Want a prime example of a service provider that's hitting all of its marks when it comes to its digital transformation? Look no further than Orange, according to Red Hat's Darrell Jordan-Smith.
Earlier this month at the OpenStack Summit in Sydney, Jordan-Smith lauded praise on Orange, which is a longtime Red Hat telecom partner.
"Orange is deploying a fully open technology platform with Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat Ceph Storage, adding its expertise to community development efforts," said Jordan-Smith, Red Hat's vice president of global information and communications technology, as both companies jointly announced that they would be collaborating with each other on putting enhanced and updated NFV features into OpenStack and other open-source projects. "We're very pleased that our technologies power Orange’s standardized NFVi platform and we're excited to continue our collaboration in open source initiatives, aimed at delivering new business value to the industry."
As Orange (NYSE: FTE) infuses greater digital transformation into open-source communities affiliated with Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), Red Hat in turn expects to help Orange digitally transform the telco's own customers.
Previously, in part one of this Q&A, Jordan-Smith spoke about how Red Hat focuses on edge mobility and virtualization in carrying digital transformation through to its network-operator customers' own enterprise clients. (See Red Hat's Jordan-Smith: Digital Transformation Happens at the Mobile Edge.) Now, in part two of this lightly edited Q&A, Jordan-Smith gets more specific by using Orange as an example of successful digital transformations.
Telco Transformation: How did Red Hat's partnership with Orange come into being? What drove it?
Darrell Jordan-Smith: Our original engagement, and this is going back a few years, with Orange was around middleware; how do they use middleware to open-source technologies to run applications in a traditional middleware environment? You know, an application server running a web-based service over a network. So that's where a lot of the original work we'd been doing with Orange and the relationship that we had built over time with Orange came from.
That evolved to a very large OpenShift deployment for their internal developer environments so that they could be one of the more insightful businesses that do CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Development) in terms of agile product development in software for internal developers.
We created essentially one of the first large OpenShift-dedicated environments for Orange for their developers and they looked at the containerization effects of moving a number of their applications from being very traditionally orientated toward developer methodologies into a much more of a cloud-native agile development methodology. So they at Orange created a whole internal team capable of doing that.
In parallel, as that was going on, we were also looking at virtualization of core network functions within Orange, how Orange could look at network function virtualization and how they can abstract using OpenStack elements of their network infrastructure. We put in an SD-WAN-type service that they launched to Orange's customers where they are now allowing customers to become more agile in their digital transformations in terms of being able to build out network infrastructures that scale to their business and their requirements in a very dynamic manner, which gives them flexibility at a much lower cost point. That enables them to digitize many of their assets to their customer's customer. So that was really the second pillar of our engagement, as it were, with Orange.
TT: What is the impact that you and Orange are seeing on Orange's customers in terms of working together on OpenStack and OpenShift in the current engagement?
This is the third pillar, which is what the announcement alludes to. It's that we're really combining those two things. So we're looking at "How do we take what we've done with OpenStack, and what we've been doing with OpenShift, and bring those two assets together -- in order to deliver the next generation of network function virtualization and create a much more cloud-native based network function that sits across their network infrastructure?"
As part of that third pillar, we have built out an extensive lab with Orange to accelerate time to market as we've seen some success from the first two pillars and materially help them with their customers and delivering new services -- successful ones -- to market.
We're working very closely with Orange on what the upstream communities need to understand around certain use cases so we can ensure in the upstream, as these communities' open-source technologies are built, that use cases are taken into consideration with developing technologies that address their business needs. So those are the three pillars of the real engagement behind Orange.
TT: Beyond your partnership with Orange, how do you foresee Red Hat working with its other partners and customers in the telecom and network operator space moving forward to make their customers and their customers' customers more agile?
DJS: Orange is a good use case for us. We can talk about different operators as well but they're all going down the path of building software-defined network infrastructure. Different operators are taking it from different use cases and different business cases that they can apply to drive that. There's a huge amount of learning that a telco needs to do as they go from an appliance-based model to more of a cloud-based agile model, so that takes time for some of these very large companies to absorb and to adopt those skills within their existing teams. We do a lot of work there with a lot of our partners and customers in that space.
I don't see any telco turning around and saying: "Hey, we're going to do it the way we've been doing it. We're going to buy an appliance. We're going to stick it in the network, and we're going to operate it for ten years, and it's going to be a very fixed service; it will be very reliable, but it will be fixed."
The market is changing. The telcos are no longer traditional telcos; they're becoming more like content service providers. They're driving content thru applications and media throughout the edge of the network and addressing different vertical markets. The whole thing is dramatically changing. In our opinion at Red Hat -- and certainly my personal opinion is -- if telcos don't embrace that change from a software/agile perspective, their traditional business model is not going to sustain them in the long term.
TT: In Red Hat's partnership announcement with Orange, you are quoted as saying, "Orange is embracing the role of the modern open communications provider." What makes, in your mind, a "modern open communications provider" today?
DJS: This is a Red Hat reference. We believe at Red Hat that open source is a method of innovation that provides inherently open environments to many different developers and innovation that sits elsewhere. So it won't be the only thing that telcos deploy; they will use proprietary software in certain places where that makes sense, but in the network we see open source playing a very major role for two reasons:
- Because it is open. That drives certain cost coefficients and financially addresses some of the concerns that many of the operators traditionally have around lock-in.
- They get to contribute to the upstream themselves; they become part of the fabric of what they're looking to deploy in their network infrastructure. So from our perspective, that is a very key element in the success in this particular marketplace.
From our perspective at Red Hat, if a telco isn't looking at open source and software-defined networking or agile methodologies in terms of developing and deploying new services, we would be concerned about longevity or the focus of that particular business. That's not to say that they won't just be doing transport, but the majority of the larger operators we are working with are looking to a significant digital transformation of their own business in order to drive relevant access to large communities of customers that deliver unique value to the marketplace.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation