Vodafone and Google Cloud to Develop Integrated Data Platform
Vodafone and Google Cloud today announced a new, six-year strategic partnership to drive the use of reliable and secure data analytics, insights, and learnings to support the introduction of new digital products and services for Vodafone customers simultaneously worldwide.
In a significant expansion of their existing agreement, Vodafone and Google Cloud will jointly build a powerful new integrated data platform with the added capability of processing and moving huge volumes of data globally from multiple systems into the cloud.
The platform, called ‘Nucleus‘, will house a new system – ‘Dynamo‘ – which will drive data throughout Vodafone to enable it to more quickly offer its customers new, personalized products and services across multiple markets. Dynamo will allow Vodafone to tailor new connectivity services for homes and businesses through the release of smart network features, such as providing a sudden broadband speed boost.
Capable of processing around 50 terabytes of data per day, equivalent to 25,000 hours of HD film (and growing), both Nucleus and Dynamo, which are industry firsts, are being built in-house by Vodafone and Google Cloud specialist teams. Up to 1,000 employees of both companies located in Spain, the UK, and the United States are collaborating on the project.
Vodafone has already identified more than 700 use-cases to deliver new products and services quickly across Vodafone’s markets, support fact-based decision-making, reduce costs, remove duplication of data sources, and simplify and centralize operations. The speed and ease with which Vodafone’s operating companies in multiple countries can access its data analytics, intelligence, and machine-learning capabilities will also be vastly improved.
By generating more detailed insight and data-driven analysis across the organization and with its partners, Vodafone customers around the world can have a better and more enriched experience. Some of the key benefits include:
- Enhancing Vodafone’s mobile, fixed, and TV content and connectivity services through the instantaneous availability of highly personalized rewards, content, and applications. For example, a consumer might receive a sudden broadband speed boost based on personalized individual needs.
- Increasing the number of smart network services in its Google Cloud footprint from eight markets to the entire Vodafone footprint. This allows Vodafone to precisely match network roll-out to consumer demand, increase capacity at critical times, and use machine learning to predict, detect, and fix issues before customers are aware of them.
- Empowering data scientists to collaborate on key environmental and health issues in 11 countries using automated machine learning tools. Vodafone is already assisting governments and aid organisations, upon their request, with secure, anonymised, and aggregated movement data to tackle COVID-19. This partnership will further improve Vodafone’s ability to provide deeper insights, in accordance with local laws and regulations, into the spread of disease through intelligent analytics across a wider geographical area.
- Providing a complete digital replica of many of Vodafone’s internal support functions using artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Called a digital twin, it enables analytic models on Google Cloud to improve response times to enquiries and predict future demand. The system will also support a digital twin of Vodafone’s vast digital infrastructure worldwide.
- In addition, Vodafone will re-platform its entire SAP environment to Google Cloud, including the migration of its core SAP workloads and key corporate SAP modules such as SAP Central Finance.
Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer for Vodafone, said: “Vodafone is building a powerful foundation for a digital future. We have vast amounts of data which, when securely processed and made available across our footprint using the collective power of Vodafone and Google Cloud’s engineering expertise, will transform our services, to our customers and governments, and the societies where they live and serve.”
Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud, commented: “Telecommunications firms are increasingly differentiating their customer experiences through the use of data and analytics, and this has never been more important than during the current pandemic. We are thrilled to be selected as Vodafone’s global strategic cloud partner for analytics and SAP, and to co-innovate on new products that will accelerate the industry’s digital transformation.”
Revenues at Google’s Cloud business grew 46% this past quarter. However, Google continues to be a distant third to Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud business.
All data generated by Vodafone in the markets in which it operates is stored and processed in the required Google Cloud facilities as per local jurisdiction requirements and in accordance with local laws and regulations. Customer permissions and Vodafone’s own rigorous security and privacy by design processes also apply.
On the back of their collaborative work, Vodafone and Google Cloud will also explore opportunities to provide consultancy services, offered either jointly or independently, to other multi-national organizations and businesses.
The platform is being built using the latest hybrid cloud technologies from Google Cloud to facilitate the rapid standardization and movement of data in both Vodafone’s physical data centers and onto Google Cloud. Dynamo will direct all of Vodafone’s worldwide data, extracting, encrypting, and anonymizing the data from source to cloud and back again, enabling intelligent data analysis and generating efficiencies and insight.
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“The goal here is to work with the carriers,” explained Sunay Tripathi, Google’s new director and head of products for telecom and the “distributed cloud edge.”
Tripathi, who spoke at a 5G Future Forum event here, typified the new trend: He cut his teeth at Sun Microsystems before helping to found software-defined networking company Pluribus Networks. For the past three years, he was the CTO of Deutsche Telekom’s MobiledgeX. According to his LinkedIn profile, he joined Google in July. “We are rearchitecting a lot of the underlying network, and that creates a lot of opportunity,” Tripathi explained.
Google, Microsoft and Amazon have long played in the telecom industry as software, IT and cloud suppliers. And like most modern enterprises across all industries, mobile network operators have increasingly pushed their IT operations into the public cloud.
But during the past two years, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all begun developing cloud computing products specifically designed to host wireless providers’ network functions. Whether it’s Microsoft’s Azure for Operators or Google’s Anthos for Telecom, it’s intended to get network operators to put their crown jewels – their core network functions – into a hyperscale cloud.
And it’s something all three cloud companies are serious about, judging from their telecom hiring sprees or their acquisitions in the space. Microsoft, for example, last year spent an estimated $1.8 billion buying longtime telecom vendors Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks.
New ideas and new disruption
According to analysts, the entry of the public cloud hyperscalers represents a major new strategic turn in the industry, considering network operators have historically retained tight control over their networking systems. And though most have been moving toward cloud technologies they own and operate, few have agreed to run their networking software in a public cloud operated by a hyperscaler.
“In outsourcing the infrastructure to cloud providers, telcos risk losing control of different aspects of their network and technology roadmap over the long term,” warned analyst Frank Rayal of Xona Partners in a post to his website titled “How telcos outsourced their brains.”
Nonetheless, there are increasing indications that operators around the world are more than open to the idea. “The technologies that we will build [with the cloud] will let others consume our network,” explained Luciano Ramos, SVP of network development, planning and engineering for Rogers Comunications in Canada.
Indeed, AT&T recently announced it would transition its 5G core network operations into Microsoft’s cloud over the next three years. And Dish Network plans to run all of its network operations in the Amazon Web Services cloud.
According to Rakuten’s outspoken mobile chief, Tareq Amin, it’s ultimately necessary. He said he designed Rakuten’s mobile network in Japan to natively run in the cloud, and that it required a major shift in his team’s thinking. “I wanted to pick the right mentality” when staffing up Rakuten Mobile, he said. “It was easier to deploy cloud because the Rakuten people wanted to be open to new ideas,” he said. “They were open to new ideas and new disruption.”
Amin made his comments during a keynote address at the MWC LA show here. He made sure to point out that Rakuten Mobile in Japan now counts around 5 million customers, and boasts leading network metrics. It was essentially Amin’s victory lap after announcing his plan to build such a network just a few years ago, at the MWC Barcelona show in 2019.
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