Abu Dhabi – MENA Herald: Abu Dhabi, UAE—Etisalat, the Middle East’s leading telecom, has activated its first live Network Function Virtualization telco cloud in Abu Dhabi.

The latest project comes as part of the corporation’s continuous efforts for technological leadership in the region and worldwide. The telco cloud platform will help create a one-stop shop app/online portal with a fast, intuitive and pleasing user experiences and interfaces. It will also provide service capabilities e.g. self configuration, self optimisation and self healing functions. The platform brings faster time-to-market in product development, rapid prototyping of services, collaborations including rich/open ecosystems, explore new innovations with lower risks and cloudifying consumer and business connectivity. Customers will also be empowered through the automation of services and operations with automatic capacity expansion and reduction.

The NFV-based telco infrastructure has been built with Quanta servers, Arista switches and Canonical Ubuntu OpenStack , a multi-vendor combination integrated for production.

Projects, proof of concepts and various experiments and tests to transform the corporation for the cloud era have started as early as 2013, with the telecom industry’s fostering and adoption of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN), two enabling technologies commonly associated with smart cities, IoT and the upcoming 5G future.

Based on the open-source OpenStack cloud platform used by the likes of NASA, CERN and leading web companies, activations are currently in progress in more sites across the UAE. On top of this telco cloud, the Middle Eastern telecom operator targets to virtualize its infrastructure and services across its portfolios of data, communications and video, beginning with mobile services. The leap is meant to efficiently make telecom resources and services more fluid, automatic and open for innovation.

“It’s a different world that we’ve embarked into“, says Esmaeel Alhammadi, Senior Vice President of Network Development in Etisalat and Sahaab program lead. “We thought it was a technological step, requiring a mere upgrade of the network and services. But it turns out to be more than that. It’s a shift in mindsets and how things get done. It’s not every year that we have technologies like these that have the potential of adapting to customer wishes faster and opening new avenues for future innovations and collaborations.”

Realizing the potential and benefits of cloud-based and software-defined technologies, Etisalat has launched a corporate-wide program in 2016 to “cloudify the network”, dubbed Sahaab—an Arabic word that translates to ‘cloud’. The program aims to harmonize between the hardware-centric telecom services and the software-centric cloud services across the corporation.

“Etisalat is demonstrating real vision and innovation by the speed at which they are embracing network function virtualisation, “ said Anand Krishnan, EVP, Cloud, Canonical. “We are delighted that Etisalat has selected Canonical OpenStack as their NFV infrastructure and Juju as their generic VNF manager. As the global leader in OpenStack deployments, we will work closely with Etisalat to ensure its customers can benefit from the virtualisation and cloudification of network functions that this will deliver.”

Etisalat has been the telecommunications service provider in the UAE since 1976, and has built up a modern telecom infrastructure and established itself as an innovative and reliable operator.