Intel Quietly Acquires Open-Source Private Network Provider Ananki—The Start of a New Trend?

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By Leo Gergs | 2Q 2022 | IN-6526

This insight describes the acquisition of open-source, software-defined private 5G provider Ananki by Intel and discusses its impact on the private networks market.

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Intel Quietly Buys Software-Defined Private 5G Network Provider

NEWS


While the aftermath of this year’s MWC was characterized by particularly vocal discussions about new private network solution and partnership announcements, certain long-term strategic acquisitions have happened more or less unnoticed. Chipset manufacturer Intel has made a major step forward into the private cellular domain by acquiring private network provider Ananki. As a recent spin-off of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), Ananki’s mission has been to deliver open source-based software-defined private 5G as a commercial service. At the same time, Intel will take over the Open Networking Team. While relatively little detail is known about the modalities of the acquisition itself, it has emerged that Ananki and the ONF developer team have joined Intel’s Networking and Edge (NEX) Group as of April 5, 2022.

While an acquisition as such might not justify a lengthy write-up, this specific instance marks an important breaking point in the private networks market landscape, which is worth discussing in some detail.

A Push for Open Source and Software-Defined Networks for Private Cellular

IMPACT


For Intel, these acquisitions are an important step toward providing a complete enterprise-grade private networking solution. As cloudification and softwareization are increasingly emerging as the name of the game, acquiring this core competency is an important step for Intel to integrate into its existing edge portfolio. This acquisition gives critical capabilities for private 5G, which the company did not have before. In addition to processors, software (through Flex RAN), edge capabilities, and data center infrastructure, the acquisition of Ananki by Intel will now enable Radio Access Network (RAN) capabilities as well, which makes Intel a potent contender to provide full End-to-End (E2E) private networking solutions.

Ananki, on the other hand, will benefit from integration into Intel’s wider infrastructure, both from a technology and a commercial point of view. For the ONF, this is another step toward successfully transforming its open source-based 5G connected edge platform, Aether, into commercial reality.

For the telco industry as a whole, this highlights once more that open-source initiatives will become increasingly important for enterprise connectivity and private cellular specifically.

Another example of this development is the recent announcement of Cisco to provide an enterprise platform that combines Wi-Fi with private cellular connectivity. As a well-established Wi-Fi vendor, Cisco is partnering with Open RAN vendors like JMA Wireless and Airspan for its first customer trials. While many inhibitors certainly remain for Open RAN to be ready for enterprise deployments (as discussed in ABI Insight “Open RAN Standards Could Unlock Private Cellular Network’s Commercial Value,” these developments show that the market is gearing up and that open-source initiatives are becoming more interesting for enterprise connectivity. The transition toward software-defined networks places a greater importance on open interfaces that allow third-party companies to develop software components and applications accordingly. Furthermore, from a non-technical perspective, open-source vendors are often smaller in size and, therefore, more agile in adjusting to different enterprise requirements. In addition, enterprise deployments will inevitably be smaller in size, so long-term success in the enterprise domain requires vendors to be willing to depart from their shipment-centric viewpoint and engage in small-scale projects as well.

Are Acquisitions the Name of the Game?

RECOMMENDATIONS


Certainly, Intel’s acquisition of Ananki and the ONF developer team will only be the first step in a wider trend for more open-source vendors in enterprise connectivity. But just how the telco industry should react to these developments and increase their reach toward open-source initiatives will remain an important question to be discussed.

Certainly, acquisitions of open-source vendors and initiatives will continue to provide an interesting opportunity in this context. When prepared carefully, such an acquisition could provide a win-win situation for both parties involved. For open-source developers and initiatives, this could be an important step toward commercializing their efforts and lead them to actual products and solutions. For “traditional” vendors, on the other hand, it can increase their reach into the software domain with important open-source experience.

Telcos should widen their scope to look at open-source vendors as potential partners. Even though open source for enterprise connectivity is still in its infancy, carriers should consider this as a long-term opportunity. Partnerships should include financial funding and research activities that drive maturity of open-source projects, making it a more interesting technology alternative for enterprise connectivity.

After all, it is becoming increasingly clear that established telco industry players are still deeply rooted in a legacy business culture in the consumer market, making it difficult to adjust and embrace the enterprise Business-to-Business (B2B) opportunity. External disruption (e.g., from open-source vendors) in this context can provide important incentives to adjust and provide the missing link between the telco industry and enterprise verticals.

 

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