Flying the nest
Brooke Frischemeier, head of product management at Robin.io, talks to Melanie Mingas about Kubernetes and simplifying the cloud – but definitely nothing about the new parent company
Rakuten Mobile is no stranger to an acquisition having snapped up Estmob, Altiostar, Innoeye and others in the last two years.
But in February its sister company moved in on US-based cloud technology company Robin.io – the partner that helped Rakuten Mobile to deploy the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualised cloud-native mobile network.
Rakuten Symphony itself was only established in mid-2021 with a remit to “spearhead the global adoption of cloud-native open RAN infrastructure and services”, but its move to acquire Robin.io turned the tables on the usual customer-vendor dynamic. Further, Rakuten said it wanted to “accelerate and strengthen the complete end-to-end automated cloud offering for customers across the globe”.
Rakuten was not just after Robin.io’s petabyte size deployments – it also got its 70 patents and appointed CEO, Partha Seetala, as president of Symphony’s new Unified Cloud business. All for an undisclosed sum.
“I can’t talk about the deal until it’s 100% closed,” says Brooke Frischemeier, Robin.io’s head of product management, from his guitar-lined office on North Carolina. At this point even the details of when the deal is due to close remain under wraps, but it is clear from Frischemeier’s product pitch that Rakuten saw industry-changing potential in what this Robin does in the cloud.
“There are three main things we do: cloud native storage, the Robin Cloud Native Platform and MDCAP – the multi-data centre automation platform,” Frischemeier explains.
There is also a mantra underpinning it all: “It’s not just about checking the boxes but doing it better.”
By way of example, Robin.io’s cloud native platform is an enhanced Kubernetes platform, but Kubernetes was not designed for telco; rather “it was designed to do certain things and do them extremely well”, Frischemeier explains. So he says, Robin.io “took Kubernetes and made it better”.
“At the beginning, Kubernetes couldn’t solve world hunger and do all the things it needed to do. Second of all, it grew up with applications that were written for it to be truly cloud native and the networking was straightforward. But operators and service providers have much more complex systems, much more complex networking flows, and they have certain things like legacy operating systems, OSS and legacy management that are never going to be truly cloud-native, or truly integrated into Kubernetes. So, we had to figure out a way to make that work.”
Frischemeier adds: “We also have advanced workload placement, storage and compute locality, a lot of remote performance tuning, and an interface that is so easy I could train you to use it in 10 minutes.”
Detailing MDCAP alone could fill several pages of this magazine, but Frischemeier’s point on simplicity is enhanced by the fact the metal to service orchestration can be used for RAN, 5G core, private 5G and multi-access edge computing.
Keeping it simple
The three things that Robin.io does aren’t just for telco. They can also be used by enterprise too, and Frischemeier says the company’s future growth will see it pursue both lines of business.
“One of the things I like about the acquisition is that it’ll accelerate our road map, that’s for sure. We’re really happy about that. You can replace all those network functions as an enterprise and use Robin for whatever you need – private 5G, your own server farm – whether you’re in the public cloud or private cloud,” he says.
“We’ll be able to expand even more into both enterprise and service provider,” he says, going on to joke that he hopes the new parent company will also replace his laptop.
Frischemeier reports that deals are being made “all the time” with major enterprises and service providers and on future product refinement he says the focus will be on service assurance, offering more onboarded applications and making integrations smoother.
“Everything we do is about how do we make it easier? How do we save time?” he says.
As the adage goes time is money, and when it comes to telcos battling capex demands to find funds for modernisation, Frischemeier has one piece of advice: “You should not be spending money on supporting legacy, open-stack, virtual machines. You need to be collapsing the operational silos as quickly as you can while keeping it lean.”
“You need to invest in technologies that allow you to deploy and adapt quicker,” he concludes, “and when we look at a lot of stuff that’s the edge, people have to be first and people have to scale out first. Because if you think of all the ways we can save things in a modern society, that’s going to continue. It isn’t about checking the boxes – it’s about making the system easier to use, reducing integration times and hitting that app store type of model.”
And with that, the Robin flies its nest for bigger skies.