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Accelerate open RAN evolution automation with Red Hat and Tech Mahindra

Red Hat and Tech Mahindra have developed a single solution supporting NetOps, DevOps, DevSecOps, and GitOps methodologies, providing continuous orchestration and automation for full-stack open RAN systems. Cloud-native platform for open RAN combines the complementary strengths of Red Hat and Tech Mahindra to provide a “single pane of glass” for open RAN operations, incorporating life cycle management, infrastructure and application automation, and consistent operational procedures.

Accelerate open RAN evolution automation with Red Hat and Tech Mahindra

Content Summary

Executive summary
Accelerate open RAN and intercept 5G deployment cycles by overcoming operational challenges
Cloud-native platform for open RAN networks: Joint solution from Red Hat in partnership with Tech Mahindra
Open RAN cloud-native platform architecture
Summary of benefits

Executive summary

The open radio access network (RAN) movement has been welcomed as an essential factor in helping restore supply chain diversity in consolidated markets where choice of vendors has eroded over the last decade. However, even the very largest mobile network operators are daunted by the complicated prospect of introducing new vendors. Decades of accumulated investment in tools and processes are intertwined with the proprietary products of their incumbent RAN vendors.

Meanwhile, there are other incentives for change coming from multiple areas. The advent of new container-based, cloud-native architectures presents operators with opportunity and steep learning curves in equal measure. And there is no hold-up to the intense competitive pressure on operators to build out 5G coverage.

Mobile network operators must find strategic partners who can help them overcome many new challenges to manage the smooth introduction of open RAN solutions running on cloud-native infrastructure. Red Hat and Tech Mahindra are partnering to address this multidimensional challenge by combining a comprehensive set of products and services to support cloud-native, full-stack, life cycle management for open RAN networks.

Accelerate open RAN and intercept 5G deployment cycles by overcoming operational challenges

The first phase of 5G deployment has largely focused on urban network densification rollout in the macro layer. This relies heavily on massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO) functionality, presenting a particular challenge for multivendor open RAN solutions. Rural broadband using 5G fixed wireless access is also an important catalyst for 5G. Looking further ahead, connected and autonomous vehicles require 5G low-latency connectivity alongside roads and railways and drone corridors. And to deliver on the full promise of 5G, the fourth industrial revolution—Industry 4.0—requires the Internet of Things to extend to energy grids, farms, hospitals, factories, and warehouses.

These major trends in 5G applications create a limited window of opportunity for operators to introduce open RAN and the flexibility and agility it offers to better capture new service revenues. On the other hand, operators realize that a transformation of this magnitude can lead to massive amounts of new complexity to manage, especially given the combination of disruptive technologies that are involved with open RAN.

Vertically, disaggregation means that software and hardware stacks that were previously bundled together can now be purchased independently. Horizontally, disaggregation allows RAN functions (such as active antenna systems, radio units, distributed units, central units, and RAN intelligent controllers) to be purchased separately from different specialist vendors. The challenges of assuring a comprehensive approach to disaggregation are vast and require sophisticated innovations in both network orchestration and automation. Such challenges include: the need for acceleration, strict timing and synchronization, alignment of platform resources and capabilities (e.g., real-time kernel, CPU, single-root input/output [I/O] virtualization, etc.) to deliver RAN quality of service and zero touch provisioning.

Fortunately, industry initiatives such as the open RAN (O-RAN) Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) have been working to define standards and processes for open RAN interoperability. Meanwhile, the Open RAN Policy Coalition has emerged to discuss the implications of a highly consolidated telecommunications service provider (telco) infrastructure supply chain and bring it to the attention of government policymakers. Despite such initiatives, several barriers to mainstream open RAN adoption remain. In particular, the role of the traditional vendor as a provider of full RAN system release management, validation, and assurance is difficult to replicate efficiently within an open RAN ecosystem.

Much of the focus of the O-RAN Alliance and TIP has been on the interoperability of horizontally disaggregated RAN functions. Less focus, however, has been placed on the interactions and dependencies vertically within the stack, between RAN functions, and underlying cloud resources.

This layered abstraction is vital to the goal of disaggregation since it allows porting of network functions between different underlying infrastructure environments. However, open RAN is often criticized by incumbent vendors because of a perceived lack of holistic orchestration. Without tight integration between network functions, and their interaction with underlying hardware, software components, and infrastructure resources at different vertical layers in the stack, detractors argue that open RAN will always provide inferior performance compared with single-vendor solutions.

These are the fundamental challenges that Red Hat and Tech Mahindra are working together to address.

Cloud-native platform for open RAN networks: Joint solution from Red Hat in partnership with Tech Mahindra

Red Hat provides the speed of innovation generated by harnessing the agility of open-source software.

According to Forrester Research, Red Hat® OpenShift® offers the leading platform for both developers and operators.

OpenShift has an integrated container registry for tight control of resources and access, along with comprehensive automation capabilities for every part of the container stack. When operators deploy on OpenShift, they get a consistent telco-grade foundation for managing hybrid cloud and multi-cloud deployments that are used for open RAN.

Tech Mahindra adds the world-class system integration skills and resources needed to deliver, integrate, and operate open RAN in production networks.

Tech Mahindra provides a comprehensive, curated ecosystem of technology partners supplying central unit, distributed unit, radio unit, and other RAN components running on OpenShift. Additionally, netOps.ai offers a fully open source-based framework with open API support providing one-touch automation of network operations through a single-pane dashboard. It acts as a comprehensive service to support multivendor open RAN and hybrid cloud automation for network deployment, continuous integration, continuous deployment, continuous testing, network assurance, and AI-based operations for all infrastructure layers and RAN functions extending from a cloud environment to the edge of the network.

Red Hat OpenShift works symbiotically with netops.ai to fully automate the entire open RAN platform and its associated services.

Red Hat, Tech Mahindra, and the wider partner ecosystem provide the platform, tools, and application services necessary for a flexible open RAN solution. Tech Mahindra and the wider partner ecosystem are multipliers of the open-source community and help foster joint customer success. Red Hat and Tech Mahindra address the scale of real network RAN deployments by centralizing the management and operation capabilities that are needed to realize lower costs.

The open RAN cloud-native platform can fulfill the specific needs for each of the different O-RAN functional splits and centralization/distribution options.

The joint solution architecture is flexible and adaptable depending on what the operator requires, from a single server in a remote radio site to a large cluster for centralized RAN control units or packet core functions.

Open RAN cloud-native platform architecture

By combining their deep expertise and long experience of working with mobile network operators and synthesizing their product portfolios, Red Hat and Tech Mahindra have addressed the challenges described in this paper by cooperating to develop a single solution that supports NetOps, DevOps, DevSecOps, and GitOps methodologies and provides resource-aware, continuous orchestration, automation, and assurance for full-stack open RAN systems.

Open RAN cloud-native architecture

Red Hat OpenShift becomes an integrated extension of Tech Mahindra’s NetOps.ai to apply cloudnative principles such as Kubernetes-based orchestration of container-based RAN workloads and then adapts these principles to the specific, demanding real-time, non-stop, zero-touch operational requirements of the RAN domain.

Open RAN cloud-native architecture on Red Hat OpenShift

Summary of benefits

Cloud-native platform for open RAN combines the complementary strengths of Red Hat and Tech Mahindra to provide a “single pane of glass” for open RAN operations, incorporating life cycle management, infrastructure and application automation, consistent and effective operational procedures, as well as system performance assurance for the multivendor, disaggregated RAN.

Using a cloud-native platform for open RAN, mobile network operators can simplify their entire operational provisioning and change management processes to accelerate time to production and to assure ongoing network performance for open RAN.

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