Lenovo, Red Hat Team Up to Deliver NFV Infrastructure to Telcos

The OP@L initiative will deliver offerings built on Lenovo's infrastructure that will run Red Hat's NFV and OpenStack software.

data center

Lenovo is teaming up with Red Hat as it looks to build tightly integrated and open systems for the telecommunications industry, and is looking at network virtualization as a key part of the effort.

At the recent Red Hat Summit, Lenovo officials unveiled its Open Platform@Lenovo (OP@L) to create open infrastructure that will run Red Hat's software stack for network-functions virtualization (NFV), an emerging technology that is playing a key role in telco initiatives to create more agile, programmable and scalable networks to address changing customer demands.

At the same time, Lenovo also joined the Open Platform NFV (OPNFV) consortium, which is developing an open, carrier-grade platform enabling members to develop solutions and services using NFV. Company officials said the move will help Lenovo advance its telco ambitions and give it a greater presence in the burgeoning NFV market.

The goal of Lenovo's telco push is to create infrastructures that will serve as the foundations for carriers' initiatives for delivering rich mobile content, 5G networks and Internet of things (IoT) workloads. Through network virtualization, telecommunications companies can create infrastructures that enable them to more quickly manage the shifting workloads and demands and more easily create and spin out services to their customers.

Telcos and Internet service providers (ISPs) are key drivers behind the push for NFV and software-defined networking (SDN), which work by essentially taking the control plane and network tasks like load balancing, routing and firewalls off the hardware and putting them into software, creating networks that are more programmable, automated and cost-efficient.

Analysts with SNS Research in a report late last year said that mobile operators and ISPs already are making investments in a broad range of SDN and NFV technologies, and they estimate that between 2015 and 2020, service provider investments in SDN and NFV will grow 54 percent a year, to more than $20 billion by 2020. Analysts with IHS last year said the carrier SDN space will grow 98 percent a year between 2015 and 2020, to $8.7 billion.

Openness also is a key to the changing data center and telco infrastructures, Lenovo officials said. The company will work with Red Hat to develop a certified solution stack based on Red Hat's NFV Platform and built on Red Hat's OpenStack Platform. The software stack will run on Lenovo infrastructure that complies with design requirements by the Facebook-led Open Compute Project (OCP).

"We understand how important open standards and integrated operability will be for data centers to support 5G and IoT," Philippe Davy, vice president of Lenovo's global telco business, said in a statement.

Lenovo is joining other major tech vendors, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Dell, Oracle and Cisco Systems, in offering a growing portfolio of hardware and software aimed at helping carriers and service providers transform their infrastructures to better address the changing demands in their environments.

Earlier this year, the OCP announced it was creating a new project focused on modernizing data center technologies for telcos, while an array of carriers—including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, Verizon and Equinix—announced they were joining the OCP to help with the project.

"We are optimistic about the potential of open hardware to bring large-scale gains to the telecommunications industry, and that starts with increased participation," Jason Taylor, president and chairman of the OCP board and vice president of infrastructure at Facebook, wrote in his blog at the time.

Lenovo's work with Red Hat builds on a strategic alliance that was announced late last year that not only touches on service providers but also customers in other industries. Lenovo already provides Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and CloudForms software on some of its systems, and has created reference architectures and deployment guides to help customers more quickly design and deliver solutions running Red Hat's software on its infrastructure.