What does ‘Cloud Native’ really mean for Telecoms?

When cloud computing emerged back in the early 2000’s, it ruffled the feathers of a telecom industry that had, until now, exercised a relative monopoly over the market

This new wave of service providers that could promise customers lower costs and more flexibility marked a shift in the way we think about constructing our business models, meaning the telcos were under pressure to innovate if they wanted to compete.

After absorbing the first shock waves sent through the industry by cloud providers, telcos discovered that the cloud business model could in fact benefit them; ‘Cloudification’ and virtualization technologies created an opportunity to transform the economics of telecoms and make operators themselves more agile in creating new services.

Cloud computing’s subsequent ubiquitous place in the industry has meant that ‘cloud-native’ has become a catch-all term, but this does a disservice to the disruptive nature of its place in connectivity technology. It is ultimately about bedding the right business processes and workflows within day-to-day operations, allowing the flawless execution of cloud strategy.

To really understand what ‘Cloud Native’ means in telecoms, we need to apply what we have learnt from large Webscale providers:

Small, stateless microservices, running in containers.

Containers isolate an application and its dependencies into a self-contained unit that can run anywhere. In this environment, hardware and operating systems are virtualized, which means the same operating system is shared with other hosted applications.

In a traditional IT environment, operations teams manage the allocation of infrastructure resources to applications manually. In a cloud-native environment, applications are deployed on infrastructure that abstracts the underlying compute, storage and networking primitives.

Cloud DevOps for automation and fast time to market.

Cloud automation is incredibly important. 5G services will continually need updated capabilities. DevOps helps you automate delivery, installation & testing.

At its core, DevOps for cloud is the automation of agile methodology. DevOps automation is becoming cloud-centric. Most public and private cloud computing providers support cloud DevOps systemically on their platform, including continuous integration and continuous development tools.

Telecoms providers are beginning to recognise the need for purpose-built pipelines to address this – to reduce time to value, improving its efficiency with all necessary assets automatically delivered while the DevOps platform controls installation, test execution, and results reporting.

Open architecture & APIs so you can continually onboard innovation.

For example, 5G’s core uses a service-based architecture, with well-defined APIs for network functions to offer services or call on each other. This, along with the cloud-native service mesh,

enables rapid manipulation of your 5G core, whether for integrating new network functions, or rapidly scaling or deploying per-enterprise slices.

The service mesh is how many microservices share information with each other. When you have a lot of messages, a service mesh becomes critical. It abstracts the messaging between the microservices in a dedicated service mesh architecture that is instantiated alongside those microservices.

Microservices offer and call on services from one another, as producers and consumers of information. The microservices ask for or receive the information they need, such as a slicing function asking for an enterprise’s policy definitions.

As a result, the service mesh enables the modularity and programmability of cloud-native architecture, so that ‘on-demand’ the network or service can quickly be scaled or updated. You can bring new ideas to market much faster and respond more quickly to your customers’ demands. By using APIs and the service mesh to abstract the microservice network’s complexity, you enable the speedy creation of new services by yourself or partners.

Cloud agnostic, so you can deploy anywhere.

Telecoms solutions must be cloud-native by design – built to work in any hybrid cloud and to honour customers’ choices. Providing customers with a cost-efficient, rapid way to run workloads, (regardless of where they are in their cloud journey) is essential to modern operations.

The future of telecoms lies in solutions that avoid lock-in on cloud platforms and empower customers to migrate workloads swiftly, across the entire cloud value chain including Platform, Containers and Infrastructure-as-a-service.

While great technology is a start, CSPs need more than that to deliver sustainable business value – they need to balance technology and people. By embedding the right business processes and workflows within their day-to-day operations, they’ll be able to flawlessly execute their cloud strategy and achieve their business objectives while providing network IT teams with tools that boost efficiency from day one.


About the Author

Liron Golan is Director of Portfolio Marketing at Nokia. We create technology that helps the world act together. As a trusted partner for critical networks, we are committed to innovation and technology leadership across mobile, fixed and cloud networks. We create value with intellectual property and long-term research, led by the award-winning Nokia Bell Labs.

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