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Platform9 and Mavenir Discuss How to Accelerate 5G Deployment

Platform9 and Mavenir Discuss How to Accelerate 5G Deployment
Podcast Transcript: 4/15/21
Listen to the Podcast on Telecom Reseller

Doug Green:
This is Doug Green and I’m the publisher of TR publications. And this is a special podcast for TR publications. We’ll be talking about some very interesting topics today, including an alliance between two companies that are making news. We have with us today, Sirish who’s the co-founder and CEO of Platform9. Sirish, thank you for joining me today.

Sirish Raghuram:
Pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me, Doug.

Doug Green:
My pleasure and I’m really looking forward to talking to you more about this interesting news you guys have. We have also with us Bejoy, who is the Chief Strategy Officer for Mavenir. Bejoy, thank you for joining me today.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Glad to be here as well.

Doug Green:
So let’s get started by telling everybody an overview of both Platform9 and Mavenir.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So I’m going to start. Thanks for having Mavenir on the air today. Mavenir is more than 15 years old. We are a vertical telecom software company. We provide software for mobile operators. Our software around the mobile networks is used for critical services that operators provide today like voice, messaging, data connectivity. Our customers are mobile operators. For example, T-Mobile is one of our customers and they’re a hundred million subscriptions and we count them as one customer. So globally, we have around 250 plus customers and they serve more than 4 billion subscribers. This means 50% of the world’s mobile subscribers are using Mavenir software on a daily basis. I’ll pass you to Sirish to talk about Platform9.

Sirish Raghuram:
Thank you Bejoy. Doug, thank you for having me on the podcast. Platform9 is a Kubernetes-based startup. Our mission is to bring what we call freedom in cloud computing, the ability for our customers to get the cloud experience, the efficiency, ease of use, the agility, the operational flexibility that you can get from cloud technologies, but the ability to run those in private clouds, in edge clouds, and in this particular conversation that we’re having today, in the context of 5G cloud environments. As the industry gets into the use of distributed cloud technologies, we do that with Kubernetes as a service. Our customers span large enterprise technology companies like Cloudera, Redfin, and Juniper Networks, to partners like Mavenir who we view as a very strategic relationship. I’m very excited about what’s happening in the 5G space and look forward to talking more about this today with you and Bejoy.

Doug Green:
So Sirish, let’s start with some of the things you just covered. I’m interested in knowing why is 5G significant? We are talking a lot about it these days, but why is it specifically significant in this case?

Sirish Raghuram:
I’ll present a biased point of view, Doug, which is that I’m very excited about the use of virtualization technologies. I was an early engineer at VMware and have seen the rise of virtualization from its earliest days, back in VMware workstation three, going on to the data center products and then going on to the evolution of modern cloud technologies like KVM and containers and Kubernetes. And one of the things that I find very exciting about 5G is it’s increasing use of virtualization technology to adopt a cloud architecture. And, obviously there’s the whole network refresh that we’re about to kick off on, but it represents, I think, an evolution from the days of the 3G and 4G architecture to a more virtualized network and making extensive use of containers and Kubernetes. Bejoy, I am sure you’d have a lot more to add in terms of having seen these industry transitions before.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Yeah, let me add to it. I would say we are at a tipping point in 5G. If you look at the last decade, the world is becoming even more reliant on mobile networks. Even if we look at the COVID times, how much relying telco networks are to daily operations of companies and even people. So content has moved more to the cloud, and now it’s largely being accessed using mobile networks. And 5G, if you look at the spend in 5G, just a few months ago, the C-band option happened. If you look at the amount of spend that happened there, that’s like $81 billion. If you look at the cost actually vacating the existing spectrum, it is more than $95 billion. And the spend on 5G alone is going to be more than $125 billion. What that enables at the end of the day are new use cases, whether it’s robotic factory, the tele surgery, or augmented reality.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So it’s important because it creates real opportunities for operators to generate revenue. And Mavenir as a company, we’ve helped our customers make the transition from 2G to 3G. And then to 4G, we virtualized voice and messaging to critical services operators in the 4G transition. Now, we are number one worldwide in virtualized voice messaging. So we believe that 5G is a great opportunity for software companies, that includes application providers like Mavenir as well as platform providers like Platform9, to succeed in this market, competing against legacy players who just have hardware based solutions.

Doug Green:
So Bejoy, can you tell me a little bit more about Mavenir? What types of products do you sell?

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
We divide the products into two categories. We have what’s called core products and axis and edge. And as I mentioned earlier, our software is used by mobile operators to provide services to their end customers and that can be consumers or enterprises. So their axis and edge solutions, you could think of as the radio products that provide access to the operator network and radio is the first point of contact from the phone to the operator network. So, here we have products that are based on what’s called an open RAN architecture, which is a software based architecture that’s hardware independent, and it provides connectivity for radio and public and private enterprise networks.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
The second part of it is core solutions. And, here we have the intelligence that operators need to provide all services that customers use on a daily basis, voice calling, video calling, or messaging. So today, for example, we support more than 60% of the world’s messaging. And this is 60% of the operator provided messaging which is trillions of messages in a year. So we are the software provider. I would say we are the end-to-end 5G software company that’s helping operators transform their network in delivering end-to-end 5G solutions.

Doug Green:
I notice as you’re describing your company, when I first met up with Mavenir it was in the context of cloud communications. It seems from what you’re saying, you see 5G as an extension of what’s being offered in cloud communications.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Many of the products that you see, whether it is in the core space — if we look at voice as an example, voice earlier used to be carried on legacy circuits switch networks. When we moved from
4G to 5G, the first release of 5G was the only way to carry voice. You either had to fall back to 4G, or you had what’s called voiceover NR and voiceover NR relies on IMS based technology. And that is an IP based technology that Mavenir has the global leadership on.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So for the core side, we see that as an extension. Now, if you look at data connectivity, that is another product that’s within core. Again, data is growing exponentially. If you look at the amount of data usage, 4G is still going to be a predominant factor even in 2025, 2G, 3G, 4G is going to be around 45% of the data usage even five years out.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So we see that extent, but what 5G brings to the table is in addition, other capabilities like low latency, massive machine communication. So you could suppose those new use cases that I mentioned, whether it’s sensors in industry or industry for other use cases. So in that regard, we see there’s an extension and we see that as a growing market for both our core, as well as the new markets that we’re in, which is the axis and edge, including edge computing and private networks.

Doug Green:
So Sirish, I’d like to ask you the same question in connecting Platform9 to the products you currently sell, and also these developments in 5G.

Sirish Raghuram:
So Doug, our core product is Kubernetes delivered as a service. And, what we mean by that is that we deliver an orchestration technology, a platform orchestration technology built around Kubernetes as a core platform, but we have the ability to deploy and manage bare metal environments with metal as a service, and we can then deploy and manage virtualization on top of that, with virtualization as a service. And then actually deploying containerization and platform services around containerization that we call containers of a service, all delivered with a Kubernetes-centric product architecture.

Sirish Raghuram:
That’s pretty much the core product in the company. The use cases that we’ve served have ranged from private cloud customers. So, we have some fantastic technology companies in particular, the likes of Juniper Networks, the likes of Cloudera that are using us to run private clouds at pretty large scale. And we’ve been very interested in the edge, because we think that the last decade has been about this narrative of the cloud as a central entity or hub, so to speak. And a hub and spoke model. And, we think that the value of the cloud, the speed, the efficiency, the agility of the cloud is here to stay. The fact that developers can spin up applications pretty easily and then scale them over time. We think that is here to stay but we also think that the cloud is going to become pervasive.

Sirish Raghuram:
In the next 10 years, we think that the cloud is not going to remain like some kind of central entity, it’s going to become highly distributed and it’s going to be all around us. And this is also what people refer to as edge computing. But at the edge, the specific verticals that we are very focused on, we have some large retailers using us to drive modernization of store infrastructure in the retail store. We have some use cases on CDN and media, which is exciting. But the one that we are really excited about is what people like Bejoy and Mavenir are doing with the modernization that’s happening in the telecom network infrastructure with the rollout of 5G, using a modern containerized software architecture. Because we think that holds the potential to lower costs, bring in new capabilities such as the ones that Bejoy alluded to, and drive our next generation of applications that are going to be much more distributed in nature.

Sirish Raghuram:
And that’s why we think that this partnership between Mavenir and Platform9 is incredibly important to all.

Doug Green:
So Bejoy, you recently announced your partnership and I’d like to learn more about how the two companies together will benefit the market and how that impacts 5G and cloud communications?

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Yes, so Sirish just talked about multi-cloud and how the world is going to change increasingly into a multi-cloud architecture. It’s not going to be a single cloud anymore. It’s going to be distributed cloud, which can be the public cloud or a hybrid cloud where the operator has its own telco private cloud, but working with one of the hyperscalers or increasingly you could have edge clouds where you partnering with the hyperscalers to provide edge services and thereby monetize on 5G. And when we looked at Platform9, it’s important for Mavenir’s cloud strategy because increasingly the 5G use cases I mentioned earlier are extending the telco networks into the hyperscale environment. So as an application provider, we need to ensure that our applications can run in any one of these cloud environments and natively use the tools that are available in the public cloud.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So one example when we talk about multicloud and the benefits of doing that with our customers is that, if you have the right set of automation tools, you don’t need the same number of employees to manage their networks. Essentially you’re managing a network using software other than humans. And this is a good way to think about it — if you have true cloud native software running on the platform, which is platform agnostic, meaning a hybrid, edge, a public or a private cloud, you could actually utilize all the benefits of this multi-cloud environment. And the partnership that we specifically have with Platform9 is what we call them Mavenir Web Scale Platform (MWP). And this is a platform that includes the container as a platform service which is Kubernetes and this is where we’ve got services coming from Platform9.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
On top of it, Mavenir has leveraged what we call the platform as a service for telco, which is something we’ve built in conjunction with the CNTT, the Cloud iNfrastructure Telco Taskforce to extend some of the capabilities that are available in Web Scale platforms, such as high availability, load balancing, configuration management, trace management, and lawful intercept management. These are capabilities that are very telco specific. So extending those capabilities into the Web Scale platform and being able to use it for telco workloads. So we built a platform together where Mavenir brought in all these helpful capabilities and worked on top of Platform9’s CaaS distribution, and together we now have the Web Scale platform — — the Mavenir Web Scale platform is the overall solution that Mavenir sells and of course Platform9 and their SAAS model as well as the regular platform, which Sirish will talk about.

Sirish Raghuram:
Yeah, we think this is a really industry leading partnership in the space, Doug, because Mavenir, I think has been one of the leaders in terms of adopting cloud technologies and the modernization of the telecom network application stack. And, if you look at this in many ways, for those of us who are familiar with the evolution of virtualization technology, these networks have been a bit of the final frontier. Data centers started to adopt virtualization technology in the 2000s, but the communications infrastructure that we take for granted — and in fact, in this era of COVID has kept the world running — is actually not very heavily virtualized. And, we think that what Mavenir is doing is really pushing the envelope here in terms of a web scale platform that is truly adopting cloud native as the standard architecture in delivering all of the capabilities that Bejoy just talked about.

Sirish Raghuram:
But in order to do that, it was important they needed a partner who could provide not just vanilla containers as a service, but containers as a service that can really stand up to the production requirements, the demanding requirements that running network function workloads at scale entails. For example, it’s complex requirements in terms of everything from how do you spin up sites with a high degree of software automation without requiring a lot of services from field technicians or professional services people, to how do you bring up a containers as a service stack that’s in a highly predictable manner, which is not just a vanilla Kubernetes stack, but includes a number of optimizations such as advanced networking optimization to enable high bandwidth and low latency network access. Host configurations, CPU planning and topology awareness and putting that all together at scale. And so we’re very excited to be partnering closely with Mavenir as part of the Web Scale platform, which we think is an industry leading initiative at this point in the communications world.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So we chose Platform9 because it aligned with Mavenir’s strategy to use open-source to the fullest extent possible. We looked at the total cost of ownership for using a third party in the CAAS layer, which is a container as a service layer. And, we were a good fit there with Platform9, they’re agile, they have good domain knowledge, and there was an inclusive roadmap that we could jointly work together to meet the needs of our customers. And of course, they have the experience of working in a public cloud environment and a distributed cloud environment and the knowledge base that they brought to the table in that regard also helped Mavenir put together the final product of MWP.

Doug Green:
So Bejoy, will this change the way you sell products?

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So today we sell largely through direct sales models. And currently, as I mentioned, the majority of our sales are to wireless sales providers. However, the open architecture of our products, the software nature of our products, also allows us to enable several other hybrid distribution models. And it’s not tied directly to the user Platform9 and MWP. It’s in general, the guiding principle for our product. And that means that by having this open architecture and products, which can run on any cloud infrastructure, we could sell through tech integrators where they take CLL, tech, and Accenture. And we’ve got partnerships with hyperscalers as well, where we actually have our products running in their environment. This hybrid distribution model also allows for faster time to market and lowers the cost as well because the channel partner model is also effective for private network scaling.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
When we talk about 5G, talk about the CDR’s options, and C-band options that have happened recently, we talk about different ways in which you could take our products to the market through channeled partners. And I think having a platform and applications that are cloud agnostic is important for that. And we also have some of our services based applications today that are sold on a subscription or usage basis. So for example, unified communication or sponsored data solutions that we have connects brands to consumers. This is a small product for business, but there are trends where we can increase the staff type of revenue going into the future. So overall, I would say as the company from Mavenir today, it’s direct sales, but going towards distribution channel partners is a good model for us and 5G, given the way that our products are architectured and the partnership with Platform9, is a step in the right direction to help us expand on the channel and distributor partnership.

Doug Green:
And do you see these developments as a big opportunity for those partner companies?

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
It is, because the players who were not there previously, whether it’s the tech integrators or the hyperscalers, if you look at hyperscalers as an example, they need 5G to meet the end to end connectivity and increase data capture. That’s how they grow demand in their cloud infrastructure. So doing that also means that the players who provide the application — the platform — need to be in a solution with software that can align with this reorchestration, this transformation network that’s happening today.

Doug Green:
Okay. And so Sirish how do you see this playing out in your company in terms of how you sell and your partners?

Sirish Raghuram:
So our approach as a provider of Kubernetes, Kubernetes is inherently a horizontal technology it’s a platform technology Doug, and it has a wide variety of use cases. What this partnership means to us is that we’re making a real commitment to making Kubernetes ready and consumable for deployments in the network function world. Mavenir is a very strategic partnership for us, but the product care is not just going to be Platform9’s. It’s the Kubernetes platform. It’s really the whole product with Mavenir’s application, as well as a lot of joint roadmap work that we’ve done together, all combined with our software automation stack, Kubernetes as a service, and Containers as a Service, all put together as a combined Mavenir Webscale Platform product that is going to be taken to customers as a combined whole product offering that is a complete fit for communications networks needs.

Sirish Raghuram:
Our standalone product, which is Kubernetes as a Service is something that we would expect to continue to sell to enterprise customers. But we think that when customers reach out to us in the context of network function workloads, we will be pointing them to MWP because they need the whole product, not just when they need Kubernetes.

Doug Green:
So Bejoy, earlier in our podcast you mentioned and talked about private 5G. And I was wondering if you could define that and if you could actually give us a real time example of how the technologies we heard about today are coming together in real use cases.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Yeah. So the way to look at private networks is today, if you look at enterprises or factory environments or airports, increasingly the users are on wifi as technology for internet connectivity, for data connectivity. But what private 5G allows you to do is use the wireless, so there’s 5G and NR spectrum or LP spectrum, in the case of 4G private, LTE deployments are using the wireless spectrum to be able to support the same data connected to UX cases. And some 5G private network deployments that we have that’s public right now that I could talk about as one is with Mugler as a SI partner that we have in Germany, and Mugler is taking our interim solution for 5G SA. But different use cases like doing AR, VR, broadcast, video, industrial IOT, and basically what it allows them to do is they deploy the Mavenir radios, 5G core products, along with the management and automation tools, all within the private and the publication itself to support the use cases.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Another one is entity data, or NYCU in Taiwan where the use cases are more on smart meters and warehousing logistics. In all cases, the product sets are the same. The radio functionality may change between doing n78 band, which is indoor or outdoor radio, or using some millimeter wave, for example, in Thailand, a POT deployment we use and n258, the millimeter wave band department is to support healthcare teleconsultation through image streaming use cases.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
So increasingly we see different verticals, whether it is factory setups, whether it’s medical setup, but the need to actually support these environments with the full network that’s isolated. If you look at the mining industry, for example, they’re cut off from the rest of the network, but then internally they still need data connectivity. So we can support those other departments using a private network. They would use the 5G spectrum to support the air interface and radio connectivity and the package and data connectivities provided by the 5G core or 4G PAC core depending on the use cases.

Doug:
So I think, what I’m hearing from both of you today is your announcement and what’s happening here have far reaching implications, and that maybe everybody from all quarters, whether you’re a reseller, a carrier or an enterprise should look further into this.

Sirish Raghuram:
That’s exactly right. We think this is an incredibly exciting announcement and the product has, jointly developed and been made available as the Mavenir Webscale Platform. So it’s available on Mavenir’s website. You can follow them on all of their social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, or on their website at mavenir.com.

Doug:
Well, Sirish and Bejoy, I want to thank you for joining me today, it was most interesting. I think we should do this in a number of months to hear an update on how this is going.

Sirish Raghuram:
We’d love to be back and then this time talk about real customer deployments, Bejoy.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Thank you for having Mavenir on the air as well. And thanks for spending time with me and Sirish, thanks Doug for having us both in the air and talking about this interesting and exciting opportunity.

Doug:
I know we’ll be back and we’ll look forward to it, but for now, thanks very much.

Bejoy Pankajakshan:
Thank you.

Sirish Raghuram:
Thank you.

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