Listening to Ildiko Vancsa, an ecosystem technical lead at the OpenStack Foundation, one comes to believe that 5G cloud environments are like pieces of artwork: they are never finished -- only abandoned.
At the end of last year, Vancsa shared with Telco Transformation her insights on 5G cloud convergence, 5G edge computing and OpenStack's role in both. Recently, we reached out again to Vancsa for specifics on OpenStack's role 5G. In this latest Q&A (lightly edited for length and clarity), Vancsa addresses multicloud support for 5G network slicing, the role of containers in 5G cloud integration and other ways that OpenStack is enabling 5G transformations. (See OpenStack's Vancsa on Adapting to the 5G & Converged Cloud Future and OpenStack's Vancsa on Unifying 5G Cloud.)
Telco Transformation: Previously, we touched on private-cloud and multi-cloud OpenStack environments enabling 5G. What is driving OpenStack's increased popularity in these private and converged clouds?
Ildiko Vancsa: I think this popularity of OpenStack comes from [the fact] that, in the past couple of years, we've put much emphasis on both stabilizing OpenStack and also on things like easier upgrades and a stable API layer -- extremely important for all our users and operators in the telecom area.
One of [our] focus areas in 5G is network slicing and tenant isolation. Because of that, I think that comes up in multi-cloud environments really nicely for 5G… We are now seeing the multi-cloud strategy [start] to increase. We have been focusing on this concept from the early days of OpenStack, and I think it helps us to set the priorities right [in] making sure that all these requirements are delivered in our upcoming releases. This is in line with what our users are planning to do, what the requirements are for their use cases in 5G, and all the related technologies and areas that are emerging; IoT and edge computing are all coming together with 5G.
TT: How will, respectively, the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS layers of an OpenStack cloud environment enable these service capabilities for 5G?
IV: It reflects back to an earlier point on integration -- ensuring that, from [both] the OpenStack perspective and the infrastructure-layer perspective, we are providing clear and stable interfaces. When it comes to platform as a service and software as a service, whatever gets put on top of OpenStack, [users] should feel comfortable with putting the applications or the platform-as-a-service layer on top and using the northbound interfaces of OpenStack. (All our northbound APIs are RESTful APIs, a.k.a. REST APIs.) We've been focusing on that for a couple of years now.
What we are also trying to focus more on is to provide good integration with container technologies like Kubernetes, because containers -- at least in telecom environments -- sometimes [are seen] as a new "silver bullet" or the new “unicorn." I personally don't believe in this, but you know how that goes. [You have] to explain that if someone puts their physical function into a container and not a virtual machine, that still doesn't solve the problem -- which is that the function is designed to move natively on the hardware, and you're moving it away from the (sometimes) specialized hardware that it expects... Whether or not 5G will provide those integration points [depends upon] the struggle with existing telecom applications, and how to make them cloud-ready and then cloud-native in telecom environments.
Obviously, rewriting applications is a huge cost, and no one is really attracted to doing it. But at a certain point we need to step on actually going through the transformation and transition. Personally, I hope that the journey towards 5G can be a motivator for [telcos] to take those steps -- and the OpenStack community is very open and helpful in helping those companies with this journey. Sometimes we develop and provide features, which it can be debated whether or not they are, let's say, "cloudy enough" -- but the point is that we understand the difficulty of this transformation period and we are trying to do our best to support it and not just saying, "Okay, that one is cloud-ready. So go away." It's not really our approach and it will never really be.
TT: How else is OpenStack important to telco's 5G enablement?
IV: Right now we have a project to be able to plug things into OpenStack like GPUs and SVGAs, and utilizing those technologies as much as we can -- which becomes crucial when we are talking about 5G and edge computing, with all the different deployment types and requirements on and toward the edge.
When it comes to 5G, one of the advantages of OpenStack is that, by being open source and being a very welcoming community, it's relatively easy for everyone to come and participate in activities -- and not just view OpenStack as an integration engine, but as an innovation engine as well. Just come, participate and discuss new and upcoming technologies with us.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation