Secure land communications / Intelligence Shared

    Open source ecosystems

    Open source ecosystems offer a new approach for critical communications


    Mr Daniel Schaefer, Solutions Architect for EMEA Alliances, Red Hat

    “With the software-defined approach, public safety agencies can quickly and cost-effectively add the communications resources they need to manage and protect large events like a football game or major political summit, without the weeks of planning that are conventionally needed.”


    What is the philosophy of open source ecosystems? What benefits do they bring?

    The open source culture is based on meritocracy. It doesn’t matter where input comes from, it is all about sharing the benefits across communities. Open source ecosystems can comprise customers, end users, partners, vendors and even competitors all working together to solve technology challenges.

    The emerging technologies like Cloud, Blockchain, Machine Learning, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence that dominate the headlines all use open source technology. Collaboration can actually create much faster innovation with rapid development of new features. Early feedback, combined with modern ideas like agile development, all help to keep projects moving in the right direction.

    How do such technologies affect critical communications networks? Can you give some examples?

    Trends like Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are enabling new use cases. Open source technology is also very good at increasing the efficiency of platforms and communications infrastructure. In a current project with Airbus, we are looking at how to modernise and virtualise traditional bare metal infrastructure connected to base stations and using software-defined approaches to reduce the hardware footprint. It’s about using software code to describe how the infrastructure should look instead of writing hundreds of pages of documentation.

    That brings many benefits. The new platform is less dependent on specific hardware vendors. It can be scaled up or down easily and quickly to meet changing demand. Maintenance tasks like replacing a failed node can be automated, saving time and costs. It also reduces risk because changes to infrastructure can be automated and based on fully-tested scenarios.

    For example, we have shown that with this software-defined approach it is possible (once the hardware is in place) to set up a base station cluster in around an hour, whereas with conventional infrastructure it would have taken days of installation and testing work. This means public safety agencies will be able to quickly and cost-effectively add the communications resources they need to manage and protect large events like a football tournament or major political summit, without the weeks of planning conventionally needed.

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    You mentioned new use cases. What could these be and how do you develop them in open source?

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is a very interesting area for open source development. The availability of sensors generates new use cases in public safety. The need for verbal communications can be reduced by body-worn sensors that collect and analyse data to enable better-informed decision making.

    This will create demand for huge data storage capacity as more and more video and still cameras support use cases like facial recognition or vehicle licence checking. Software defined solutions can provide platforms that can be scaled up as needed on commodity hardware, with lower costs and agility, which is not possible with huge proprietary storage systems.

    We need to modernise apps because there are many mission-critical apps that currently run on mainframes and other conventional systems. They are based on old programming languages from decades ago that are hard to maintain and the right skills are no longer available.

    To support these kinds of modernisation projects we offer residency in our open innovation labs. Developers, architects, customer engineers and business stakeholders can spend a few weeks in the lab using modern technology and development methodology to rapidly create a prototype solution. They can experience what it is like to develop software in a modern way using innovative features to develop apps that are cloud native.

    Our work as an IT company is often behind the scenes with service providers in their data centres. We work with the public sector helping to build platforms for various apps. In the communications sector we partner with vendors like Airbus.

     

    “Trends like Artificial Intelligence and
    Blockchain are enabling new use cases.
    Open source technology is also very good
    at increasing the efficiency of platforms and
    communications infrastructure.”

    How do you balance open source approaches with the need for security in the critical communications world?

    It is not true that open source is less secure just because anyone can access and use the code. In fact, it is just the opposite. The more eyes there are on code reduces the likelihood of failure. It is harder for malicious code to be inserted unnoticed. Any security holes that do arise can be addressed quickly with rapid changes to code.

    There is strict governance around open source projects and we make sure it gets certified by hardware and software vendors. Open source is today more robust and it is harder to introduce security flaws into code by accident.

    Open source also encourages users to update code more often, reducing risk by taking in new security measures that protect critical needs.

    We are also addressing ways of using small private clouds and edge computing centres running virtualized network functions for critical communications networks. This eliminates the dependency of public safety agencies on the public cloud, giving them full control.


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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Airbus.

    Mr. Schaefer works with strategic Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) across EMEA supporting them on their modernisation journey. This includes adoption of containers, software-defined infrastructure as well as management and automation in hybrid cloud environments.

    He has held various pre-sales specialist and architect roles over the 12 years of his career in enterprise IT at IBM and Red Hat. Since 2017 he and his team have worked together with Airbus to shape the new IT platform for TETRA solutions.

    Daniel Schaefer

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    Daniel Schaefer, Solutions Architect for EMEA Alliances, Red Hat