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Red Hat Pushes Linux Into Telecom

Linux leader Red Hat is aggressively pushing its Linux solutions into the telecom space with a series of new partner initiatives.

One part of the push is Red Hat's partnership with IBM and HP , which is intended to produce a hardware and software combination targeted at carrier-grade deployment.

The other part is Red Hat's Telecommunications Partner Program, which is about driving both awareness and adoption of Red Hat-based carrier-grade solutions and platforms.

Through this, the company hopes to expand its relationship with OEMs, telecom ISVs, network equipment providers and the carriers themselves.

HP is no stranger to carrier-grade Linux deployments; the company currently backs a Debian GNU/Linux-based Carrier Grade Linux effort, as well.

Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) is an Open Source Development Labs (OSDL)-led effort to provide a set of carrier requirements for Linux. The OSDL released the latest version of the specification earlier this year.

CGL, however, is not necessarily the key factor for a carrier-grade deployment.

"There is no such thing as carrier grade 'certification,'" Scott Crenshaw, senior director of product management and marketing at Red Hat, told internetnews.com.

"The OSDL Carrier Grade Linux working body has developed a series of suggested requirements, but there is no process to establish compliance.

"Vendors can claim CGL compatibility, but this is simply a feature-mapping exercise, performed by the vendor with no certification or oversight," Crenshaw said.

What's important to telecom customers according to Crenshaw is that they get the performance they need from a vendor that they trust.

Linux wasn't always a viable choice for carrier deployment, but according to Crenshaw, it's ready today.

"There are no barriers to pervasive enterprise Linux adoption in telecom today," Crenshaw said.

"If you go back a few years, the situation was much different: Telcos were just beginning to evaluate Linux; the ISV community was more limited; and integrated Linux hardware and software platforms targeting the specific needs of telcos weren't available."

Crenshaw described telecom as a significant growth opportunity for Red Hat. The Linux vendor claims that eight of the top network equipment providers and over 100 telecom ISVs incorporate Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The primary competitor for Red Hat in the telecom space according to Crenshaw is Sun Solaris.

Sun recently partnered with DNS specialist Nominum to offer an integrated carrier-grade DNS and DHCP solution.

Crenshaw sees Red Hat's open source approach as being the key competitive advantage to helping telecoms develop flexible cost-effective offerings quickly.

"We deliver the innovation of the millions-strong open source community, which proprietary vendors like Sun simply can't match," Crenshaw said.

"Red Hat eliminates vendor lock-in and allows customers of mission critical telco applications to replace expensive proprietary hardware with x86-based servers."

Crenshaw admitted that Red Hat still has much to do to get the telecom industry to buy into open source.

"We have a lot of work ahead to help the industry achieve the full potential of shifting from proprietary, closed systems to open, industry-standard systems."