The Taiwanese data center hardware company QCT won a starring role in Rakuten Mobile’s network build. And the company in recent years has become a contender against U.S. server vendors Dell Technologies and HPE.
QCT can design and make its own products, or it can also manufacture products that its customers have designed. It is sometimes compared to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as HPE and Dell. But it is also compared to original design manufacturers (ODMs) such as its big Taiwanese competitors Foxconn and Edgecore Networks.
Rakuten Mobile’s CTO Tareq Amin has circulated a slide that shows its simplified network architecture with flags, indicating the countries of the vendors that it’s working with.
Howard Wu, QCT’s general manager in the USA, said the Taiwan flag in edge data centers and central data centers is all QCT.
Rakuten designed the data center hardware for its network and hired QCT to build it. In addition to its hardware manufacturing, QCT worked with Rakuten’s software vendors to integrate everything. “We had to work with Cisco and Altiostar on the VIM [virtual infrastructure manager] and vRAN software integration,” said Wu. “We have experience with Red Hat and OpenStack.”
QCT’s parent company is Quanta Computer, a Fortune Global 500 corporation. Wu says that Quanta manufactures one-third of all the laptops in the world today. In 2006, Quanta branched into cloud and got a big entrée into the business when Facebook approached it about procuring servers. “That really kicked off the direction,” said Wu. “We’ve managed to work with all the largest cloud providers: Google, AWS, Facebook. We’ve learned a lot about deploying massively scaled infrastructure in a cloud data center.”
That experience was appealing to Rakuten, which wanted to build its telco infrastructure on a cloud model.
Rakuten’s Amin likes to say that he has only a handful of hardware SKUs in his network. “We dictated our entire infrastructure,” said Amin. “My hardware is entirely commoditized.”
Wu said, “We took his design philosophy, and we took components and ICs [integrated circuits] from other companies and put it into a workable system. We built a high-density edge server for him in a period of three months.”
QCT is also involved with the O-RAN Alliance, which might seem a little out of its wheelhouse. But Wu said QCT’s involvement with O-RAN “goes back to our involvement with Facebook.” Facebook, of course, was one of the original founders of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which helped bring QCT into the telecom ecosystem.
Recently, TIP and the O-RAN Alliance announced a liaison agreement to ensure their alignment in developing interoperable open RAN solutions.
"O-RAN’s goal of decoupling also aligns closely with QCT’s business,” said Wu. “We understand from the telecom side and how they want the hardware to look. The next logical step is to provide the telecom network with the same direction we were able to be part of with cloud.”