Sri Lanka, Dubai and enterprise virtualisation for telecoms

Etisalat is the UAE’s telecommunications provider and is well known in the industry for pursuing an aggressive expansion policy. Starting out from its home hub in the Gulf state of Dubai, the company now operates in 18 countries. From its comparatively ‘closed’ origins in the strictly controlled Emirates, Etisalat is using a variety of ‘open’ source solutions as it expands into new regions including Sri Lanka.

Whether the challenges of working in territories with poor infrastructural foundations like Sri Lanka have pushed the company to adopt the more ‘fluid’ technologies available from enterprise open source vendors is uncertain.

What is certain is that providing services to 2.4 million subscribers across the island nation’s cellular network demands extreme scalability. Logically then, virtualisation technologies characterised by their modular delivery options are a sensible option. Although not exactly a “turn on – turn off” delivery option, virtualising hardware for storage and processing power (and software too) is generally argued to provide some degree of extra flexibility.

Etisalat used Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation as the foundation for its data centre’s critical IT infrastructure, inventory management and distribution services serving 30,000 retail outlets.

With Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation, Etisalat Sri Lanka was able to reduce its previous 40 servers down to just six servers, while hosting the same extensive amount of data.

Whether enterprise open source virtualisation solutions will have a similar impact in so-called developing nations elsewhere is hard to say. Developments in Africa may well provide the best clue here.