Ericsson solidifies carrier cloud strategy with OpenStack-based Cloud System

Ericsson(s eric) has revealed its Cloud System, a product for orchestrating private cloud capabilities across the network that effectively ties together previously announced moves such as its membership of OpenStack and redefinition of the concept of software-defined networking (SDN).

Ericsson Cloud System, which will hit availability in the first quarter of 2014, targets mobile operators in particular. It incorporates an upgraded Cloud Manager, which is Ericsson’s operations support system, alongside a new Cloud Execution Environment that’s based on OpenStack and the KVM hypervisor.

This all runs on existing Ericsson Blade System (EBS) server clusters and Smart Services Routers (SSR), and the general idea is to enable virtualized environments across the network, from the base station to aggregation nodes and business support systems.

“Cloud services need to be distributed and networks — including computing and storage capabilities — need to be elastic on an end-to-end basis,” an Ericsson statement reads. “This combination will bring a new set of capabilities that doesn’t exist today… It enables distributed cloud capabilities such as computing and storage capabilities in the network, resulting in a better experience when using cloud applications, and more efficient utilization of network resources.

Ericsson’s take on SDN is key to this approach. The company sees most people’s interpretation of the concept as overly focused on the data center, whereas it wants to push the idea of SDN as covering a carrier’s entire network, with operational and business support systems also in the mix.

The benefit, it argues, would be to make resources elastic, to cope with an application’s bandwidth or quality-of-service requirements on-the-fly. By doing so, Ericsson says, the operator can make its own business more efficient, then perhaps use freed-up resources to provide cloud compute and storage services to others.

“There are lots of advantages,” Magnus Furustam, the head of Ericsson’s Core and IMS business, told me today. “Time to market, simplifying operations, but also the innovation that is enabled. By providing a virtualization layer, you make it possible for the operator to [insert] new functionality in the network where it is needed.

“We think it’s important that this is not a disruption –- we’re not asking our operators to throw away their existing infrastructure. Based on that hardware we can upgrade that to support first of all virtualized environments, and if that is not the case we can add hardware, say a board that supports virtualized environments.”

The Ericsson Cloud System will be shown off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month, where the company will also launch a new “unified” content delivery network (CDN) system called Media Delivery Network.

The new CDN system, designed to help both fixed and mobile operators get into video delivery, combines Ericsson’s existing packet core and radio technologies with new management and service exposure layers. This will let operators do things like select the best CDN in order to optimize traffic, and cache over-the-top (OTT) content — in other words, third-party content — in order to offer the OTT content providers new guaranteed quality-of-service levels.