Wind River Taps Kubernetes and OpenStack to Drive 5G Networks

Wind River today unfurled the Wind River Cloud Platform, which leverages Kubernetes and the OpenStack cloud framework to make it possible to deploy and manage microservices-based applications at the network edge.

Announced at the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2019 conference, the Wind River Cloud Platform is based on StarlingX, an open source project lead by the OpenStack Foundation that provides a management framework through which the management of thousands of Kubernetes nodes can be automated via a single console. As part of that effort, Wind River also today announced an alliance with Dell EMC to deploy Wind River Cloud Platform.

Kubernetes 5G

Paul Miller, vice president of telecommunications at Wind River, says the Wind River Cloud Platform is primarily aimed at carriers building out 5G wireless networks using virtual radio access networks (vRANs) that will be deployed on top of Kubernetes platforms running on gateways. Those gateways will be built using containers running on bare-metal because of the latency requirements of the 5G applications and the fact that most 5G gateways will have footprints that are too small to run virtual machines, he says.

The Wind River Cloud Platform makes it possible to automatically enroll, replicate and roll back Kubernetes deployments across thousands of sites using the same known-good configuration. It also provides resiliency by making it possible for any node to disconnect from the control plane and continue to operate. Each node then re-synchronizes with the rest of the network upon reconnection, says Miller.

While Wind River is initially focused on 5G networks, Miller says the Wind River Cloud Platform is also suitable for other highly distributed Kubernetes environments, including autonomous vehicles, industrial networks and medical systems.

Most carriers are already far down the path toward building out 5G networks. However, many are also now discovering the limitations of virtual network functions (VNFs) based on virtual machines. Kubernetes affords carriers the opportunity to replace VNFs with container network functions (CNFs) that are lighter-weight and more portable. In most cases, carriers will employ OpenStack to manage a mix of containers and virtual machines at the network edge.

Miller says Wind River decided to employ StarlingX as the control plane for the Wind River Cloud Platform because carriers have already invested heavily on OpenStack to manage their networks. StarlingX will make it easier for carriers to extend their existing skills and processes to manage highly distributed instances of Kubernetes.

Naturally, many enterprise IT organizations will be interested to see how carriers manage Kubernetes at scale. One of the issues many wrestle with currently is that each instance of a Kubernetes cluster is configured slightly differently, which makes each one a “snowflake” and challenging to manage at scale.

In the meantime, 5G networks are likely to be one of the primary platforms on which a raft of containerized applications are deployed both by carriers and third-party application developers. The challenge carriers will face is finding a way to manage all the nodes on which those applications will depend.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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