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OpenStack flags edge computing as ‘surprise’ emerging use case for open source cloud tech

OpenStack Foundation executive director, Jonathan Bryce, admits to being caught on the back-foot by the growing number of enterprises using its software to build edge computing environments

It appears as though the number of organisations building edge computing environments with OpenStack technologies has come as a surprise to the open source cloud platform’s senior leadership team.

In an address to the media at the OpenStack Foundation Summit in Sydney, Australia, the organisation’s executive director, Jonathan Bryce, said edge computing has emerged as a surprising, yet important, OpenStack use case in recent months.

“Heading into the beginning of this year, [edge computing] was something I had heard about and was kind of aware of, but I hadn’t really spent a lot time thinking about it or talking to users about it,” he said.

“At the end of last year we had four different, very large OpenStack users, come and start talking to us about edge, and [how they were] already trying to use OpenStack in different ways in edge deployments.”

In particular, the telco community is showing a keen interest in using OpenStack to run their edge computing environments, with the likes of Verizon and AT&T sharing details of the work they are doing in this area elsewhere at the summit.

In many of the examples shared at the show, edge computing is being positioned as a way to help the telco community meet the demand for low-latency connections created by the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles and augmented reality technologies by creating smaller data processing hubs closer to where the users are.

“What they [AT&T and Verizon] are working on with OpenStack is all of the computing and networking infrastructure that sits between a smartphone or smart car or some kind of IoT device in a house and whatever datacentre that data is going back to,” said Bryce.

“It’s a very big opportunity and footprint these guys are working on. It has different characteristics, and these are some of the things we’re a little bit behind on [from an] OpenStack technology front.”

A conversation starter

In light of this, Bryce said he is keen to use the summit to kick-start conversations about the role of OpenStack in edge computing to signal to the foundation’s community of open source contributors that this is an area they should consider focusing their development efforts on.

“We’ve not been talking about it as much as we should. It’s not been highlighted as a use case that people are already trying to do, so we’re trying to make sure our developers understand what the differences are, what the requirements are and making sure we’re pulling in the proper companies from the ecosystem,” he said.

“It’s something that is very rapidly emerging, and whenever we talk about it, I want to make sure we’re clear where OpenStack plays in that because it is a big word that can mean a lot of different things.”

Read more about edge computing and datacentres

Bryce also referenced edge computing as an emerging use case for OpenStack during the opening keynote of the OpenStack bi-annual user summit, which largely focused on the work the foundation is doing to tackle the product integration issues blighting the open source community at large.

“The thing that is most striking to me is how many open source tools are involved in [building] edge computing environments,” said Bryce, during the keynote.

“These people are claiming to build production edge environments using a whole set of open source tools, so we have to make sure they all work together.”

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)