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It's often said that one of the strengths of open source technology is the community, or ecosystem, that shapes and advances it. We contend that's Red Hat's strength as well, and to illustrate, our ecosystem of partners is working with us to make the promise of network functions virtualization (NFV) real. To wit: our NFV ecosystem is loaded with network equipment providers, independent software vendors (ISVs), software-defined networking (SDN) providers and telcos, and momentum continues to grow.

When it comes to assessing just how well a technology solution is serving enterprises, perhaps nothing is more illuminating than total cost of ownership (TCO), which helps quantify the financial impact of implementing a product or service over its lifecycle. And here's the good news on NFV's TCO for telcos, according to a new report by ACG Research, sponsored by Red Hat, Big Switch Networks, F5 Networks and Dell EMC. The report found the five-year cumulative total cost of ownership, or TCO, of an open architecture platform to be $22.7 million, which is roughly half (53 percent) of the $43 million TCO for a tightly bundled platform (defined by the report as a stricter coupling of elements in a design, often bound by a proprietary implementation).

NFV's ecosystem is further bolstered because OpenStack is NFV's foundation. The open source software platform delivers flexibility and versatility and gives companies a path towards virtualized network platforms using NFV, a belief many telcos share. In a survey, conducted by Heavy Reading and commissioned by the OpenStack Foundation, telcos are accelerating their adoption of NFV to increase network agility and mitigate costs, and using OpenStack as the NFV infrastructure platform of choice. In fact, 60 percent said using or testing OpenStack for NFV, and 37.8 percent said they are considering doing so. That's a whopping 98.1 percent!  (You can read more about this survey, and how telcos like Deutsche Telekom, which is already using NFV in production environments, in our post from October 2016).

At Mobile World Congress 2017, the OpenStack Foundation stressed just how important OpenStack is to communication services providers (CSPs). In an announcement, the foundation said CSPs are one of the fastest growth sectors for OpenStack deployments, and are choosing OpenStack for virtualized networks services for its programmable infrastructure, which offers flexibility, scalability and resiliency as well as cost savings, both on installation and management. Telcos, open source projects and vendors alike are taking advantage of OpenStack's capability to run containers, bare metal and virtual machines on a common infrastructure and set of open APIs, the foundation said, adding that leading-edge CSPs are containerizing control planes, and VNF providers are using cloud-native technologies to deliver their functions in containers or virtual machines.

Earlier this month, Nokia and Three UK, a telco and ISP in the United Kingdom, announced that they will deploy a fully integrated cloud native core network designed to enable massive scalability. The U.K. network will allow Three to rapidly respond to customers' dynamic service demands while preparing for IoT and 5G, the two companies say. Rollout of Three UK's new core network will continue this year in multiple data center locations, and will incorporate third-party products, including Red Hat OpenStack Platform.

The Red Hat OpenStack Platform is designed to deliver the demands of a production-scale environment and meet critical performance, scalability, and security standards. It's the solution around which our many ecosystem partners are coalescing. These partners include network equipment providers and ISVs.

In February, Red Hat announced with Hewlett Packard Enterprise that the two are expanding their collaboration to focus on NFV solutions. HPE plans to offer ready-to-use, pre-integrated HPE NFV System solutions and HPE Validated Configurations incorporating Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat Ceph Storage for communications service providers.

The HPE OpenNFV Solution Portal is also being expanded to include VNFs from Red Hat partners, providing customers with access to pre-validated solutions that can help simplify deployments. Additionally, HPE and Red Hat are collaborating to certify HPE NFV operations solutions, including HPE NFV Director for management and orchestration (MANO), HPE Service Director for operations support systems (OSS), HPE VNFs and the OpenDaylight-based HPE OpenSDN Solution on the Red Hat OpenStack Platform, backed by end-to-end support from HPE.

Also in February, WWT, a technology and supply chain integrator, and Red Hat announced a collaboration to launch a new facility for validating full stack network functions virtualization (NFV) solutions. Cisco and Intel are also included in the collaboration. Each are contributing advanced cloud, networking and DevOps technologies to WWT's existing Advanced Technology Center (ATC), creating a facility where service providers can reduce the time, cost and risk associated with validating NFV solutions.

With the NFV-enabled ATC, WWT has streamlined the validation process. Based on past use cases, the ATC is expected to validate NFV solutions four times faster – from 6-12 months down to 90 days – reducing overall costs by 30 percent (based on previous use cases from WWT ATC validation programs).

"Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are adopting open source-based NFV solutions for its promises of improved scalability, lower costs and greater flexibility. Red Hat has been at the forefront of this transformation, and we are pleased to bring our experience in DevOps, virtualization, and more to WWT's Advanced Technology Center to help CSPs achieve a more modern, agile approach through NFV," Red Hat's VP of global telecommunications and ICT, Darrell Jordan-Smith, said a statement.

Since late 2016, Red Hat has been part of consulting and integration company Tech Mahindra's Virtual Network Function (VNF) Exchange, a product independent global industry platform aimed at pre-certifying VNF design, VNF stack and VNF performance. In the statement announcing the exchange, Red Hat's Darrell Jordan-Smith, vice president, Worldwide ICT Sales, noted that, "NFV holds significant potential for the communications industry as providers work to modernize their networks."

Red Hat extended its collaboration with Openet Accelerate, an ISV that provides virtualized telco solutions, in late February, to focus on driving the adoption of NVF. The partnership focuses on NFV infrastructure (NFVi), OpenStack, Openet Weaver (a VNF lifecycle manager), and means Openet's Accelerate offerings now support and can be supplied with Red Hat OpenStack Platform. The duo will also work together on container architectures that can provide the agility needed by customers as they embark on digital transformations and towards opportunities made by possible by 5G and IoT.

Red Hat's ecosystem of partners also includes SDN providers like Nuage Networks, Big Switch Networks and Midokura. Many of Red Hat's customers embark on their NFV journeys with these SDN partners. The current list of RH partners who collaborate to certify their products on the Red Hat platform, so customers can deploy with confidence, knowing that solutions are enterprise-ready and fully supported, includes Huawei, F5, Affirmed Networks, Citrix, Sandvine, Cisco and Palo Alto Networks.

By the way, it's not just vendors and service providers that underscore Red Hat's strengthening ecosystem in ICT. We've announced two new customers – MyRepublic, an internet service provider (ISP) in Singapore, and the Netherlands-based telco Altice (we covered this recently in this blog post).

MyRepublic has revamped its fragmented legacy IT infrastructure into a modern, more scalable cloud using Red Hat OpenStack Platform as its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform, Red Hat Ceph Storage, a block and object storage platform capable of scaling to meet MyRepublic's requirements, and Red Hat CloudForms, a hybrid cloud management platform. Red Hat Consulting supported the initial planning and implementation stages, making it possible to complete the deployment in only two weeks. You can read more about MyRepublic's use of Red Hat solutions in its new cloud-based platform in this case study.

Altice, is building an NFV platform based on the Red Hat OpenStack platform. The initiative also includes Cisco, and is an extension of the work Cisco and Red Hat have already done with SFR, the French subsidiary of Altice, to engineer an NFV platform. SFR says it already has half of mobile traffic running on its virtualized platform, with this number expected to rise to 80 percent by the end of this year. Learn more in this news article about the initiative on TelecomsTech.

Whew! That's a lot of ecosystem activity. We expect the trend to continue, so stay tuned.

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