and software. Virtualisation through SDN means network functions are no longer embedded in devices, with control becoming more of a software-based model, breaking away from a costly status quo in which controllers for many remote devices are run vertically.
As a result, an increasing proportion of vendor future product development will be in software that needs to be open, abstract, programmable and virtualised. The transition won’t happen overnight, and vendors see themselves as key hand holders in this area as part of a migration that needs to be managed carefully as it can touch all parts of the telco system.
To this end, Ericsson said it believes in open standards, which open the road towards new ways of building networks, where networks and datacentres will share the same execution environment. But it played heavily on “its long experience and know-how in the network-operator market segment”.
It’s a point not lost on OpenStack, which has plenty of competition in the open source cloud OS space. “Companies like Ericsson have the ability to help drive adoption of OpenStack and expand our footprint of large scale carriers globally,” said Jonathan Bryce, Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation.
The telco industry owes its success as a global market to adherence to standards – without interoperability roaming, indeed cross border connections, would not be possible. But proprietary systems running the back office have caused as much headache in this industry as they have in other ICT sectors.
But change is taking hold. At the Telco Cloud World Forum in London this week, vendors and operators alike – from Deutsche Telekom to Canonical – were singing the praises of open source software. It’s stigma as a ‘hippy’ philosophy is now only being perpetrated by those with something to lose.