back to article BT adopts Ubuntu OpenStack as core brains for its 5G, fibre-to-the-premises rollout

British Telecom has chosen Ubuntu OpenStack, developed by open-source specialist Canonical, as the cloud platform that will help support the introduction of 5G and fibre-to-the-premises connectivity in the UK. As part of the deal, Canonical will provide the open-source virtual infrastructure manager (VIM) that will enable BT …

  1. BobChip


    So, regardless of what we are always being told, Linux must be on somebody's desktop .....

    1. Steve Graham

      Re: Ubuntu

      I managed a Linux deployment in BT about 20 years ago. We found that £2k Xeon blade servers running Red Hat could outperform £20k Sun boxes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ubuntu

        Likewise - we had some wonderful Dell boxes that operated Debian and were like lightning compared to the HP-UX and Sun boxes.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ubuntu

          20 years ago we found DEC Alphas running Linux could wipe the floor with Suns.

          For reasons we never understood - DEC would sell you andAlpha with WindowsNT, which you could reinstall as Linux, for 25% less than they would sell the same hardware with their own VMS install.

          A decade earlier we had switched from microVax+VMS to Suns for the same performance boost

          1. IGnatius T Foobar !

            Re: Ubuntu

            You were lucky to have Linux boxes. In my day we had to make do with Sinclair ZX-81's ... and they outperformed our IBM mainframe.

            1. Kiwi

              Re: Ubuntu

              You had ZX81s? LUXURY! We had to make our computers out of old bailing twine and paper mache. And we had to clean the used toilet paper first! Up hill both ways in the snow!

    2. a handle

      Re: Ubuntu

      Oh.... noticed this, I just remembered that we've had about 200 Ubuntu desktops running for about 6 years. Have been too busy maintaining the other 100 Windows boxes and their users. :-)

  2. LenG


    "the cloud platform that will help support the introduction of 5G and fibre-to-the-premises connectivity"

    I've given up the hope of ever getting FTTP to my current premises in my lifetime. As far as I can see the only way to improve by internet connectivity is to move house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FTTP?

      Premises will mean Business as they can afford (sic) the extra dosh for FTTP easier than us cash starved plebs who will soon be on the bread line as our jobs are either taken by robots or AI or moved abroad after BoJo gets his way on Halloween.

      1. LeahroyNake

        Re: FTTP?

        Umm I think you will find that residential customers outnumber business connections by quite a large margin. Not everyone needs leased lines.

      2. Ochib

        Re: FTTP?

        Boris Johnson MP said:

        “[It’s] a disgrace that this country should suffer from a deep digital divide, so that many rural areas and towns are simply left behind.

        The government has just set a new target for the 100% roll-out of full fibre broadband – by 2033. As a deadline, that is laughably unambitious. If we want to unite our country and our society, we should commit now to delivering full fibre to every home in the land not in the mid 2030s – but in five years at the outside.

        Let’s say goodbye to the UK’s manana approach to broadband and unleash full fibre for all by 2025.”

        1. Andre Carneiro

          Re: FTTP?

          Not sure whether to upvote your sarcasm or downvote his moronity...

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: FTTP?

          Well I promise a full fibre roll-out by 1st November 2019, and it will be powered by unicorn droppings.

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: FTTP?

        Premises will mean residential because their targets are to cover a certain % of the population, and the number of people living in business property is very small.

  3. Roland6 Silver badge

    Is BT just taking or is it contributing?

    I think by now it should be clear that quality open source isn't free, so the absence of 'payment' details is a little troubling, so how much is BT contributing to Canonical and/or the development of Ubuntu?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Is BT just taking or is it contributing?

      They don't list the prices they charge for support on their website, so, more than you or I could afford. If I had to guess though, I'd say tens of thousands per year?

      1. Allonymous Coward

        Re: Is BT just taking or is it contributing?

        They do list the prices here though, if you follow links from the above page (or Google "Canonical support prices"):

        TL;DR - it's not more than you or I could (probably) afford. But it depends on how much you buy. I'm sure for someone like BT the numbers will be a) bespoke and b) large.

      2. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Is BT just taking or is it contributing?

        "I'd say tens of thousands per year?"

        I'd say you are probably missing at least one 0 off that.

        £1+m support contracts are not unknown in Telco land.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is BT just taking or is it contributing?

          At £1mil that would be chump change for the support levels they would require.

          In fact that would probably save a few bob that could be put to use moving from some other bad ideas.

          Anon because I know what those bad ideas are.

    2. Allonymous Coward

      Re: Is BT just taking or is it contributing?

      Given there are quotes from Mark Shuttleworth, and it's "Ubuntu OpenStack" rather than just "OpenStack", I assume there are probably commercial arrangements of some sort in place between BT & Canonical. Which seems like it'd be both wise and a good thing for the underpinning open source projects.

      Such arrangements might well be commercially sensitive so I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lack of detail.

      (I have no knowledge of this deal, but I've had commercial support from Canonical in the past. It works well.)

  4. nil0

    Oh, so *that's* why

    Two years ago, Openreach rolled up and nailed coils of fibre to lots of poles up and down the lanes in several villages around here. And then left them (along with discarded empty and part-used cable drums in the hedges, the litter louts).

    Fast forward to today, and the coils are still dangling from the poles, having been blown about, the adhesive tape coming loose so they're now just untidy messes hanging down, risking being accidentally included in the hedge cutting.

    Always wondered what that waste of effort was all about. Obviously it was waiting on an OpenStack installation.


    1. CAPS LOCK

      Re: Oh, so *that's* why

      Well, it MIGHT have been an attempt at reducing network outages caused by copper thieves. Give them something to steal and find it's valueless.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Oh, so *that's* why

      No, they are there to plug into the clouds as they drift by.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Oh, so *that's* why

      I was walking the dog and found openreach putting in fibre to where my phone line is connected. The engineers who came round to fix things used to call it a cabinet until BTs FTTC squeezed some money out of the district council.

      I watched them put it in, I read the cable.

      Its not fibre - no one has any idea what I'm talking about - apart from a provider who was offered it by accident.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Oh, so *that's* why

        I'd agree with the others, I've no idea what you are on about either. Fibre cabinets are different to your normal old fashioned box. They either extended the existing or more commonly put a brand new cab in. You don't just shoe horn in a fibre trunk and suddenly the everything is fibre.

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Oh, so *that's* why

      It's worse than you think... those coils that they've pinned up don't even contain any optical fibre. They'll be BFT (Blown Fibre Tubing) which they put in place ready to blow the actual fibre through later (saves breaking the fibre with a cack-handed install)

      But since then they've changed tactics and use connectorised fibre instead, so I would expect to see those coils left to rot.

      1. nil0

        Re: Oh, so *that's* why

        No, this is actual fibre. After a mostly-used drum of the stuff had been sitting abandoned in the hedge for a month, I snipped a few inches off the end to see what was in it.

        The outer sheath is about 8mm × 4mm, and inside is a central sleeved bundle of fibres, flanked by two incredibly tough and stiff 2mm solid plastic cores.

        The centre core holds 12 individual strands of fibre, each about 0.25mm in diameter, each a different colour.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "London-based Canonical"

    Hmm, I'm sure that once upon a time I had read that Canonical were based in the Isle of Man (although of course they have a London office)...?

    However, following links on the Canonical website ultimately leads to a page on the Ubuntu website (I am sure there is a joke about a canonical URI in there somewhere), a London address, and the slightly odd statement "We are not required to have a data protection officer, so any enquiries about our use of your personal data should be addressed to the contact details above.".

    Nevertheless, this is good news for Ubuntu, so, hurrah!

  6. cs9

    OpenStack is a dumpster fire

    Why on earth aren't they moving to a real cloud?

    1. FOSSFAN

      Re: OpenStack is a dumpster fire

      OpenStack isn't a dumpster fire, that is FUD from years gone by. It's used by more than 50% of the fortune 100 and over 80% of telcos and service providers. I'd love to hear what you consider a real private cloud.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: OpenStack is a dumpster fire

        I used to run a triumvirate where our company and two others held a PC and storage at each others premises for backup restore processes. Over ISDN. never used it in anger which is probably lucky as we could never work out quite where to keep the encryption key.

  7. LeahroyNake

    Not that cloud

    'You operate private infrastructure, and you want it to behave like cloud.'

    No I want the cloud to behave like my own on premise systems that do not go down on the whim of the magic cloud demons with virtually no recourse. Maybe the 'everyone is down, we are working on a fix' is OK for some but ummmmm no thanks. Good for passing the buck though.

    Thumbs up for SDN though, I'm surprised that they are only just doing this. Cheap x86? ARM? Hardware in cabinets should be much easier to upgrade in the future.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No CloudStack then

    So clearly BT decided that their own „cloud”, based on CloudStack, is not good enough. I wonder what BT’s tenants will think about that?

    Oh, I know! Execs will be happy - back handers were already paid so all good. While the technical staff will cry in desperation because they need to deal with this shit show, „managed” by BT’s outsourcer IPsoft.

    1. Rainer

      Re: No CloudStack then

      > So clearly BT decided that their own „cloud”, based on CloudStack, is not

      > good enough. I wonder what BT’s tenants will think about that?

      It was mentioned here:

  9. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    "with very large amounts of compute"

    Good to know the art of spouting meaningless shit is far from dead in the telecoms sector.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Good to know the art of spouting meaningless shit is far from dead in the telecoms sector.

      Telecomms is IT these days, and compute is part of the lexicon. So differentiates from 'storage', and 'duct tape', those other essential components for assembling a cloud.

      But the transition is nothing new. I remember being shown around a new, shiney and very expensive Nortel CS2K installation, the core, carrier-class VoIP platform for the 21st Century! And asking what a couple of grotty commodity servers, and asking what those were.. And they were the voicemail servers, supplied by Nortel at an eye-watering, carrier-class price. Plus support.

      See also-

      Where carriers could buy commodity* servers with Cisco** badges & software instead, for slightly less eye-watering prices. Plus support of course.

      But open source is nothing new. Deutsche Telecom had been using routers based on BSD and GateD for a long time. When I suggested my then employer looked at doing the same, Cisco stopped giving me as much free stuff. As long as the open stuff works, and meets SLAs, it makes a lot of business sense. Especially to product developers who could then use internal/external resources to do interesting new things, rather than being dependent on $vendor and their roadmap.

      *Stuff like xDSL and mobile relies/relied on stuff like DHCP, and RADIUS servers/accounting. Which meant carrier-class commodity servers again. Ok, so to avoid being a Reg article*** when 'Network X goes down for hours/days' headline, they were meant to be reliable/HA servers. So kinda normal requirements, and functionality that was easy/advantageous to cloudify.

      **Remember the days of 'Cisco Powered Network(tm)' on every website? We're a CPN! Aren't we all.. aren't we all. Kinda hard to differentiate in those environments.

      ***A genuine concern, at least for me when I was working in product development. Also justified reading it at work to make sure we weren't in it..

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