The News: Ericsson and Intel are pooling R&D resources with the goal of developing high-performing Cloud RAN solutions. The companies have launched a tech hub in California to combine Ericsson Cloud RAN and Intel technology aimed at improving energy efficiency and network performance, reduce time to market, and monetize enterprise applications. Read the Ericsson Press Release here.
Ericsson and Intel Form Cloud RAN Tech Hub to Synthesize R&D and Bolster Software Roadmaps
Analyst Take: News of Ericsson and Intel’s Cloud RAN Tech Hub was of great interest this week. I anticipate that the newly formed Ericsson-Intel Tech Hub can play a major role in determining how communications service providers (CSPs) evolve their RAN deployments, especially Cloud RAN solutions, across the 5G ecosystem. The partnership is stressing joint development work on Cloud RAN containerized network function (CNF) applications geared toward upcoming generations of processing platforms as well as power management and performance enhancements.
I believe Ericsson and Intel can broaden adoption of Cloud RAN solutions by winning early CSP mindshare on how to best approach and optimized CNF applications, especially across emerging Open 5G standalone (SA) environments. This includes putting CNFs into production on a cost-effective, automated, and secure basis by running containers on virtual machines (VMs) to assure operating CNFs at scale.
From my perspective, operating and orchestrating containers in production entails putting automation, lifecycle management, resource management, data persistence, and high availability capabilities in place. With 5G, CSPs need to use cloud-native network software to support 5G standards and architecture, particularly in support of enabling ecosystem-wide Open 5G adoption. I expect that Ericsson and Intel have the ecosystem influence to assure that their future commercial software releases align with CSP prioritization of migrating existing virtual network functions to CNFs as well as releasing new solutions in containers.
Key to successful CNF implementation is coordinating the re-factoring of most network applications in accordance with cloud-native principles to ensure the CNFs are cloud-native. Otherwise CSPs run the risk of having running CNFs across their 5G network but lack cloud-native agility. Through their Cloud RAN Tech Hub, Ericsson and Intel have the sales and marketing opportunity to ensure CSPs implement CNFs on a full cloud-native basis and thus avoid 5G network build headaches related to container adoption and orchestration down the line.
On a recent analyst call, Rakuten Mobile/Rakuten Symphony CEO Tareq Amin commended Intel for the Layer 1 (L1) software capabilities of its FlexRAN reference architecture, particularly in support of building scalable cloud-native RAN solutions on Intel architecture using Xeon Scalable Processors. As a result, Rakuten Mobile is not considering an alternative silicon architecture today as Intel’s long-term commitment (starting in 2010) to making flexible L1 software integral to its overall virtual RAN portfolio development strategy is the difference maker thus far as players such as Marvell/Dell and Qualcomm/HPE take aim at Intel’s FlexRAN reference architecture.
I also believe Ericsson and Intel should proactively address how Ericsson Cloud RAN can be compatible with the Open RAN objectives of major CSPs, such as the members of the O-RAN Alliance. Through the Ericsson-Intel Tech Hub, I expect that both firms can play more sales and marketing offense than defense by assuaging the 5G ecosystem that Cloud RAN can be more friend than foe of Open RAN as CSPs evolve their RAN and overall 5G strategies and implementations.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research as a whole.
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Image Credit: Ericsson
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Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.