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AT&T, Dell Team Up To Tackle Open-Source Edge Computing, 5G

Dell is joining the Airship open infrastructure project, an AT&T-led initiative aimed at automating the provisioning telecom cloud infrastructure for 5G.

AT&T has spent its summer teaming up with fellow tech giants in cloud and 5G. Its latest partner: Dell Technologies.

The two companies will develop and further open infrastructure technology that can support new use cases at the edge of the network, especially as more customers rely on cloud-based applications and soon, 5G. Specifically, Dell is joining the Airship open infrastructure project, an AT&T-led initiative founded in 2018 alongside SK Telecom, Intel and the OpenStack Foundation.

The Airship project aims to automate the provisioning telecom cloud infrastructure for 5G. That's because next-generation technologies such as 5G will require distributed architectures that use disaggregated and open infrastructure to provision mobile services, something that hardware won't be able to deliver, according to Dallas-based AT&T.  

[Related: 8 Things To Know About AT&T's Partnerships With IBM, Microsoft]

Perhaps most importantly to the two companies, having Dell join the Airship ecosystem will help the project extend automation from cloud infrastructure software to hardware, thanks to Dell's expertise in bare-metal servers and data storage virtualization technology.

Airship 1.0 was rolled out last year and Dell's participation will help fast-track the release of Airship 2.0, the companies said.  

"Dell is working closely with AT&T to combine our joint telco industry best practices with decades of data center transformation experience to help service providers quickly roll out new breeds of experiential edge and 5G services," said Kevin Shatzkamer, vice president of Dell EMC Service Provider Solutions, in a statement. "As the world leader in servers, storage and personal computers, Dell's … supply chain is best positioned to deliver the cost structure, predictability and access to emerging infrastructure technologies required to enable the transition to a more open, disaggregated mobile network."

The AT&T-Dell collaboration is an example of how AT&T is working toward 5G innovation for business customers, said Stacey Marx, senior vice president and channel chief of AT&T Partner Solutions.

“These kinds of collaborations are key to opening up new possibilities and innovations for the channel and our partners in the future," Marx told CRN.  

Altaworx, an AT&T Platinum partner based in Fairhope, Ala., has a blossoming Internet of Things practice and is working with customers to connect devices that have never been connected before. The new partnership may be able to greatly benefit IoT customers, especially as more work is happening at the edge of the network, said Rickie Richey, CEO of Altaworx.

"I'd love to see partners have access to these cloud resources because [AT&T Partner Exchange] partners don't have access to a cloud product from AT&T that we can resell," he said.  

Richey said he believes AT&T will sign more deals with other hardware vendors similar to the one with Dell. "Being able to push out server and hardware configurations via 5G will be a big bonus for MSPs, IT service providers and companies deploying cloud servers," he said.

Meanwhile, in July AT&T said that it was growing its relationship with IBM. As part of the deal, AT&T Business Solutions is migrating its internal software applications to the IBM cloud and IBM is making AT&T Business its primary provider of software-defined networking. AT&T also in July teamed up with Microsoft in a multi-year deal in which AT&T Communications will move its workloads to Microsoft Azure and the two companies also plan to collaborate on new 5G products. The AT&T-Microsoft deal is reportedly worth more than $2 billion.

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