Middle Eastern Service Provider Builds Innovative Public OpenStack Cloud
- Industry: Telecommunications
- Headquarters: Saudi Arabia
- Size: 17,000 employees
With a strong focus on innovation and customer success, the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has rapidly grown over the past 19 years to become the largest service provider in the Middle East and North Africa. With fixed, mobile, broadband infrastructure and consumer and enterprise focused value propositions, STC operates in nine country markets and generates over $13 billion in annual revenue, giving the Saudi operator a solid foundation for long-term growth, even in challenging economic times.
Core to STC’s expansion strategy are information and communications technology (ICT) services allowing customers to structure flexible and high value solutions that increase their business agility. A key component of this ICT based strategy is a rapid expansion into public and managed cloud services that allow customers to focus on their core business, as opposed to managing their ICT infrastructure
This bold and ambitious move to the public cloud is differentiated by a broad marketplace of third-party Platform- and Software as a Service (PaaS and SaaS) offerings hosted by STC in addition to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). STC’s sizable bet on the cloud also provides a strong defense against market entrants and extends its existing internal private cloud to boost IT agility, which yields business efficiency.
To maintain leadership and sustain enterprise business growth, STC must continuously increase the value offered to customers and improve IT operations. While recent increases of colocation services from five data centers fueled expansion, STC customers still demand new and differentiated services.
“Our market is transforming from a CAPEX to an OPEX structured model with more companies seeking out third-party ICT solution services. Without a comprehensive cloud offering, customers will migrate to other providers,” says Saleh Mosaibah, Vice President of Cloud Services, Saudi Telecom Company.
After thorough market analysis, Mosaibah concluded an STC cloud offering must meet or exceed those of cloud leaders soon to enter the region such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Thus, STC crafted a strategy to market third-party PaaS and SaaS solutions hosted on a comprehensive STC IaaS platform, and began to recruit cloud partners.
Pursuing this ecosystem-based strategy, however, required carrier grade availability, performance, scalability, and security while maintaining a cost structure that permits market leading price points. In early 2015, therefore, STC began a search for innovative cloud platform technologies with the flexibly to accommodate a spectrum of offerings and long-term growth.
Mosaibah had previously seen telecom companies in other regions choose proprietary cloud solutions only to be hampered by vendor lock-in and lack of integration flexibility, prompting him to seek out an open system including OpenStack.
“To build a highly scalable cloud with competitive pricing, we needed an open eco-system of technologies, not proprietary vendors. We saw others go that route and fail,” says Mosaibah.
After an extensive evaluation, STC selected OpenStack as their cloud solution platform to meet the rising demand for ICT services, citing freedom of choice of underlying hardware and software as a key reason. STC also plans to deploy OpenStack for the network business and IT workloads including network functions virtualization (NFV) services.
“In 2015, OpenStack emerged as a mature, agile platform just as the local demand for cloud services grew. Now our co-location and other enterprise customers are eager to move into the cloud with us,” says Mosaibah.
In early 2015, the STC Cloud Solutions team began execution on their strategy to build a public IaaS cloud and marketplace of PaaS and SaaS partners.
Having selected OpenStack for integration flexibility and no vendor lock in, STC now needed a partner to help build and scale their offering. After an extensive search, STC selected Mirantis for their depth of expertise in OpenStack, including code contribution, service, training, support, and extensive experience with large scale production deployments.
“Mirantis has the most OpenStack expertise in the market and open integrations to a vast number of software and hardware vendors. This gives us the freedom to choose the servers, storage, and other components that work best for us,” says Mosaibah.
STC first engaged Mirantis for requirements assessment and design, and then extended the relationship to include OpenStack distribution, training and deployment services.
With Mirantis engineering support, STC deployed an OpenStack-based IaaS in their Jeddah and Riyadh data centers, which offered customers a broad choice of operating systems and VMs, as well as server and storage size options. Now known as Bluvalt, it is the first Saudi marketplace for cloud computing solutions, aimed at local developers and small and medium enterprises.
“Mirantis engineers are extremely talented and very responsive to our needs,” says Mosaibah. “The relationship is a true partnership where both sides are committed to each other’s success.”
STC’s marketplace strategy includes partner solutions such as business intelligence, email, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, which differentiates its cloud offering from competitors. Already STC has 30 regional and international PaaS and SaaS partners and continues to add more. With this breadth, customers can find everything they need from the STC Cloud Marketplace.
After initially deploying the Mirantis OpenStack distribution in 2015, STC later migrated its cloud to Mirantis Cloud Platform (MCP) in 2017. MCP is an agile infrastructure platform based on OpenStack and Kubernetes that leverages Infrastructure as Code to allow seamless updates and in-service upgrades, enabling rapid access to the latest innovation. STC has deployed MCP on 100+ nodes for its Bluvalt virtual datacenter offering.
STC currently partners with Mirantis for 24 x 7 ProdCare Support and custom integration development services. STC is also currently evaluating OpenStack for their NFV cloud, which will virtualize network functions. Additionally, STC is working on managed private clouds and private label cloud customer offerings.
STC’s OpenStack deployment, across three data centers, is running on hundreds of servers and will soon grow to thousands. Regional cloud demand is higher than expected and STC is able to comfortably meet customer needs with OpenStack based offerings. Important to this success is OpenStack’s low cost of operations, rapid community innovation, and design for quick internal adoption.
STC states its OpenStack cloud capital and operating expenses are 25 percent below those of proprietary alternatives and likely to exceed that benefit soon.
“With OpenStack, there’s always room for cost improvement because the community is evolving and delivering better performance and management tools,” says Mosaibah.
“The more we scale, the deeper we can draw on and contribute to the community to optimize our operational costs. With proprietary vendors, there is less room for cost improvement.”
A second OpenStack advantage is fast community innovation and code transparency. With proprietary cloud solutions, the ability to influence the direction and pace of advancements is less certain.
“Because of the rate of innovation, OpenStack is like a fast moving train that is consistently getting more powerful. We’re already receiving great benefits from the OpenStack community and look forward to contributing as much as we now receive,” says Mosaibah.
Working with Mirantis has further increased access to innovation. “Mirantis is a great partner within the community as it is well positioned to see all community contributions and identify the ones to best meet our needs,” says Mosaibah. “Mirantis is driving features into the community that are important to STC.”
Finally, STC’s internal adoption of OpenStack skill sets has been faster than expected. With Mirantis OpenStack, STC was soon able to deploy cloud services without Mirantis’ help. After transitioning to MCP, they continue to operate the cloud on their own, backed by the assurance of Mirantis 24×7 ProdCare support. And in many cases, internal engineers have learned and benefited from OpenStack’s automation, which has exceeded expectations. With this adoption, engineers are using OpenStack to innovate, and some claim OpenStack allows them to accomplish tasks 10 times faster than previous infrastructure architectures.
In summary, STC is very pleased with its selection of OpenStack and the Mirantis partnership.
“Already we’re seeing demand across all cloud offerings as customers want to move from capital to operating costs. And we’re able to confidently accommodate this expanding need with our OpenStack based public cloud and Mirantis.”
- Launch innovative public cloud to augment core business
- Improve cloud performance without vendor lock-in
- Increase business & IT operational efficiency
- Bluvalt public cloud platform based on Mirantis Cloud Platform
- OpenStack-based IaaS, PaaS and SaaS marketplace
- Scalable cloud extended to internal IT and NFV
- Increased differentiation of public cloud offering
- At least 25% lower CAPEX & OPEX versus alternatives
- Access to OpenStack community innovation