AT&T announced last week that it was working with SK Telecom (SKT), Intel, and the OpenStack Foundation to launch a new open infrastructure project for clouds called Airship. The aim is to build clouds easier than ever before.
In an interview with SDxCentral at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver this week, Amy Wheelus, AT&T’s vice president of cloud and Domain 2.0 platform integration, said the company has internally rebranded its telco cloud, which it had been referring to as the “AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC).”
“We’re changing the terminology within AT&T,” said Wheelus. “AIC is going to become ‘network cloud.’”
AT&T has been building this network cloud for a couple of years. At last count, the cloud included about 105 data centers. And Wheelus said the company is running workloads on it, including its FlexWare product, its SD-WAN service, and the mobility packet core for its Cricket prepaid service.
But now, AT&T is evolving its network cloud, via Airship, to fully containerize the OpenStack control plane. And the company is on a tight deadline because the cloud will be the foundation of its 5G network. “Airship is the foundation of AT&T’s network cloud that will run our 5G core, supporting the late 2018 launch of 5G service in 12 cities,” said Wheelus. 5G will be the initial use case for the new containerized network cloud.
She explained that AT&T is evolving its network cloud to containers at the same time it’s continuing to expand its network cloud. “Before, if we had a greenfield location and a brownfield location, to make changes, you’d almost have to have two sets of code. Now with Airship, you have a single workflow,” Wheelus said. “Because it’s a container-based deployment, the steps are very similar.”
“What we’re doing with OpenStack and Helm is containerizing our control plane and using Kubernetes for that,” said Wheelus. “We’re taking the learnings over the years with our cloud and plowing that into Airship. We’ll use it for ourselves and benefit the community as well.”
AT&T published a second blog about Airship, which states: “Containers are the unit of software delivery for Airship. Everything is a container.”
At a presentation about Airship at the OpenStack Summit late yesterday, Wheelus added that ONAP is currently the orchestration vehicle for the virtual network functions (VNFs) that ride on its network cloud. “We will continue to use and host that on our network cloud as we move forward,” she said.
At that same late afternoon presentation yesterday, Ryan van Wyk, assistant vice president of cloud platform development at AT&T, said the company has been working on its network cloud for more than four years. “We stepped back about a year ago, and said, ‘If we would do some of this again, how would we incorporate learnings?’”
That was the genesis of the next evolution of its network cloud. And the company realized that containers were critical.
“Today, we have different workflows for different types of functions,” said van Wyk. “It creates a challenge of predictability. Getting to one workflow was critical. It’s container-based. Everything is a container, no exceptions. It allows us to be architecturally flexible.”