VMware announces new products and partnerships to help service providers monetize their modernizing networks

Among the many announcements, the highlight was likely around RAN disintegration, where VMware partner DISH is building the first Open RAN 5G network from scratch.

Today, VMware marked its return to a live Mobile World Congress in 2022 – the first major event to be cancelled by COVID in 2020 – with a series of announcements designed to illustrate and show progress at helping service providers monetize their legacy, 5G, and eventually 6G networks.

“We think that one area will be as big as the metaverse and crypto, and that is the edge – from the telco core to the compute layer to the RAN,” said Sanjay Uppal, senior vice president and general manager of VMware’s Service Provider & Edge business unit. “The need to free the workload is the crux of what is happening. Freeing the workload as it moves to the edge is what we are about, enabling the service provider to support all these new applications.”

Uppal stressed that modernizing the network in cloud native form requires disaggregation of the network, programmability, and automation.

“This enables the freeing of the workload and is where VMware is focused,” he stated. “This happens across two layers of the stack – underlay edge services and core. Above that is the overlay where SASE operates. The software infrastructure needed across these layers is common. This is the first time you have had the commonality of software across the three layers.”

Most of the announcements involved third party partnership agreements or extensions with service providers or other vendors to extend these services.

“We are partnering to build the most comprehensive 5G  partner ecosystem,” Uppal said. “We provide the platform that allows freedom of workloads and aids in the programmability and automation of the network itself. We are deployed at over 140 service providers out there and have a billion mobile subscribers.”

VMware is making three partnering announcements around app modernization, involving the choice of the VMware Telco Cloud Platform for network modernization around virtual and cloud-native network functions. One of these announcements, with LatAm-based Millicom, accelerates its multi cloud journey with VMware by beginning the transition to virtualized and containerized network functions. Another, with Telefonica, is in the U.K. The third with Safaricom, involved picking VMware to provide a green field network in Ethiopia.

“These three large telcos have all selected us for their app modernization,” Uppal said.

Uppal also emphasized VMware’s role in RAN modernization, assisting service providers in transitioning from legacy RAN vRAN or Open RAN.

“In the path to RAN disaggregation, we are honing on open RAN principles so that everyone can build to standard interfaces,” he said.

In partnerships around RAN disaggregation, VMware and HCL, which has been a VMware partner since 2008, announced they are expanding their collaboration to deliver integrated solutions for service providers around the world. HCL will expand its Cloud Smart portfolio of services powered by VMware technology to include support for VMware Telco Cloud – 5G Core and VMware Telco Cloud RAN, and will set up a dedicated lab to streamline the deployment of these solutions across customers’ networks.

Uppal also announced that Samsung is also in the fold now as a partner here, having completed testing of vRAN software (vDU, vCU) on the Telco Cloud Platform.

In addition, Uppal also emphasized the news around the RIC, the RAN Intelligent Controller, another key part of RAN disaggregation.

“We are announcing DISH is trialling VMware RIC, which provides automation and programmability similar to what SD-WAN did at the overlay level,” he indicated.  “We liken the RIC to the layer of abstraction in the overlay layer through SD-WAN. DISH is building first Open RAN [O-RAN] 5G network from scratch, and will show what disaggregation can do to help the economics.”

Uppal then announced customer and partner momentum around VMware SASE, something he stressed is critical in effective monetization of the new services.

“We are announcing three things,” he said, “BT is launching VMware SASE as a managed service. Verizon Business is expanding their global managed services with VMware. We are also working with MetTel on cloud-based security as well as SASE, all monetizing services.

Finally, Uppal provided an update on partnering announcements and momentum around the edge compute stack that was announced at the last VMworld. These are private networking solutions to service providers that they can in turn deliver to enterprise customers. These announcements include a private 5G offering with ASOCS and Druid, VMware Edge Compute Stack on Lenovo ThinkSystem servers, VMware Edge Compute Stack on Dell EMC VxRail D series, and a collaboration with Advantech and Intel around Grid Modernization with Virtualized Protection Relays, using the VMware Edge Compute Stack.