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Red Hat recognizes that the array of solutions providers across the telco landscape is changing. The era of 'black boxes' appears to be coming to an end - and open source is helping to unleash a transformation of networks, which can accelerate the transition to 5G and the rollout of IoT-based services. This transformation (however radical it turns out to be) will not happen overnight.

While many legacy network equipment providers (NEPs) have recognized a need to adjust their historical approach, this transformation may appear slow to the market. Some service providers have opted not to wait for the NEPs and have moved forward more aggressively on their own.

Red Hat customer and multinational telecom operator Orange discussed this phenomenon at a recent press event attended by its Deputy CEO Gervais Pellissier1Pellissier highlighted that Orange is disaggregating its procurement due to the availability of some components via open source. It’s an interesting move in a market that, in the past, has been driven by a handful of hardware suppliers, and could indicate a desire by telecommunications providers to control their own destinies, especially as more are wanting choice when it comes to building out the next-generation infrastructure required for 5G.

In line with this change towards open source and additional choice, the role of traditional NEPs is also morphing - instead of providing network equipment, we expect them to be offering network software solutions, or simply network solutions. Their role will likely evolve to integrate pieces of software and some hardware (regardless of where it was developed), and build a solution that is deployable, scalable, upgradable and more secure. With this change the pendulum will potentially swing from vertically integrated to horizontal layers.

These network solution providers are now frequent contributors in several key open source communities. As an open source leader, Red Hat is working closely in those upstream communities with operators like Orange (and others), as well as with these network solutions providers so that open source-based solutions deliver the functionality and KPIs that operators require.

The Red Hat approach delivers service providers more choice- an independent NFVi and VIM layer which allows them to onboard certified VNFs with underlying hardware and SDN options. We are working closely with many NEPs to enable them to incorporate Red Hat OpenStack Platform to avoid forks of OpenStack that lock clients in, and therefore, do not allow for the realization of the full financial and agility benefits offered within the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) defined network functions virtualization (NFV) architecture.

To extend this value, Red Hat provides Linux containers and development tools that can offer enhanced operational support and bring the benefit of cloud-native application development that helps to lower cost and open new revenue opportunities for service providers. We are at the early phase of this transformation, and are excited for our NEP partners to participate with us in this network transformation. As this moves into mass production, NEPs and the telco software ecosystem may provide applications and services that help enable a highly available carrier class experience. Partners are key to our strategy to digitally transform this market opportunity.

Realizing the full value of open source software-based networks is not just a matter of engaging new suppliers or engaging traditional suppliers in new ways, but needs to be part of a broader change management effort at telcos. Red Hat is committed to working with the entire telco ecosystem to realize the promise of network transformation.

1 - Iain Morris, “Don't Expect 5G Deals, Orange Tells Usual Suppliers,” Light Reading, 25 January 2018,…

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