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Openstack moves one step closer to the edge

Pilot project progress signals a maturing community
Image: OpenStack

20 November 2018

The second Openstack Summit of the year drew to a close in Berlin last week, and it will be the last of its name as it rebrands as the Open Infrastructure Summit in 2019, a move that seems largely in line with the evolution of the open source cloud platform as it shifts further into edge and builds out a series of related pilot projects with Openstack as the core proposition.

Many of the keynotes this time around showed the progress that the community had made in building out the pilot projects announced at the Vancouver Summit earlier this year. One in particular, the first release of StarlingX, might well help cement the open infrastructure platform in edge.

StarlingX is branded as an open source edge platform, with telecom and IoT use cases in mind. According to the Foundation it “leverages components of Ceph, Openstack and Kubernetes and complements them with new services including configuration and fault management”, in particular to address technology challenges around high availability and ultra-low latency compute.

Then the Airship project is designed to help users deploy and manage containers, virtual machines, and bare metal environments – it’s got the backing of AT&T and SK Telecom for 5G to NFV, VDI, and big data processing.

Although edge is a fairly nebulous term, it can loosely be described as distributed compute nearer the edge device. For example, in autonomous cars where milliseconds count for a lot, it makes more sense to have compute closer to the device rather than bouncing back to data centres potentially hundreds of miles away.

There is a firm perception that Openstack is for telcos — and with 5G en route in cities around the world some time soon it is not exactly a bad place to be. As AT&T keenly demonstrated its early 5G edge projects deployed with Openstack, telcos are set to converge in the compute space, with the new wireless networks enabling low-latency cloud computing nearer the customer – whether that’s in enterprise, IoT, or content delivery.

Updates were also announced to the Intel and Huawei-backed Kata Containers, which since its launch in December last year now support architectures including AMD64, ARM and IBM p-series. Kata are lightweight VMs that “feel and perform like containers” but with the security advantages of virtual machines, for example, workload isolation.

One of the Foundation’s occasionally outspoken community members, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, reaffirmed that he believes the open infrastructure piece is a good fit for the organisation, as he agreed six months earlier at the Vancouver Summit.

“I think the idea of open infrastructure is exactly right…,” said Shuttleworth, “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. If you look inside a Google, it’s open infrastructure, so that’s the future – that’s the future for everybody, it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Although he added that if he had one concern it would be the potential for a loss on the core Openstack projects cloud.

Lauren Sell, VP for marketing and community services at the Foundation rebuffed this during a media roundtable.

She said that the way Openstack fit in to the open infrastructure model was “pretty analogous” to the way Kubernetes fits into the work of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation – that is to say, a star project with others running alongside it that are related and still part of the ecosystem.

“We’re really focused at that infrastructure layer and the projects we’re bringing on are really connected and relevant to Openstack,” Sell explained. “Even with StarlingX, for example, that’s probably the one that has some of the greatest overlap with Openstack – literally using Openstack services and they’re contributing upstream to Openstack, and they have these additional modules, but it’s really helping to take Openstack into some of these new industries like manufacturing. It’s making Openstack more accessible for some of these industries.”

If one of the main perceptions around Openstack is that it is a telco product, the other is that it has a tendency to be overly complex to deploy, maintain, and integrate. But some of the developments with these complementary projects are helping to not only simplify Openstack but build bridges into other communities, for example, Kubernetes.


IDG News Service

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