Telecommunications giants and startups answer the call to innovation in Tel Aviv.

At the sixth OpenStack Day Israel featuring more than 25 speakers across three tracks, Deutsche Telekom and TDBank set a tone of real telco operator and enterprise adoption, each presenting their OpenStack case studies and plans for the future.

Organized by Nati Shalom of GigaSpaces and Avner Algom of IGTCloud, OpenStack Israel is a vibrant community made up of technologists at major companies like Cisco and SAP, startups like Stratoscale, and large users like LivePerson which is running 12,000 physical cores in production. Held at former movie theater Cinematheque Tel Aviv, sponsors included Rackspace, Red Hat, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Kontron and Mellanox.

Axel Clauberg at Deutsche Telekom spoke about the “software-defined operator” and how telcos that have previously been slow moving—taking one to two or more years to launch a new product—must move faster if they want to compete in the current market. Customers want sexy products, and they are even weighing big purchases like cars based on a new set of requirements like connectivity. To get ahead, Deutsche Telekom is embracing OpenStack as the platform for network functions virtualization (NFV), which is basically the ability to dynamically change the function of different network appliances, allowing them to change and deliver new services much more quickly.

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The crowd at OpenStack Day Israel. Photo: Lauren Sell.

Services like WhatsApp and Kakao have greatly reduced the use of text messages, leaving telco operators stuck with hefty investments in text-based network appliances. The vision for NFV is the ability to change the function of those network appliances, so as text usage declines or increases, they can switch to supporting 4G data without making a new hardware investment.

Deutsche Telekom is actively pushing the OpenStack community to support NFV through their contributions to the community and Telco Working Group, and, more importantly, proving it in production. At Mobile World Congress in March 2015, they announced their first production NFV workload running OpenStack, a cloud VPN service available in Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary.

In partnership with Cisco, Deutsche Telekom brought the new cloud VPN service to market in less than three months, an incredibly fast time frame for the industry. They are now focused on pan-European activities and moving additional production services onto OpenStack, which we also heard about at the recent OpenStack DACH Day in Berlin.

Marco Ughetti from Telecom Italia shared their plans for OpenStack and NFV. They have been developing an OpenStack geo-distributed test bed along with Italian universities since 2013, and have also been involved in the OpenStack Telco Working Group to help drive forward the NFV use case.

The next user who took the stage was the head of cloud engineering Srinivas Sarathy at TDBank. Based in Canada, TDBank has a $93 billion market cap, nearly 43,000 employees and more than 2,500 retail banking locations, not including its investment institution. Sarathy joined just three months ago from another financial institution where he was implementing a single vendor, proprietary cloud stack. TDBank attracted him with its open source approach, presenting the opportunity to build a best of breed financial services cloud with OpenStack. We initially heard about TDBank’s cloud strategy from Graeme Peacock at the OpenStack Summit Vancouver.

TDBank is embracing a hybrid cloud strategy, building their own private cloud on premise, as well as utilizing hosted private cloud at Rackspace. Additionally, they are using Cloudify for the orchestration layer, SaltStack for configuration management, CloudCruiser for billing and Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (RHEL OSP) supported by Rackspace as their distribution. They developed their own self-service portal called Storm, so they could customize it for their company and specific use cases.They have been working with niche consulting firm RiskFocus to help integrate these different pieces as well as drive culture change within their organization.

On the culture front, TDBank has aggressively adopted a cloud-first policy. Since January 2015, they have trained over 1,000 developers internally in writing cloud-ready applications utilizing capabilities like TOSCA blueprints, an important open standard they have embraced. They have worked closely with the different lines of business to make their cloud offerings attractive, both in price point and capabilities, to developers across the organization. While the policies and processes are key to driving organizational change, building a cloud that pulls developers to the platform is equally critical. “Cloud first is easy when the cloud works really well,” said Sarathy.

Asked about information security, Sarathy said it is obviously a very critical issue for financial services industry. He believes cloud has helped improve the security model by increasing the layers of zoning and the logical separation capabilities in their multi-tenant, multi-line-of-business environment without having to sacrifice efficiency of cloud.

Cover Photo by Reinhardt König // CC BY NC