OpenStack Summit Austin – day two - network

Day two was a very rich day, full of interesting exchanges that led me to the following conclusion: “the network is the computer”.

In my blog post for the first day of the summit, I guessed that I would be talking about ‘culture’ on the second day, but to my big surprise, the hot topic was SDN (software defined networks)/ NFV (network function virtualization), the ‘cloudification’ of networks. Some fifteen years ago the former boss of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy, stated that “the network is the computer”. That’s what the members of the OpenStack community started to realize some time ago, and it has become reality in 2016.

The concept is quite simple - you apply cloud technology from IT systems to the networks so that they become virtualized, automated, more manageable and much more agile. Without SDN/NFV, it is very difficult to have an on-demand, automated service as you would have to reconfigure your network depending on the type of service you want to deliver. As with IT, these systems also permit to considerably optimize network and network hardware usage.

At the conference, NTT, AT&T, Verizon and Swisscom presented their strategy around SDN/NFV and it was without compromise: full implementation of those technologies across all their infrastructures. AT&T, which may be the most advanced of the three with large production environments, has already started to reap the benefits of this major change: cost savings, flexibility and manageability. According to these operators, this digital transformation of the core of their activities is a necessity, as they face shrinking margins as well as increasing and more diverse competition.

I discussed this topic with Red Hat, HP and Fujitsu. They all confirmed that operators were moving in this direction, even if some are quicker than others. This is especially true for mid-tier operators that need to be more innovative than the cloud-born specialists and the world’s largest operators. Orange confirmed this: they are a bit late, but now the management is pushing to accelerate things. Their biggest problem is the resistance of many telecom people who don’t like the fact that IT technologies invade their world. This is a cultural problem. But they will have to get used to it: if the network is the computer, it is computing technologies that provide the network.

So ‘network’ is the word of the second day of the OpenStack Summit and I promise that ‘culture’ will be the word of the third day…