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Ericsson Unveils Carrier-Grade Server Strategy

Carol Wilson
6/5/2014
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NICE, France -- TM Forum Live! -- At a time when many telecom vendors are focusing on software, Ericsson is actually preparing to enter the hardware world in a new way, launching a carrier-grade server that can handle the massive software loads required by virtualization, CTO Ulf Ewaldsson told Light Reading this week.

Declining to provide a timeline for the hardware introduction, Ewaldsson said its function is primarily to ensure the vendor's software performs as expected to enable its telco customers to reach their network performance goals.

When Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) first discussed the new server possibility a little over a year ago at Mobile World Congress, it was in the context of supporting cloud services and was targeted for introduction in late 2014. (See Ericsson Pushes Blades Into the Data Center.)

Ewaldsson indicated the server is helping Ericsson live up to the promise of virtualizing all of its software within the next two years and deliver it on standard IT platforms. Verifying the performance of that software required "understanding the future of hardware," and what it will take to deliver massively pooled resources to support distributed and virtualized functions, he said.

For Ericsson, that meant developing its own carrier-grade server.

The company is also developing its own hypervisor technology, based on open source software essentially wrapped in Ericsson's intellectual property, all as part of the process of understanding how the future networks will be put together for leading-edge customers such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). (See AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape.)

Of course, it doesn't hurt, with the approach of virtualization and adoption of commercial off-the-shelf hardware, to be able to offer a soup-to-nuts approach to customers less interested in mixing and matching vendors than in getting products to market faster.

Ewaldsson insists Ericsson will resist the vertical integration of the past and continue to build products that use open application programming interfaces (APIs). But the ultimate goal is networks that compete on a performance basis, and his company will do what it takes to achieve that goal, even moving away from its traditional strength in software.

The Ericsson CTO expects to see greater variation in carrier networks in the virtualized era, based on the strategies his company has seen to date, but sees many of the major telecom providers once again cooperating on the development of core technologies that can drive the entire industry forward, such as open source systems and software.

"They aren't going to compete on APIs, they are going to compete based on how well their networks perform," he said. "For a while now, the big telecom guys haven't been willing to share much, because they saw each other as competitors. Now, I think they realize the greater competitive threat is from outside telecom."

That threat, from Internet giants such as Google and Amazon, has the telco industry once again cooperating where it makes sense to do so, even as it continues to compete for customers.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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