NEC eyes 5G gains with Red Hat deal

NEC Corporation became the latest network vendor to tap IBM’s Red Hat for a 5G boost, teaming with the software company to bring its suite of next-generation core capabilities to the OpenShift platform.

Ian Hood, chief technologist for Red Hat’s Global Service Providers unit, told Fierce the move demonstrates “the industry is capable of expanding the choices for our customers across multiple vendors to drive innovation and also make it easier for end customers to build out their networks faster and at better economic costs.”

He added NEC joins previously announced OpenShift 5G partners Samsung and Mavenir.

Red Hat noted in a press release the addition of NEC’s 5G core network solutions to OpenShift will allow customers using the platform to address use cases spanning 5G core and RAN, edge computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In a statement, NEC SVP Michio Kiuchi said its collaboration with Red Hat will “help CSPs and DSPs stay competitive in this increasingly demanding global 5G market, especially on the cloud-native front.”

NEC will also work with Red Hat to offer a solution tailored to private 5G deployments.

Hood explained to Fierce that in a 4G world, many operators used its OpenStack platform to move hardware-based functions to virtual machines running in the cloud. OpenShift is the next step in that evolution, he said, allowing the deployment of applications that were designed specifically to take advantage of cloud architecture.

He explained that simply put, cloud-native applications are written differently. Rather than using a large, monolithic line of code, cloud-native applications use smaller modules of code (known as microservices) that can be scaled independently without requiring the entire application to be rebuilt every time a change needs to be made. These modules are put together in containers to create an application, which is then deployed on a platform, like OpenShift.

While the shift of legacy functions to OpenStack got operators “some benefits,” Hood said “the next level of benefit they want to get from a scale and security capabilities perspective is really the full world of cloud-native and microservices, and that’s what OpenShift brings.”

He said Red Hat spent much of the past year “getting through lots of trials of 5G core technologies” with its operator partners, adding leading players were already pressing ahead with deployments. Though RAN applications lagged behind due to a need to meet to specific standards and performance requirements, “I expect us to be making a lot more strides in the radio access network this year.”