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Dell pitches products to drag telcos into next-gen networks

You're going to have your cloud-native infrastructure and you're going to like it

Dell will showcase kit for the comms industry at next week's Mobile World Congress, with more infrastructure choices, PowerEdge servers for telecoms, Private Wireless network options, and a new lab for punters to validate network configurations.

The Round Rock giant is trying to make money by walking the telecoms sector through digital transformation or, in other words, getting them to migrate from vertically integrated legacy infrastructure to the brave new world of cloud-native hardware based on open standards.

"This is becoming more and more critical and top of mind across the telecom sector," Andrew Vaz, Dell VP of product management for Telecom Systems Business told The Reg.

"We're really seeing this move from the legacy telecom infrastructure and vertically integrated architectures to something that is more agile, gives people more control, that's a better platform where they can actually innovate faster, bring in more software, innovation and workloads," he added.

Part of this push includes Dell Telecom Infrastructure Blocks, which the company started selling last year. This is a cloud-native stack built on Dell hardware, using Dell deployment and lifecycle management tools, and a cloud platform layer above that.

At launch, this cloud layer was supplied by Wind River, but customers now have the choice of Red Hat Linux, in a fully engineered platform that is co-designed with Red Hat and backed by Dell services and support, from the second half of 2023.

"This is a fully engineered system. It's validated from end to end," claimed Vaz. "We run this through our CI/CD testing pipeline as we get all of these pieces together, the firmware, the BIOS, the cloud platform software, and test it with over 700 test cases that we have to make that foundation bulletproof. When you have that, you can start putting all the workloads you want on it in a very reliable manner."

Dell's selling point to prospective telco customers is that these Infrastructure Blocks are pre-integrated and pre-tested for 5G core and radio access network (RAN) workloads, with Dell also acting one throat to choke for technical support, with the option of carrier-grade service level agreements (SLAs).

Among the bonuses Dell is claiming for this Infrastructure Block approach is a 40 percent reduction in opex and 10 percent capex savings over five years, based on the cloud model delivering more efficient server usage.

The Texan IT giant also unveiled new servers focused on telecoms and edge applications, with smaller enclosures than typical datacenter systems and featuring Intel's latest 4th Gen Xeon Scalable processors in rack-mount designs. These will be globally available from May 2023.

The XR5000 series is a 1U high single-socket system supporting CPUs up to 32 cores, while the XR7000 is a 2U twin-socket system for 36-core CPUs, up to eight EDSFF drives, and four PCIe 5.0 slots.

The XR8000 series is a multi-node 2U chassis that can be configured with multiple 2U or 1U server sled modules, enabling four times as many nodes to be fitted into the same footprint as a 2U server.

Dell is also expanding its Private Wireless Program, which sees the company team with various industry types to offer complete private 5G network deployments for customers. Two new offerings are available immediately.

One with Airspan and Expeto is aimed at large enterprises and can, Dell said, provide the ability for enterprise operators to have mobility between their private network and a public 5G network, aimed at organizations that may have roaming users such as delivery drivers.

The second, with Athonet, is for smaller businesses, and is described by Vaz as "super small, super portable, supports 4G and 5G, think of it as like private wireless in a box that an operator can offer for various SMBs."

Open for business now is a new Open Telecom Ecosystem Lab in Cork, Ireland, which follows the first in Round Rock, Texas, where Dell allows customers to test, certify and validate next-gen telecoms infrastructure and applications.

"This will help us with our European operators," said Vaz, "and we can do everything from packet cores architectures to RAN to edge workloads. And we're actually in testing across the board on all of those for various customers and partners."

Dell is not the only IT company that has seen an opportunity in the telecoms market as operators seek to move to modernize their networks. HPE has pitched products at the telco market for some time, including servers, software and its own Private 5G solutions introduced last year.

AMD will also be using MWC to pitch its portfolio of components for the telecoms market, which now includes products from Pensando and Xilinx, which it acquired last year.

This enables it to cover telecoms networks end to end, with technology for the radio unit (RU), distributed unit (DU), central unit (CU) and the 5G core, the company claims.

The chipmaker is adding two Zynq UltraScale+ radio frequency SoCs, the ZU63DR and ZU64DR, aimed at 4G and 5G networks, and said it is seeing great interest in its 4th Gen Epyc processors from telcos because of their combination of performance and power efficiency.

"What we're able to show is that we can dramatically reduce the server footprint, dramatically reduce the amount of power that's used, and do that while at the same time reducing the initial capex," said Nick Hancock, director of AMD's Telco Vertical server business unit told us. "And we're also able to help them meet some of their regulatory requirements in terms of, of meeting carbon footprint objectives."

AMD is also opening its own Telco Solutions testing lab, where customers will be able to validate of end-to-end solutions using its technology. Based in Santa Clara, California, the lab will open its doors to its first 5G customers in Q2 of 2023. ®

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