Dell scaling up a cloud-native telecom ecosystem for 5G

Next-gen telecommunications hardware and software was not a sector that was a mainstay for Dell previously. The company now sees this as a major new opportunity.

Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DELL) isn't often in the news when the topic is 5G connectivity products and services, but that's changing fast.

The Round Rock, the Texas-based company, said on June 9 that it is building an open standards-based, cloud-native telecom ecosystem using new infrastructure, a slew of new reference architectures, key industry partners (including Red Hat, Intel, and VMware), and a dedicated 5G innovation lab -- all to expand Dell's business in the telecommunications service providers (CSPs) market.

Telecommunications hardware and software was not a sector that was a mainstay for Dell previously. The company now sees this as a major new enterprise opportunity.

"This 5G era is really the 'enterprise G'," Dennis Hoffman, senior vice president and general manager of Dell's Telecom Systems Business, told reporters. "It's the era in which the next set of those kinds of transformational services are going to take place throughout the economy."

"Three things have to happen in order to do that. First, they (telecom companies) need to be able to build and monetize edge computing. Second, they need to modernize network architectures -- the legacy network isn't as agile as it needs to be. It isn't software-defined -- it's fundamentally not cloud-native. That really gets to the last piece, which is cloud-native operations need to become the principal mechanism by which a communication service provider operates," Hoffman continued.

The key takeaway here is Project Metalweaver, software that telecoms can use to design highly scalable cloud-native infrastructure across wide areas. Hoffman described it as a configurable platform that CSPs can use to autonomously deploy and manage multivendor computing and network and storage hardware across multiple regions of the world, backed by Dell's global support and services.

Hoffman said the 5G reference architectures Dell has made available cover edge, core, and Open RAN environments -- Open radio access network is a term for industry-wide standards for RAN interfaces that support interoperation between vendors' equipment. Dell said these reference architectures would be made available this summer to provide CSPs with full-stack development guidance, deployment options, and operational recommendations for various use cases.

In addition to working with VMware, Intel, and Red Hat on the ecosystem, Dell said it would also build core 5G software packages with Nokia Corp. and Affirmed Networks Inc., multi-access edge computing platforms with Intel Smart Edge, and private network solutions with CommScope Inc. The company will also develop 5G Open RAN software with Mavenir Systems Inc., which will optimize it for Dell EMC PowerEdge XR11 servers.

Hoffman said Dell's new Open Telecom Ecosystem Lab is intended to serve as a place where its customers and partners can explore ways to collaborate on future telecoms infrastructure and applications. It will be hosted at Dell's Round Rock headquarters.

"Communication networks are disaggregating, so an open ecosystem of hardware and software vendors is forming to support this transformation," Daryl Schoolar, a lead analyst at Omdia, said in a media advisory. "Communications service providers need strategic partners to help organize the ecosystem, provide validated solutions, and take responsibility for deployment and operating outcomes."