As interest in containerization builds for the virtualized enterprise, unity and leadership will be key in effectively understanding and deploying containers. For AT&T, this means taking on a principal role in open-source container initiatives.
When it comes to digital-transformation endeavors, AT&T has been highly involved with numerous open-source communities and initiatives, including ECOMP (which was combined with OPEN-O last week to form ONAP), the Linux Foundation, ON.Lab, the Open Compute Project, OpenDaylight, OpenContrail, OPNFV and many more. The Modern Ma Bell has taken an especially collaborative approach to virtualization technologies and innovation in particular. (See AT&T's Hubbard Discusses SDN Standards & Open Source and Orange Targets vCPE in First ECOMP Trial.)
Telco Transformation talked containers with Doug Nassaur, a lead systems architect at AT&T, for a two-part Q&A. Here in Part 1 of this Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity, Nassaur discusses AT&T's open-source endeavors as related to containers. For Nassaur, this "open"-mindedness goes beyond the mere surface ideology of the open-source movement; instead, it's about better virtualized infrastructures and smarter technology.
Later, in Part 2, Nassaur will address the importance of containers to the network-operator vertical at large and to AT&T specifically, as well as offer practical advice on considering a containerization strategy.
Telco Transformation: What can you tell me about AT&T's open-standards partnership strategy regarding container technology?
Doug Nassaur: General statement across the top: There's an appetite in the industry for knowledge. That's obvious. And there's an appetite in the industry for leadership. Flying in the face of that is having a whole lot of choice and a whole lot of different advocacy groups, which tend to lead to confusion and murkiness and indecision. So one of the things we're trying to do is leverage our leadership positions and leverage our relationships with our other vendors to try to converge a line, reduce overlap and duplication and facilitate partnering across all of these different groups.
There are tremendous synergies that can be gained when multiple organizations become convinced that it's better to become part of a bigger syndicate or consortium than to try to go it alone and be the center of the universe, so we're really trying to facilitate across our leadership roles and across those different organizations some alignment, some clarity, some convergence and some inter-networking.
We have an active leadership role in the Open Container Initiative. So while [widespread container adoption] was led to by the Docker format, now, having an open-container format that can abstract out all of the dependencies from both the system and network level for an application gives us a Java-esque type environment for this software. In what we call a virtual hosted pathway, we're simply decomposing that application into those components and we're containerizing them into that universal format, and we're then leveraging CNCF [Cloud Native Compute Foundation], which we also have an active role in, and shared architecture is going to be there. We are leveraging open-source tools like Kubernates to be able to then schedule and distribute those encapsulated workloads across a programmable infrastructure topology.
What you'll notice there is that we got the benefit of packaging in an open-container format. We got the ability to deploy and execute on a universal container host, and we got the ability to use standard container platform tools. So we get more of a consistent, predictable, repeatable experience across a more generic, less-specialized, lower-priced, higher-performance solution for the money.
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What other such virtualization, or container-related partnerships, does AT&T have or is AT&T pursuing?
DN: We participate actively in things like OPNFV and OpenDaylight. We just became a platinum member of the Linux Foundation, and my boss, [Toby Ford, assistant vice president of cloud technology, strategy and planning for AT&T], is now on the board of directors of OpenStack and of the Linux Foundation. I am on the board of directors for the OpenFog Consortium in the IoT space and the fog-computing space. I've got other peers that play key leadership roles in those other organizations.
TT: Why does AT&T see these partnerships as important?
DN: It really boils down to three things. The first is that we see tremendous value in providing leadership and bidirectional communication with other super-smart folks around the world. Sitting in the same room telling yourself how smart you are, or sitting within the same vertical industry and all telling yourselves how smart you all are doesn't get us any smarter. So part of it is to provide leadership and establish bidirectional learning and communication.
The second piece is that we really feel like, with our asset portfolio, we're one of those unique companies that are not just one vertical. We represent producer, provider and consumer. And we are experts at taking disjointed, independent sources of content and capability, and introducing them to, for example, your phone as a unified service. So we can take your entertainment, we can take your security, we can take your audio/visual, all of that stuff, and present it to you as a unified service -- even though all those gizmos and things use different platforms and different technologies. Well, that's the way of the future. So we think we've got some pretty good insight and perspective. Not that we have all the answers, but, more importantly, we know what questions to be asking, and we're pretty good at rallying groups of super-smart people across the industry, both domestic and international, to drive out key explorations there.
That brings me to the third one: That's it's very, very important that we have an effective and productive open-source community. Obviously, everybody recognizes that open source is a great way to achieve innovation, ideation and exploration. What we'd like to do is also make it very effective and efficient for productization and utilization. We want to contribute to the open-source community. We want to partner with the open-source community. And when we see statistics like how much of open-source software is actually rewritten every day, and how much is wasted out there, it's sad and it's a wasted opportunity. We spend a lot of time working with other companies across multiple vertical markets trying to make sure that we are cultivating that open-source ideation and those projects, and we are making sure that they're actually hitting the tarmac and that they're providing a useful value. And we are also offering to the open-source community a sense of prioritization and a sense of "hey, we're a service provider" -- so we have to understand from the provider perspective, but also we have to be really good at understanding from the consumer perspective.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation