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This week’s OpenStack Summit in Paris is the perfect venue to talk about the progress the cloud computing platform has made on many fronts. Red Hat is talking about our own OpenStack momentum this week - from product innovations and new global alliances to customer successes. One of the hot areas of conversation this week is the telecommunications industry, and OpenStack’s intersection with Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).


If you’re part of, or follow the telecommunications industry, NFV is not new to you. For the uninitiated, NFV is playing a significant role as Communications Service Providers (CSPs) modernize both their infrastructure and offerings. My colleague Dave Neary explained NFV well in a recent blog post, saying:


In recent years, the telecommunications industry has looked toward Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to revolutionize the way that telco services are developed and delivered to customers. A "network function" is any service that acts on the data passing through the network. In the typical datacenter, this would include services like a firewall, a VPN endpoint, or an intrusion detection system. In the telco industry, network functions also cover voice, data and internet services, broadband and cellular network services, and the delivery of video content, such as streaming TV.


Traditionally these network services have been provided by big, expensive, custom-built servers that require a multi-year investment for the network operators, so progress tends to be in fits and starts because previous investments are amortized before replacement features are deployed.


By moving the operation of these network services to virtual network functions (VNFs) running on a private cloud platform, on industry standard high-density servers, NFV enables operators to deliver customer-facing services more easily and faster. DevOps can finally come to the deployment of network services.


As the OpenStack Foundation’s Mack Collier recently told TechCrunch, NFV represents a “very large opportunity for OpenStack.” Indeed, OpenStack is already proving that it can rise to meet the unique challenges CSPs face with NFV, enabling telcos to further their NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) efforts to better serve their customers and give them increased demand capacity. At the end of 2013, my colleagues predicted that NFV would take off in a big way in 2014, and they were right. Large telecommunications carriers are taking notice and taking the promise of open networking quite seriously.


I’m proud that Red Hat is playing a leading role in working with industry leaders to deliver carrier-grade OpenStack. In recent months, you’ve seen increasing momentum and buzz for Red Hat’s work to bring OpenStack-based clouds to the telecommunications industry:


  • We announced that Alcatel-Lucent, a company at the forefront of the move to the cloud for global telecommunications companies, would be deploying Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), as the common platform for its NFV solution, CloudBand. Alcatel-Lucent specifically chose Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform for use in managing CloudBand Nodes, the turn-key, all-in-one compute, storage and network node system that interfaces with the CloudBand Management System, along with any other OpenStack-enabled nodes.


  • A few weeks ago, our longtime strategic partner Dell introduced its NFV solution offerings and starter kits. As part of that announcement, Dell reaffirmed its commitment to driving open source innovation, extending the collaboration our companies announced in February 2014 to co-engineer OpenStack-based NFV and SDN solutions specifically for the telecommunications industry. Our recent momentum with Dell on OpenStack goes beyond NFV.


In April, we launched the Dell Red Hat Cloud Solutions, powered by Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. At that time, I summarized the essence of our collaboration with Dell: “Bottom line: The solutions we're making available today bring to bear the combination of Red Hat's expertise as the #1 contributor to OpenStack and industry-leading hardware solutions from Dell to help customers realize the benefits of an enterprise-grade OpenStack-powered private cloud.” With NFV, we are working to make OpenStack carrier-grade as well.


  • In September, Nokia and Red Hat announced the extension of our collaboration to enable mobile operators to create a more efficient and flexible telco cloud infrastructure, bundling Nokia Networks' carrier-grade virtualized core applications and cloud application management products with Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. This latest collaboration enables efficient operation of the Nokia virtualized core network functions and management systems on top of Red Hat's OpenStack technology, with commercial joint solutions expected to be available in early 2015.


  • In September the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project launched with support from a diverse group, including network operators, network equipment providers, platform vendors, and hardware vendors, working together to create a reference platform for NFV. I’ll point you to Dave Neary’s blog again, where he described the group’s important work: “The goal is to take existing open source projects such as OpenStack, OpenDaylight, DPDK, libvirt, and KVM, and identify any areas where we can improve these platforms to enable the deployment of network services.


“As a founding member of the project at the highest Platinum level, Red Hat recognizes the project's potential to change the telco industry, and is committed to bringing the company’s strengths to the table in support. One of the key challenges for the project will be to ensure that code developed for NFV is submitted and accepted upstream in the relevant projects, and Red Hat has a wealth of experience upstream in these communities and in affecting change across a number of projects.”


Importantly, Dave notes the OpenDaylight Project, an open platform for network programmability to enable SDN and create a solid foundation for NFV for networks at any size and scale. Red Hat is a Platinum member of the OpenDaylight Project, and are proud that that community’s work is helping to such significant innovation in SDN.


  • In May, Telefónica announced plans to work with Red Hat and Intel to create a virtual infrastructure management (VIM) platform based on open source software running on standard Intel-based servers. This work is part of Telefónica’s recently created NFV Reference Lab aimed at helping their ecosystem of partners and network equipment providers (NEPs) test and develop virtual network functions along with upper service orchestration layers.


You regularly hear us talk about the strength of the Red Hat OpenStack Cloud Infrastructure Partner Network. I could go beyond the collaborations mentioned above to talk about the work we are doing with ISVs around the globe to help take NFV even further with carriers. That work is powerful, and continues to grow as that ecosystem does the same.


Just last week, we hosted a webinar to discuss why OpenStack has become a foundational framework for NFV, why open source and open standards for networking are so critical, and how Red Hat is developing OpenStack as a robust platform for the telecom industry and NFV. If these are topics you are interested in learning more about, I invite you to listen to the archived webinar - it’s well worth your time to understand the transformational role both OpenStack and NFV can play together for carriers.

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