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The relay race of cloud migration is continuing to evolve. Network function virtualization (NFV) kicked this race off, by lowering costs by moving from an appliance-based network to software-based equivalents. For the next leg of the race we see cloud-native architectures and containers increase efficiency, performance, resiliency, security and agility. While many service providers continue to see great success with virtual machines (VMs), most are now working to deploy containers on bare metal, without the added layer of virtualization, to better compete in the marketplace. 

As these technologies improve, the radio access network (RAN) is also undergoing its own evolution. Service providers are scaling their networks to support increased demand and operators are looking towards disaggregation of the RAN via vendor Open RAN solutions, like those from Altiostar, for more freedom of choice, standardization and a decoupling of hardware and software. 

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Virtualizing and disaggregating RANs give communication service providers (CSPs) the freedom to work with new suppliers, boost innovation and differentiation and utilize new operating models. Network operators can also reduce their investment while lowering operating expenses (OpEx), as well as increasing flexibility and automation. To help aid this progress, Red Hat and Altiostar have expanded our work together so that virtualized and containerized RAN can be deployed with infrastructure, application and service automation. Altiostar has helped Red Hat develop the necessary components for running virtualized and containerized RAN and creating the necessary automation framework to support commercial deployment and reduce OpEx for operators. This collaboration delivers:

  • The introduction of our infrastructure and workload automation framework for a container-based RAN reference architecture that allows a consistent approach to a disaggregated RAN - for both our customer and partner ecosystem

  • Full RAN functionality using cloud-native network functions (CNF) infrastructure from Red Hat and Open vRAN software from Altiostar

  • Cooperation on certification, integration and interoperability of Altiostar’s 4G and 5G based virtualized RAN (vRAN) and cloud RAN (cRAN) products with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat OpenShift

Benefits of Kubernetes-based containerization on bare metal

But why Kubernetes on bare metal? CSPs are looking to benefit from new features like low and predictable latency, high bandwidth and distributed architectures, and the easiest way to do this is by deploying their new network functions on containers running on bare metal. Containers offer operators a more secure, simple, scalable and flexible way to leverage Open RAN. In doing so, they’ll be able to realize lower capital expenditures (CapEx) and operating expenses (OpEx), be more agile and competitive, achieve better performance in a smaller footprint and deliver greater network security. 

As this trend towards container-based disaggregation evolves, Red Hat has been working on driving the infrastructure for this movement. Previously, CSPs have been able to deploy infrastructure running Red Hat OpenStack Platform with virtualized network functions from multiple partners’ applications, and now they can convert applications to microservices in containers using Red Hat OpenShift. And as this shift makes headway, customers can either continue running 4G with VMs on Red Hat OpenStack or migrate their 4G networks to Red Hat OpenShift, while at the same time, building their 5G network infrastructure with Red Hat OpenShift and Altiostar Open vRAN.  

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About the author

Glenn Rudolph is a Global Service Provider ISV Director, and he brings more than 35 years of business and Service Provider experience to Red Hat. Prior to joining Red Hat, he spent 13 years at Cisco System building strategic partnerships. He has a passion in bridging business needs to underlying technologies using Reference Architectures which build common platforms for his partner ecosystems. Rudolph holds a B.S in Computer Graphics from the California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, CA.

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