How Oracle’s approach to private 5G focuses on business outcomes over tech

How Oracle’s approach to private 5G focuses on business outcomes over tech

Oracle is interested in gaining a larger share of the burgeoning private 5G network space but wants to attack that opportunity from a use-case perspective rather than just rolling out a blanket private network option and hoping that it can generate revenues for operators and enterprise customers.

Andrew De La Torre, group VP of technology at Oracle, explained to SDxCentral in an interview that the vendor’s approach strips away the actual technology used to power a private network and instead is based on enabling business outcomes.

“One of the big differences in the way that Oracle is trying to look at this private network thing versus even what one of our operator customers does is we aren’t really going in there with the private network first. For us, the network is a means to an end,” De La Torre said, adding that Oracle “does not have a private network like the way Cisco could offer you an enterprise network or Nokia could.”

Instead, Oracle’s approach is based on a control layer used to control 5G standalone (SA) deployments that can support services like network slicing, which can then be used to power a private 5G network that might use equipment from those other vendors.

“We have looked at the demand and the drivers in the market for those kinds of solutions multiple times,” De La Torre said. “And what’s interesting is every time we did that analysis, there was always one common theme, which was the only reason an enterprise deploys a network is as an enabler for some kind of industrial automated solution that they’re building.”

De La Torre said his group went through this analysis several times and realized “the network is just another way of actually unlocking those kinds of solutions, which is what the enterprise really is trying to do.”

He said this led to the realization that Oracle should focus less on the actual network and more on building the enterprise applications themselves. The vendor’s first efforts in this were a pair of industry platforms, with one a first-responder platform targeted at the local government space and one targeted at the food-and-beverage industry.

Both solutions are built on Oracle’s common communications platform that it constructed for its 5G core offering, which De La Torre likened to an IoT platform.

“It is effectively an asset that we built for the Oracle Business,” De La Torre said. “We’re going to provide a common fabric here to be able to consume connectivity and consume the world of IoT. [Then tell the] vertical industry specialist, ‘go build stuff and we’ll make it really easy for you to basically do this.’”

De La Torre thinks this top-down approach bolsters Oracle’s differentiation in the market.

“We took a step up from private networks and we said Oracle can play a different role in this ecosystem,” De La Torre added. “Why don’t we light up the demand rather than trying to implement more ‘build them and they can come’ assets?”

This approach is a growing mantra from network and service providers looking to goose private network growth and is backed by recent analyst comments.

ABI Research recently reported more than 1,000 private cellular networks have been deployed worldwide, but noted that reporting of new private networks has slowed, which it said is a good thing as it shows a rationalizing of the market.

“Enterprises are beginning to see the deployment of private cellular connectivity as a competitive advantage and, therefore, do not want to talk about it too openly, which is important as the market moves from the experimental phase toward commercializing private network deployments,” Leo Gergs, senior analyst for 5G markets at ABI Research, wrote.

He added, “the telco industry urgently needs to deliver on promises made to the enterprise community now. Otherwise, enterprise 5G will enter the history books as the technology that always overpromised and underdelivered.”

Oracle 5G slices

Oracle’s top-down view does not mean the vendor is not willing to tap its lower-level assets to power private network services. De La Torre noted the vendor is supporting new 5G use cases and services like private 5G networks by “being a provider of a really rich slicing solution, which is another interpretation of what a private network can be.

“The whole concept of slicing is to be able to provide a virtual network to an enterprise,” De La Torre said. This is an approach the vendor is taking with some of its operator partners, including a recent hybrid network launch from operator Orange.

“What we did with Orange is we sold them, effectively, the bulk of our portfolio, which remains focused on the control plane of the standalone core that is for their main network that they are deploying,” De La Torre said of that deal. He explained that Orange has talked about how “this hybrid approach gives them the opportunity to work across a private network.”

He also called out how Orange has specifically mentioned slicing, saying “slicing was actually one of the network functions that we provide.”

Network slicing is viewed as one of the key architectural features of a 5G SA deployment. It allows an operator to basically set up siloed virtual networks that act as independent, scalable networks and can support revenue-generating premium services.

Analyst firms have for years been touting the financial benefits of commercial network-slicing capabilities, especially tied to penetrating different market verticals.

ABI Research as far back as 2018 predicted 5G network slicing would generate “$66 billion in value for enterprise verticals including manufacturing, logistics and transportation by 2026.” The research firm more recently noted that operators need to pay “attention to 5G slice-as-a-service and other ‘value-add services,’ which are critical to monetization.”

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