BT Group may give OpenStack the boot

It will adopt a proprietary alternative if six key issues can't be resolved, an executive said

BT Group
Credit: BT Group plc

OpenStack has gained considerable popularity over the years for its open-source cloud platform, but this week it looks like one major user is seriously considering dropping the technology in favor of a proprietary alternative.

U.K.-based telecom giant BT Group said it will switch to a different option for delivering virtual enterprise services, according to a Wednesday report in Light Reading, unless OpenStack can address its concerns regarding six key areas: virtual network functions, service chain modification, scalability, security, backward compatibility and what's known as "start-up storms" when numerous nodes all come online at the same time.

"If these six issues are not addressed, we will not use OpenStack for virtual enterprise," Peter Willis, BT's chief researcher for data networks, said at the SDN & Openflow World Congress going on this week in Germany, according to the report.

Reached for confirmation, BT provided an e-mailed statement: "BT will continue working closely with Openstack stakeholders and drive together to improve the software tools available. BT works closely and collaborates across the industry from chip vendors to open source projects and it makes technical and economic sense to continue to reuse Openstack while addressing challenges ahead."

The OpenStack Foundation has not worked directly with BT, but it has invited Willis and his team to an upcoming OpenStack Summit in Tokyo, said Lauren Sell, OpenStack's vice president of marketing and community services.

"We’ll be working on the roadmap for future OpenStack software releases and spending a lot of time on NFV," she said.

NFV, or network functions virtualization, is an initiative to replace much of the specialized hardware that now delivers network services with virtualized technology instead.

"Getting feedback from the operator community into the development roadmap is extremely valuable," Sell added.

NFV is still a young movement, but AT&T, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, NTT, SKT and Telefonica are among the carriers working in the open-source community alongside technology providers like Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Huawei and Red Hat to support NFV requirements, she said.

"This is sort of an open-source software check on OpenStack," said Jay Lyman, a research manager with 451 Research.

Although many issues have already been resolved collaboratively by the community, "there is still plenty of work to do," Lyman said.

OpenStack is "still a very complex, multi-component IaaS software," he added. "It is still often difficult to implement, and it requires a good deal of experience and expertise."

Meanwhile, although a growing number of large enterprises are implementing OpenStack, alternatives from cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are getting better, he said.

"There will continue to be pressure on the OpenStack community to scratch the right itches and respond to end users," Lyman said.

It's an expansive project, IDC analyst Al Hilwa said. "Ensuring that all stakeholders get their needs met is a governance and R&D challenge." 

While proprietary solutions may offer an approach that suits a specific implementation better or sooner than OpenStack can, "OpenStack is the only solution of its kind with such a high level of community traction," Hilwa said.

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