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Architecture SDN

Ericsson makes significant OpenStack play with Red Hat deal

Ericsson has significantly expanded its alliance with open source genius Red Hat, in a move which could be important for both players, and for bringing deployable solutions to mobile operators.

The two companies already work together to bring RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and the associated Boss Middleware to Ericsson customers. Now they will also focus on OpenStack, NFV infrastructure (NFVi), SDN, software-defined infrastructure and containers, ticking most of the boxes when it comes to modern open source platforms. Ericsson will expand its current telco NFV offering to include Red Hat OpenStack Platform.

This is important for Ericsson’s core market, which is facing a pace of change that leaves many operators breathless and close to panic. The enterprise may have got to grips with open source years ago, but it remains a new and often disorienting factor for mobile operators and their suppliers. Letting open source processes into the heart of networks which have guarded their proprietary secrets so carefully is a major technical and cultural change, but one which the major players have to embrace to survive.

This is very clear in Ericsson’s newly announced alliance with the most successful pure-play open source company, Red Hat. The Swedish vendor needs to accelerate its transformation into an IT and cloud provider, in the wake of more poor results, as the mobile network it helped to define morphs into an IT platform. That means embracing open source, and hoping that some of Red Hat’s stardust will rub off.

Ericsson has already shown willing by making a strong commitment to the OpenStack open source cloud computing initiative, which many operators are supporting as a relatively smooth path to manage virtualized networks. Now it will partner with Red Hat to develop solutions which are geared to specific use cases.

This is important to both companies. OpenStack is central to Red Hat’s current strategy to repeat its Linux-driven success by building services on top of newer open platforms, including OpenStack and containerization. The telecoms field is a significant target market, because of the carriers’ enthusiasm for virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN), and because enterprise players like Red Hat have previously been excluded from the heart of the RAN. But succeeding in this esoteric world will require partners, and despite its recent troubles Ericsson remains the king of the mobile network field.

Ericsson will gain OpenStack credibility – important at a time when bighitters like AT&T are adopting that platform as the basis of their management and orchestration (MANO) initiatives. It will also be able to tap into a somewhat alien knowledge base more quickly than doing everything inhouse.

Most importantly for the mobile operators, the partners will focus on real world cases. That could deliver readymade solutions to specific issues, rather than leaving MNOs to grapple with turning a generic platform into a useful system.

The partners say they will take an ‘upstream first’ approach to collaborating across open source projects, including OpenDaylight and OPNFV as well as OpenStack. They will work together in upstream activities such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and Open Container Initiative.

They will develop new joint hardware and software combinations for NFV, SDN and SDI, and offer a certification program to guarantee interworking. They say that their key focus will be on ease of deployment and management, including automation, in order to lower barriers to adoption.  They will also align their technologies in containers to accelerate adoption across their respective customer bases.

They will also develop a deep professional services offering – this, of course, has been the secret to Red Hat’s success, and Ericsson also needs to extend its own services portfolio to offset the squeeze on traditional hardware sales.

Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies at Red Hat, said: “Red Hat believes that the future of the communications industry will be defined by modern architectures and open source solutions spanning the hybrid cloud, containers, software-defined infrastructure and NFV. Ericsson shares that belief, and together we can bring the communications industry into the future with open, more secure and highly scalable solutions that enable customers to transform their businesses and deliver on the promise of IoT, 5G and more.”

The future is open and software defined,” added Jason Hoffman, head of product area cloud infrastructure at Ericsson (and previously founder of cloud computing start-up Joyent, which was acquired by Samsung).

It is also worth noting that Cisco – another key Ericsson partnership, but one which has yet to deliver strong visible results – is also a Red Hat partner and uses its RHEL, Boss and OpenStack offerings. That means Ericsson and Cisco are aligned in at least one area, using Red Hat OpenStack Platform in their NFV infrastructure.

Also from Red Hat, the company has unveiled its Mobile Application Platform, a containerized offering designed to run in any public or private cloud or on-premise infrastructure that supports its Enterprise Linux.

When used alongside Red Hat’s existing SaaS (software-as-a-service) mobile app platform, enterprises gain a wider set of deployment options to integrate, manage, and scale their mobile app initiatives to meet their business objectives, said the company.

The move to a fully containerized platform, Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, based on Docker-format containers and Kubernetes, is the heart of the organization’s bid to provide a single, integrated platform for modern application development that ticks all the current enterprise developer boxes – cloud native, mobile-centric, microservices-based, and driven by APIs (application programming interfaces) and by tools that support DevOps and agile processes.

The deployment of Red Hat’s mobile app system on OpenShift provides a common platform to support mobile workloads alongside traditional enterprise applications that need to be moved to the cloud. The company said in its statement: “With the new option for a fully supported on-premise deployment capability, customers can meet their specific management, regulatory and policy requirements for their mobile solutions.”

Cathal McGloin, VP of mobile platforms, Red Hat said: “The pursuit of digital transformation is giving rise to a new mobile enterprise, where application development is increasingly defined by emerging architectures, processes and platforms that can deliver greater business agility. Red Hat offers organizations a powerful stack, based on these modern technologies, to develop, integrate, deploy, and manage mobile applications alongside traditional workloads running in this portable cloud-agnostic containerized environment.”

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