Research from Heavy Reading highlights drivers for industry giants.


Organizations look to technology—cloud in particular—to help them innovate faster. This extends beyond the traditional enterprise and is increasingly being adopted by global telecommunications companies (telecoms) with OpenStack at the center. Industry leaders including AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom and Verizon have standardized on OpenStack and its flexibility has allowed them to combine business and communications IT under a single technology.

Heavy Reading, a research organization that identifies emerging telecom trends, recently surveyed telecoms on its use or evaluation of OpenStack, benefits, and additional technology choices, including container integration and Neutron plugins. All 113 respondents were familiar with OpenStack and 86 percent consider OpenStack “essential” or “important” to their success.

How are telecoms using OpenStack?

Network functions virtualization (NFV) was cited as a use case for 98 percent of respondents polled, with more than half saying that OpenStack is already in the production or testing phase. NFV allows telecom and enterprise network operators to control their networking functions—physical, virtual and functional domains—using commercial off-the-shelf hardware and open source software as a single control pane for management and orchestration.

OpenStack is transforming AT&T’s network, one that has seen a 100,000 percent growth, driven primarily by video. Millions of their customers now connect to virtualized network services based on OpenStack.

SK Telecom also identified key use cases and implications for NFV within its organization.

“We think NFV will be one of the foundational infrastructures for SK Telecom’s transformation to an advanced platform organization with next generation telecom infrastructure,” said Jincheol Kim, principal research scientist at SK Telecom. “NFV will turn our telecom infrastructure into an agile, flexible and programmable infrastructure that can create more business opportunities for our business-to-business partners.”

China Mobile also says that “OpenStack is the building block platform for NFV and internet of things (IoT).” IoT is the second leading OpenStack use case identified in the survey, followed by 5G.

Across these use cases, telecoms cite the ability to offer services more quickly as the biggest OpenStack benefit, something that Toby Ford, AT&T’s assistant vice president of cloud technology, strategy and planning, can relate to.

“NFV drastically reduces cycle time in creating and dropping services and or infrastructure applications,” Ford said in the Superuser roundtable. “It’s also a more efficient way of delivering on-demand services adjusted to usage.”

More rapid virtualization of the data center and reduced operational and software costs were also identified as key benefits across the OpenStack use cases. Additional use cases and testimonials from additional telecoms including Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and NTT Group can be found at

These telecoms are also active within the OpenStack community, with 73 percent indicating that they have shared use cases or requirements, attended an OpenStack Summit or OpenStack Days event, or contributed to the software, primarily Neutron or Nova. But OpenStack isn’t the only technology or community that global telecoms are choosing for their data centers.

Evaluation of additional technologies

When looking at other technologies, 99 percent of respondents are considering containers for both virtualized network functions (VNFs) and business applications. Docker and Kubernetes top the list of container technologies with 69 and 51 percent calling them “critical” or “important.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of Superuser magazine, distributed at the Barcelona Summit. If you’d like to contribute to the next one, get in touch: [email protected]

Cover Photo // CC BY NC

Allison Price