Broad partnership promises upstream-first approach to speeding open source solutions into production.

October 19, 2016

4 Min Read
Ericsson Dons Red Hat for Open Source

Ericsson and Red Hat today announced a partnership that highlights not only the growing importance of open source solutions to the telecom market, but also the way that telecom is embracing open source -- and that involves a lot of vendor support. (See Ericsson, Red Hat Partner on Open Source.)

Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) is known for its commercial support for open source solutions, dating back to its roots in the enterprise Linux market, and is increasingly engaged with telecom around the OpenStack cloud as a platform provider. The Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) partnership is intended to bring open source solutions to market faster by providing the commercial support that telecom service providers need, while staying true to the open source process itself and not creating vendor-specific "forks" in the software developed for NFV and SDN.

The two companies are calling this a broad alliance to offer production-ready solutions that are open-sourced based for OpenStack, network functions virtualization and NFV infrastructure, software-defined networking and software-defined infrastructure.

"This is much broader in scope than anything that has been announced in this space," claims Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of OpenStack at Red Hat. "We are both optimizing all the elements of our portfolios -- it's not just two organizations coming together to create one solution. The other thing that makes it unique is that it is all predicated on upstream-first, open source innovation. The core promise is 100% open solution -- there is no risk of vendor lock-in."

The upstream-first mentality -- something Ericsson's Santiago Rodriguez, vice president of engineering for SDN and policy control stressed at the OpenDaylight Summit -- means service providers can count on being able to integrate other vendors' software into any Ericsson-Red Hat solution going forward, he says. That should provide confidence for service providers to move forward more quickly with vendor-supported solutions.

Want to know more about NFV and open source strategies? Check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.

Among the things Ericsson and Red Hat will do as part of this process is certify Ericsson's platforms and software portfolio for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and OpenStack, to include its Ericsson Cloud Execution Environment, Cloud SDN solution, and Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 and Ericsson Virtual Network Functions (VNF) applications.

The two companies are then working together on joint NFVi, SDN and SDI solutions and feeding what they develop back into a range of upstream communities including OpenStack and OpenDaylight. The goal is to speed up the open source process, says Susan James, head of the NFV infrastructure product line for Ericsson, as that process today can take too long.

"If you look the [open source] distribution we are using for the operators right now, there is still a lot of essentially post-development work and that to some extent has been a time-to-market reality -- there are lots of things they are looking for from a functionality standpoint that has taken too long to get into the open source community for various reasons," she notes.

Some of that she attributes to the inability of those in the telecom space to "speak the language" of the open source and IT communities -- an obstacle that working with Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. has helped improve, James tells Light Reading. Now, working with their customers and feeding practical results back upstream into the open source groups, particularly OPNFV, OpenStack and OpenDaylight , the partners can speed up that process.

At the same time, Balakrishnan notes, telecom operators continue to look for go-to-market support from the proof-of-concept stage up to and through deployment, and integration into existing operations, and there the two partners believe they can bring commercially strong features drawing on their joint strengths, including providing professional services.

All this happens while maintaining openness that will enable onboarding of a range of virtual network functions from other vendors, he says.

Red Hat already works with a number of other telecom vendors including major competitors of Ericsson -- namely Cisco, Nokia, NEC and Fujitsu, among others.

"We will continue to work with multiple partners out there, as a platform provider -- that comes with territory of being a platform provider," Balakrishnan says. "What is unique about this partnership is the breadth of offerings that I touched upon -- it is not just NFV solutions, also SDN solutions, also HDS for data center large-scale implementation, and going forward, container strategies."

James notes that the maturation of OpenStack as a cloud management platform has also progressed to the point that it is better suited for the telecom space, especially -- again -- in a vendor-supported version.

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

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