AT&T, SK Telecom and Intel team up to launch Airship OpenStack for cloud management

Airship lets "cloud operators manage sites at every stage from creation through minor and major updates, including configuration changes and OpenStack upgrades." (Pixabay)

Working in tandem with SK Telecom, Intel and the OpenStack Foundation, AT&T said it was launching a new open infrastructure project called Airship.

Amy Wheelus, vice president of cloud and domain 2.0 platform integration at AT&T, wrote in a company blog that Airship lets "cloud operators manage sites at every stage from creation through minor and major updates, including configuration changes and OpenStack upgrades."

"Simply put, Airship lets you build a cloud easier than ever before," Wheelus wrote. "Whether you’re a telecom, manufacturer, healthcare provider, or an individual developer, Airship makes it easy to predictably build and manage cloud infrastructure."

Airship does all of this by tapping into a fully containerized, cloud-native platform. Because of increased efficiencies, service providers have been eyeing the move from virtual machines to container-based microservices, the latter of which Wheelus said was "the future of software development."

With cloud-native principles, each Airship microservice does one specific role in the cloud delivery and management process. Operators want cloud-native designs because they can split up systems into smaller, independent functions that can scale up as needed. The ability to scale an application up or down when it's needed is also beneficial because it doesn't leave capital expenses stranded when an application or service is idle.

"The ultimate goal of Airship is to help operators take hardware from loading dock to an OpenStack cloud, all while ensuring first-class life cycle management of that cloud once it enters production," Wheelus wrote.

Airship was built upon work last year by the OpenStack-Helm project, which included AT&T, Intel, SK Telecom, and other companies.

Like it previously had done with ECOMP and artificial intelligence (AI) platform Acumos, AT&T has contributed code for Airship. AT&T spent millions of dollars developing 8.5 million lines of code for ECOMP before putting 6 million lines of code into open source with the Linux Foundation.

By contributing its code, AT&T gets a much larger community to focus on and advance its original work instead of bearing the development burden alone. On the flip side, vendors, developers and other telcos can take open source code into new directions and functionalities.

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Wheelus said that Airship was the foundation of AT&T's network that would run its 5G core. Akraino Edge Stack, which is a new Linux Foundation project, will also use it. Akraino was designed to create an open source software stack that supports high-availability cloud services that could be used for edge computing systems and applications, according to Wheelus.

"Airship will fuel and accelerate our Network AI initiative, which houses several of our other open source projects," Wheelus wrote. "We want to build and nurture an open ecosystem of developers who can work together to advance this technology and deploy it within their own organizations."

The initial focus of Airship is the building of a "declarative" platform to introduce OpenStack on Kubernetes and the lifecycle management of the resulting cloud. Wheelus described "declarative" as whereby "every aspect of your cloud is defined in standardized documents that give you extremely flexible and fine grain control of your cloud infrastructure. You simply manage the documents themselves and submit them and the platform takes care of the rest. This includes determining what has changed since the last submission and orchestrating those changes."

“Airship is going to allow AT&T and other operators to deliver cloud infrastructure predictably that is 100% declarative, where Day Zero is managed the same as future updates via a single unified workflow, and where absolutely everything is a container from the bare metal up," said Ryan van Wyk, assistant vice president of cloud platform development at AT&T Labs, in Wheelus' blog.