Overcoming OpenStack Obstacles at the Edge

OpenStack is increasingly deployed for cloud management in network virtualization applications. The open source software orchestrates virtual machines (VMs) running on virtualized infrastructure, which is critical for enabling network operators to spin up new instances of VMs and, ultimately, deliver new services and features to customers with more speed and flexibility. Already widely deployed in enterprise IT environments, OpenStack has gained broad industry support from telecom network operators as well as Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) groups, such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). Notable early OpenStack deployments included AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Group, SK Telecom, and Verizon.

Despite the industry support and thriving open source community, OpenStack has been a controversial, even divisive, technology among network operators. This is mainly due to the fact that it was not originally designed for telecom networks and was challenged to meet the industry’s stringent carrier-grade requirements, particularly in the areas of scalability, resiliency, performance, manageability, and interoperability.

Some of OpenStack’s limitations have been particularly problematic for the virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) use case. These challenges came to the industry’s attention when, in October 2015, Peter Willis, BT’s chief researcher for data networks, publicly revealed six significant problems with OpenStack that threatened its plans for using the open source technology in vCPE deployments to serve business customers.

While BT identified six obstacles for vCPE, these same limitations also apply in varying degrees to other edge use cases such as cloud/virtual radio access network (vRAN/ cRAN), multi-access edge computing (MEC), and content delivery networks (CDN), to name a few. This paper examines each of these obstacles in turn. It will also describe the solutions for overcoming them that have been developed by Wind River® and upstreamed to the community in the OpenStack StarlingX project.

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