Dell is aiming to disrupt the telecommunications industry with OpenStack-based network functions virtualization, a technology aimed at letting carriers tap into the same speed and efficiency benefits that server virtualization has delivered for enterprises.
As part of this effort, Dell will unveil a partnership with Red Hat on Monday that it claims will accelerate its transition to selling boxes to selling telecom services that run in the cloud.
Franklin Flint, global telecommunications strategist and marketing director for Dell's OEM Solutions unit, said NFV is a way to deal with the mishmash of proprietary telecom devices, protocols, and applications. It also lets service providers rapidly scale services up and down as needed, he said.
"Through our partnership with Red Hat, we will build an OpenStack-based platform that will allow telecom companies to be able to manage their network from the data center, instead of having to buy boxes from Cisco, Juniper, or Ericsson," Flint told CRN.
"We’re committed to jointly engineering OpenStack-based NFV and SDN solutions built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform to help telecommunications customers take full advantage of such transformative technologies to in turn, transform their business,” Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat's general manager of virtualization and OpenStack, said in an interview.
At next week's Mobile World Congress 2014, Dell will be one of several companies trying to crack the nascent network functions virtualization (NFV) space. Hewlett-Packard is expected to announce a NFV partnership on Monday, and Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei Technologies, and Cisco Systems are all developing technology for virtualizing applications, devices, and software that make up the telecom infrastructure.
Nav Chander, research manager for telecom services and network infrastructure at IDC, said NFV is a fast growing piece of the $1.2 trillion global telecommunications market, one that could account for 5 to 10 percent of the space in three years.
Carriers are interested in NFV technology because it helps with both capital and operational expenditures. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Verizon see the virtualization of their telecom infrastructure as a way to reduce cost, boost efficiency, and cut the time it takes to deploy technology in half, Chander told CRN.
"If vendors can agree on standard and actually rollout products NFV has a chance of changing the telecom IT landscape," Chander said.
While NFV has potential, Bruce Flitcroft, CEO and founder of Alliant Technologies, a Morristown, N.J.-based solution provider and AT&T partner, said the technology feels more like hype than reality at this stage.
"It's a nice concept to move all controls to one centralized platform. But the Junipers and Ciscos of the telecom world have absolutely no motivation to see their proprietary hardware and devices virtualized," Flitcroft told CRN. "These companies are bringing to market SDN solutions, but it could be years before we see NFV deployed in the data center."