Key learnings from Red Hat’s Open5G event

Darrell Jordan-Smith, Senior Vice President of TME & Industries at Red Hat, shares some of the key takeaways from Red Hat’s Open5G event as the company plans for 2023.

In 2022, Red Hat hosted dozens of pioneering service providers, ecosystem partners and technologists to come together to share real 5G deployment stories—diving deep into the open technologies and processes behind them. Through this event, we’ve continued to learn so much about 5G networks—how to monetize, innovate, close the skills gap, while digging into the critical role open source technologies play in making this happen. From overall strategy to edge computing to automation and sustainability, we’ve learned about building resilient networks that will power the next generation of eco conscious cars, healthcare applications, robotics, the list goes on and on. While Open5G hosted over 40 outstanding sessions, I wanted to share some of the big highlights we can take away as we plan for 2023.

Linux, highlighted by RHEL and open source collaboration, is essential to the modern telco infrastructure

Linux is the backbone of modern telecommunications infrastructure, and we see Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the leading enterprise Linux platform, as the catalyst for service providers to further transform. Red Hat is committed to delivering service providers, customers and partners with the resources to build a stronger, more resilient infrastructure in a way that works for them. As part of this effort, Red Hat maintains a leadership position and an active role in many open source communities, like the real-time Linux kernel, represented as a product via RHEL for Real Time. Not only do we encourage community members and partners to contribute and collaborate on future RHEL releases, we take steps to drive broader access to our supported RHEL releases by offering RHEL at no cost for individual developers and a no cost developer subscription for teams for qualifying enterprises. This helps service providers to have a foundation for them to further capitalize on the 5G evolution.

It’s not about building a specialized snowflake, it’s about building a standardized footprint that can be scaled

As service providers adopt cloud-native platforms to run their service and applications, they face the challenge of operating those platforms and doing so at scale. They are finding their traditional operational models and processes are not agile enough and need to plan their cloud strategy to remain relevant in the market.

An area of significant change is the velocity of upgrades. For traditional service provider networks, upgrades occur approximately every six months, and only after performing very careful and meticulous testing. With the introduction of new cloud-native technology and methodologies, like continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), upgrades can now be monthly or even weekly. The risk of frequent upgrades is that of system or network failure, so service provider processes must be resilient and have the ability to restore network availability and reliability.

To maintain high availability and reliability, the deployment and ongoing operations of a service provider network has to rely on a declarative model. In essence, the intent of the network is written as code. Once deployed, the network then maintains itself to the declarative state, and corrects any drift in configuration. Ultimately, the service provider network achieves zero-touch deployment and operations.

An edge strategy is table stakes

Edge computing will change every industry in the next ten years, and AI (artificial intelligence) is an edge superpower. Companies are working to accelerate and realize the potential of AI and 5G, creating more intelligent factories, stores, warehouses and ultimately building a more visible supply chain, changing production as demand changes. Having said this, there cannot be Edge without connectivity and therefore, largely, service providers will be vital.

Open source is behind the strategy of edge expansion and the keystone for digital innovation. Industries will look for new use cases that are high performing and rugged, use less power, while retaining a security-conscious and scalable footprint. This means that service providers need to move away from customized solutions to collaborative, efficient and repeatable patterns to grow the industry edge. Open source accelerates the CI/CD process, helping providers deploy new capabilities earlier and faster.

A robust partner ecosystem is also important. We know that one company cannot be all things to all customers, and exploring interoperable solutions with partners gives providers a solid ecosystem to choose the areas that meet their needs and get to market faster. Ecosystems will also introduce choice and with choice we historically see benefits in cost and innovation that it brings. Investment here is critical to the success of the industry in the long term.

5G expansion needs to be industry focused with the goal of a true application platform. An efficient 5G network is fully programmable and balances workloads based on network demand. Combining AI and 5G will bring unmatched value to enterprises, creating new use cases and revenue streams.

Is it public or is it private? It’s both. It’s open hybrid cloud.

Service providers are often faced with tough investment choices—that’s the cost of running a business. From virtual machines (VNFs) to containers (CNFs) to private and public cloud environments, it’s not a black-and-white decision. As service providers look to the public cloud in an effort to avoid building and maintaining traditional infrastructure, they’re also enticed by the ability to more quickly and flexibly deploy new services. Service providers will operate virtual machines and containers for a long time to come and we all need to remember that this transition never happens at once.

In our session with Telefonica, we discussed just this. Telefonica partners with all the main cloud providers—migrating certain functionalities to public cloud, depending on performance needs, regulatory compliance reasons and economic feasibility for each case. Telefonica is working towards achieving a cloud continuum that combines private and public cloud technologies, infrastructures and services. In this process we need cloud providers as well as technology companies like Red Hat with the right technologies and methodologies helping us make this hybrid cloud approach happen.

With Red Hat OpenStack Platform working in conjunction with Red Hat OpenShift, service providers have a unified way of deploying services and applications within any cloud environment and a consistent set of tools for both developers and operations teams.

Innovation is driven not only by technology, but by culture

Culture is no longer just an industry buzzword. Companies across the globe are realizing that culture is king when it comes to employee engagement, retention and acquiring diverse, new talent. During the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace expectations shifted. Employees acquired a more flexible, remote working style but this can make it tough to foster a positive workplace culture due to a lack of face-to-face time between teams. But this doesn’t mean we send everyone back to the office—Red Hat didn’t. Why limit your organization to a geographical area when you can attract talented professionals across the globe? Instead, we’re seeing companies putting more time and energy into providing employees with educational opportunities for richer career growth. We’re also seeing a push in additional manager training to help with soft skills that will empower employees to raise their hands and contribute to the company not only from a skills perspective but also from an operational perspective. The future of innovation doesn’t just hinge on digital technologies but on traits like design thinking, agility, open communication, flexibility and diversity. Working with like-minded partners will also allow for greater diversity as we seek to deliver more innovation with a competitive advantage.