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Who Might Replace HPE at Telefónica?

Ray Le Maistre

The news that Telefónica has canceled its systems integration and virtualization technology agreement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and re-issued its key New IP tender will be of great interest to major technology services companies: The Spanish operator is a prime reference account for any supplier in the telco cloud and virtualization market. (See Telefónica Ditches HPE as Virtualization Lead.)

So who might take over as the lead partner for Telefónica's 'Unica' project?

The operator chose Hewlett Packard Enterprise (or just plain Hewlett-Packard as it was back in March 2015) because it not only had a range of telecom and IT know-how and skills -- networking, management, software and integration -- but it had also been developing its own NFV technology platform (called OpenNFV) and was involved in a number of key industry development related to SDN and NFV.

But it would appear that one of HP's problems was that, because it had its own NFV capabilities, it was reluctant to bring on board virtualization technology from third party suppliers, even though that was something that Telefónica had clearly requested. HPE was hired as a company that could act as a responsible and independent partner but it seems it fell short in that respect.

So might Telefónica be reluctant to strike a lead integrator deal with another company that has its own virtualization technology offerings? Possibly -- it won't want to make the same mistake twice.

But that doesn't rule out the telecom infrastructure equipment brigade.

Network infrastructure hopefuls
Among those that I think could make Telefónica's new "lead Unica integrator" shortlist are Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK).

Of those, Huawei and NEC are best placed. Huawei is already engaged in major transformation projects with the Spanish operator and has already proven itself to be a reliable partner. It also has an enterprise as well as a telecoms business unit and has made great strides in recent years in its systems integration, software and data center capabilities. (See Eurobites: Telefónica, Huawei Team on Enterprise Cloud, Telefónica on OSS Transformation and Telefónica Bets on IT Transformation.)

NEC has plenty of telecoms and IT experience and has already worked closely with the Spanish operator on the Unica strategy: It is also working with Telefónica on its deployment of virtual residential CPE in Brazil, so is already a tried and tested NFV partner. (See Telefónica Completes Successful Proof of Concept Combining SDN & NFV, Telefónica Uses NEC for SMB Cloud Integration Services and Telefónica Preps NFV Trial .)

Ericsson has many of the required attributes, particularly systems integration and network management skills. However, its portfolio of skills is not as rounded as Huawei's, although it is busy beefing up its cloud team and developing data center technology. (See CenturyLink's King Lands on Ericsson Cloud and Ericsson, Intel Target Telco Data Centers.)

Nokia (once combined with Alcatel-Lucent) and Cisco can also lay claim to tick many of Telefónica's Unica boxes and Cisco has a great deal of enterprise IT experience, but neither look as well placed as Huawei. Of course, Cisco and Ericsson might jointly pitch. That would be an interesting test of their new relationship. (See Cisco & Ericsson Forge Killer Partnership and Cisco + Ericsson: From Soup to Nuts.)

All four, though, have, in one way or another, been working with Telefónica on its Unica strategy for at least two years and all claim to have extensive systems integration, cloud, SDN and NFV experience, according to the answers they provided in an exclusive Light Reading survey conducted earlier this year. (See Vendor Selection Survey: New Criteria for the New IP Era and Telefónica Unveils Aggressive NFV Plans.)

The SI experts
Telefónica, of course, could opt for a neutral systems integrator that doesn't come with its own infrastructure baggage. The list of contenders in this category include:

IBM is in a particularly interesting position as it already has a quite close relationship with Huawei. (See IBM Sows Seed for New Telco Unit, Plans NFV/SDN Push.)

This, of course, is all conjecture: The only thing we know for sure is that Telefónica is working to secure a new lead partner, and quickly, so it can move ahead with Unica.

Systems integration always looked like it was going to be a hotbed of activity as the NFV market took off: MWC 2016 could be an interesting forum for Telefónica's next major NFV reveal. (See NFV's Looming Battle: Systems Integration.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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Steve Saunders
Steve Saunders
12/24/2015 | 5:11:11 PM
The power of two
Ray, I would be astonished if Cisco and Ericsson don't jointly bid on this. It's exactly the kind of opp that their JV should allow them to win... Top flight New IP plus top of class system integration.
12/25/2015 | 8:07:07 AM
Vendor Silos
I wouldn't presume to have any insight into Telefónica's situation and without seeing the RFP it's impossible to say who the best positioned vendors could be.  In a general sense however it seems to me that an independent systems integrator would be best suited to deliver on the value proposition of NFV.  If CSPs want to modernize to look more like their OTT competitors wouldn't they want to whitebox their hardware?  Supermicro servers would provide a lower CAPEX than HPE's but Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. go a step further with purpose built servers and the Open Compute Project (OCP).  AT&T are going this route with their CORD project.  Iit's true that the ETSI NFV vision is to build on "high volume" servers and switches, riding the economies of scale created by enterprise demands, and so HPE is an obvious hardware vendor.  But CSPs see themselves as bigger and better than enterprise and OCP solutions do resuse high volume components.  Ericsson are doing interesting things with Intel's Rack Scale Architecture and silicon photonics, Huawei have their own servers and switches, Cisco have both as well.  But does a large CSP want an NFV single vendor silo (smallish CSPs probably do)?
Faisal Khan
Faisal Khan
12/28/2015 | 1:15:04 PM
SI can play a major role
If Telefonica major concern is vendor neutrality and that is the reason it ditched HPE, then the best bet for Telefonica would be to go with an SI that can integrate vendors in much better way than a vendor alone.
12/30/2015 | 8:28:43 AM
Re: SI can play a major role
@Faisal: But didn't Telefonica knew this while selecting HPE in the first place?
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