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Dell, Marvell partner on telco 5G hardware

The combination Dell PowerEdge server and Marvell-powered inline 5G Layer 1 processing card can run carriers' open or virtualized radio access networks.

Dell and chipmaker Marvell have joined forces to introduce telecommunication hardware for deploying an open radio access network for 5G.

Introduced this week, the product combines an x86 Dell PowerEdge server with an inline 5G Layer 1 processing card powered by a Marvell OCTEON Fusion chipset. Companies can choose to use the PCIe accelerator card on other x86-based servers.

Dell teamed up with Marvell as Open RAN gained significant traction in the global 5G industry. Adoption by telcos, particularly in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, will drive Open RAN to about 15% of the overall 2G-5G RAN market by 2026, according to Dell'Oro Group. This year, excluding services, revenue for the total RAN market will fall between $40 billion and $45 billion.

RAN provides connectivity between the devices of carrier customers and the telcos' wireless network core. VRAN, which the Dell-Marvel hardware also supports, centralizes control of wireless services in software. Open RAN provides carriers with substantially more flexibility by letting them break up the RAN into software components -- such as radio, compute and radio control -- and purchase each separately.

Dell chose to add the accelerator card to its PowerEdge server to improve its performance by offloading Layer 1 processing to the Marvell chipset. The architecture dedicates more CPU power to running virtualized network functions on a software platform offered by Dell partners Red Hat, an IBM subsidiary; VMware; and Wind River.

Dell's announced its Marvell partnership a week after Hewlett Packard Enterprise launched a similar partnership with chipmaker Qualcomm Technologies. HPE offers Qualcomm's inline accelerator card, the X100 5G RAN, with its ProLiant DL110 Gen10 Plus Telco Server.

Communication service providers (CSP) in Asia and Europe have deployed open RAN faster than U.S. telcos. "I would say that in the U.S., it will initially play a bigger role in greenfield 5G deployments," said Will Townsend, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Dish Network is an example of a U.S. CSP building an open RAN-based 5G network from scratch. The company partnered with Dell to use the Open RAN deployment to offer enterprises private 5G wireless network systems, software-defined WANs and multi-access edge computing (MEC) platforms. MEC is a network architecture that places compute and storage capacity at the network edge rather than a central data center to lower the latency of applications.

Verizon could "lean into [open RAN] more aggressively" in the future to reduce hardware costs by running more network functions as software, Townsend said. Verizon spent significantly more than other U.S. carriers on C-band spectrum the U.S. government sold for 5G wireless networks.

Dell also introduced software modules for its Bare Metal Orchestrator management software. The modules let CSPs plug into Orchestrator their 5G software stack. Telcos used Orchestrator to deploy and manage servers across geographic locations.

Antone Gonsalves is the news director for the Networking Media Group. He has deep and wide experience in tech journalism. Since the mid-1990s, he has worked for UBM's InformationWeek, TechWeb and Computer Reseller News. He has also written for Ziff Davis' PC Week, IDG's CSOonline and IBTMedia's CruxialCIO, and rounded all of that out by covering startups for Bloomberg News. He started his journalism career at United Press International, working as a reporter and editor in California, Texas, Kansas and Florida.

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