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VMware CEO Readies for ‘Massive Wave’ in 5G Spend. Should Telcos Pay Attention?

Pat Gelsinger is positioning VMware as a partner to help telcos move workloads to cloud architectures, including the edge, as they look to manage and deploy 5G networks.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger at this year’s VMworld said he expects “telcos will play a bigger role in the cloud universe than ever before.”

It’s an incredible opportunity for service providers — one that could bolster balance sheets for years to come. But for service providers to accomplish this and be a vital player in 5G, Gelsinger said, they’ll have to change the underlying infrastructure of their networks and transform from hardware-centric, vertical-siloed networks to networks focused on utilizing software to achieve speed and scale.

Networks, he said, are “becoming a software layer across multiple generations of technologies.”

Putting money where their mouth is

A good chunk of Gelsinger’s and other VMware executives’ talk tracks at VMworld were focused on the service provider industry. These sentiments are expected to be echoed this week at VMworld Europe.

And it’s not lip service. Take a look at VMware’s recent acquisitions:

  • Uhana, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) automation platform, can help optimize telco networks, which will continue to experience unprecedented bandwidth demand and workloads thanks to the Internet of Things, next-generation wireless technologies and low-latency applications. Gelsinger is excited to see how Uhana can help bring VMware innovations into the telco network.
  • Carbon Black, a cloud security provider that leverages big data and behavioral analytics to provide comprehensive endpoint protection. Combined with VMware, the pair will create a modern security cloud platform for any application running on any cloud or device.
  • Avi Networks, a software-defined application delivery service that can deliver a public cloud experience to developers regardless of what underlying infrastructure they are running.
  • Bitfusion, which helps more efficient use of AI technologies on-premises and in hybrid cloud environments.
  • Veriflow, a network verification vendor that can help modernize and automate networks across different devices.

Positioning to aid telcos

String each of these acquisitions together and a theme begins to emerge: VMware is positioning itself as an increasingly valuable partner to help telcos move network functions and applications to ubiquitous cloud architectures, from the core to the edge, as they look to manage and deploy 5G networks, which require flexibility and economies of scale to succeed.

VMware is looking to leverage these acquisitions to expand its footprint within telcos by helping service providers better position themselves in front of their own enterprise and commercial customers, as well as consumer subscribers. 

VMware, according to Light Reading, aims to accomplish this through two channels: 

  • Network infrastructure, through offerings such as vSphere server virtualization, NSX virtual networks, vSAN storage area networks and vRrealize for hybrid cloud management.
  • Service offerings telcos can turn around and sell to their end customers, such as VeloCloud SD-WAN or Workspace One.

The acquisitions of cloud-native platform providers Pivotal and Heptio, which help organizations deploy and operationalize Kubernetes, also are likely to have a meaningful impact for service providers and may provide insight into the future plans of the Dell Technologies-owned OEM.

Complementary paths

VMware, which has long developed software for virtual machines, is beginning to move to containerized applications, though VMware believes both will complement each other for some time.

“This idea that this is one versus the other is the wrong way to think about it,” Gelsinger said. “These two are, for the most part, complementary. Fusing them together as we’re doing with Project Pacific gives the ability to bridge between the development world and the operations world like never before.”

Project Pacific is VMware’s effort to evolve vSphere into a native Kubernetes platform. Gelsinger called this the “most significant rearchitecture of vSphere in the last decade.”

Joe Wojtal, chief technology officer of WWT’s Global Service Provider organization, said VMware’s focus on delivering Kubernetes on bare metal servers creates a virtualization platform service providers need to get to.

“5G is a huge investment for service providers — CFOs are writing checks for hundreds of millions of dollars to deploy 5G infrastructure. And that’s just the cost side the equation,” Wojtal said. “The other side is income — getting all these apps and services up and running to monetize new 5G infrastructure.”

Virtualizing the network and delivering services at the edge allows telcos to more quickly deploy services to customers, thus creating new revenue streams while reducing cost and network reliability.

The faster service providers can achieve that state, the better off they’ll be in justifying continued 5G infrastructure investment. VMware’s focus on service providers can help telcos get there faster. 

The value of testing and validating

Bringing other OEM partners into the fold also presents a set of challenges.

Disaggregating hardware from software can simplify service providers’ network architectures and transform their business models by addressing dynamic service requirements, scalable workloads, automation needs, multivendor architectures and the complexities of agile development.

It sounds simple. But it’s incredibly complicated and requires a labor-intensive process to design, test validate and deploy multi-OEM solutions at scale.

To capture the full value of virtualization, deployments must be validated in an end-to-end architecture — from infrastructure to orchestration.

And of course, underneath the software layer still exists hardware, whether its purpose-built, x86 servers or some combination of the two.

WWT's Advanced Technology Center (ATC) can replicate typical production environments, so test results reflect what service providers can expect in their own networks. Utilizing the ATC can shorten the time it takes service providers to bring new services to market by incorporating the latest industry tools for validating complex multi-OEM solutions. Once these solutions are validated, they can be integrated at scale and deployed from WWT's global integration centers. 

Contact your WWT service provider account team to find out how WWT can support the outcomes you're trying to create with 5G deployments.