Q&A with CMCC and China Mobile: the world’s largest mobile network

This is the third post in a six-part series, highlighting Chinese DC/OS and Apache Mesos users that presented at MesosCon Asia in late June. MesosCon Europe is coming up from October 25th-27th in Prague. Register today.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today! To start out, would you mind giving us an overview of CMCC and China Mobile for our US readers who might not already be familiar with it?

China Mobile is the leading telecommunications services provider in Mainland China, and boasts the world’s largest mobile network and the world’s largest mobile customer base, with 849 million mobile customers and 77.62 million wireline broadband customers.

The China Mobile’s ultimate controlling shareholder is CMCC, which, as of 31 December 2016, indirectly held approximately 72.72% of the total number of issued shares of China Mobile. The remaining approximately 27.28% was held by public investors.

What factors originally inspired you to adopt Apache Mesos?

In the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) age, our legacy platform at CMCC faced many challenges, such as inefficient deployments and low resource utilization rates. These technical issues lead to business consequences including high labor cost in application integrations and high device costs.

In order to solve those problems, we built a platform for our on-premises data center, mainly based on Mesos, to orchestrate containers and run long-running services (including data services), one off tasks, and timed jobs. We designed an Auth module for security that provides token-based authentication for managing tenant users in a RESTful fashion. And, we included monitoring and logging services based on Open-falcon, Elasticsearch, and Graylog respectively. NFS servers and external volumes are supported for storage.

By adopting Mesos and containers, our diverse applications can share the same resources. Application integrations and deployments have become easier, enabling higher resource utilization rate and lower device and labor costs.

You must be running a huge cluster to have invested in such comprehensive custom tooling. What are your current and future scale targets?

We are now running a 500-node cluster, which is managed by about 10 dedicated engineers and 10 operators. In the near future we’ll have several thousand nodes in our datacenter.

Migrating your legacy workloads to a platform that was itself brand new, what challenges have you run into? Have you been able to address these challenges?

Since deploying apps in containers is quite different from our previous deployment strategy, we have overcome many challenges, both technical and cultural. Among the technical challenges, application refactoring alone took almost a year. Promoting the idea of running apps in containers and promoting a Mesos-based datacenter platform within CMCC were our biggest cultural challenges, but finally we made it.

Having come through those challenges with Mesos, where would you like to see the project go in the future?

Because engineers at CMCC shoulder the responsibility of keeping both our IT infrastructure and services stable and available, we’d like to see more production best practices in Mesos, especially those for stateful services, big data and machine learning.

How can Mesosphere help improve the community in China?

Mesos is becoming more and more popular in China; holding MesosCons and meetups of all sorts will attract more users and developers to join the community. More well-written technical tutorials and user guides will help a lot as well.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We’re so glad to be able to highlight all the success CMCC has had with Mesos.

Thank you as well!

Want to hear from other big Apache Mesos users like China Mobile? MesosCon Europe is coming up from October 25th-27th in Prague; register today.