I. Cloud Native Computing Foundation:
Are the ITU, ETSI, IETF SDO’s obsolete with the move to “cloud native” telecom? Maybe so. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation® (CNCF®), which builds sustainable ecosystems for cloud native software, recently announced the addition of 68 new Silver and end user members and end user supporters. These new members will work side by side with over 775 other members to build and use the cloud native technology that is enabling organizations across the world to respond to the challenges of 5G, edge, massive scale, and more.
For sure, “cloud native,” which is recommended by 3GPP for 5G SA core networks, has replaced and knocked out the previously highly touted NFV and SDN which never realized critical market mass, despite outrageous claims that they would usher in a new era/ new epoch and replace all conventional hardware based telecom equipment.
According to the CNCF Annual Survey, 2021 was the year that Kubernetes crossed the chasm, with 96% of organizations who participated in the survey either using or evaluating Kubernetes. Adoption has also increased measurably across CNCF projects, notably by 500% for containerd, 53% for Fluentd, and 43% for Prometheus.
“We have seen an acceleration in new member growth which we can attribute to the maturation and ubiquity of Kubernetes and container technology,” said Priyanka Sharma, executive director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. “CNCF’s projects have been integral in helping end users like Allianz Direct, Fidelity Investments, and Vodafone respond to pressing and evolving infrastructure challenges. We are thrilled to have so many new members on board to continue our mission to make cloud native computing ubiquitous.”
About the newest Silver Members:
- Airlock covers all functions of modern application security, combining web application and API protection (WAAP) with customer identity management (cIAM) deployable on-premises, in the cloud, or as lightweight security micro gateway, designed specifically for use in container environments.
- Akuity was founded by Argo co-creators Hong Wang and Jesse Suen and is on a mission to help companies modernize their Kubernetes tooling by leveraging Argo, the leading open-source suite of Kubernetes-native application delivery tools.
- Amido is the cloud-native consultancy for better business outcomes.
- Argonaut is the first cloud platform that enables engineers to manage infrastructure and application deployments in one place, focusing on developer experience.
- Automat-IT delivers exceptional CI, CT, CD, DevOps, Cloud services, and 24×7 support, to large enterprises, startups and everything in between, to untangle IT complexities and deploy ‘time to market’ technologies.
- Avisi is a Software Development and Cloud Services Company that offers Managed Services using the Change-mindset, allowing their customers to continuously innovate their mission-critical software.
- Axcelinno is an IT Technology Consultancy and Professional Services company that helps organizations define and implement their DevSecOps adoption and cloud migration.
- Baolande is a listed high-tech corporation founded in 2008, it focuses on providing infrastructure software, intelligent operation and maintenance products and solutions for innovational digitalized business.
- Clastix is a tech company providing a unique blend of products and services to accelerate the Cloud Native revolution, delivered from 100% upstream open-source components.
- CloudCasa by Catalogic is a powerful, cyber-resilient, backup service for protecting Kubernetes workloads, cloud databases, and cloud native applications, that is free to start using.
- Cloud Kinetics (CK) is a leading cloud MSP (managed services provider) with operations in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Thailand, USA and Germany.
- CloudMatos, pioneering the world of self-governed cloud infrastructure, our solution provides self-healing, awareness, resilience, security, and intelligent remediation to your cloud infrastructure by deploying policy driven governance, security controls, networking controls, and more using IAC or PAC.
- CodeZero allows developers to work on software in a Kubernetes cluster creating parity between their local machine and production.
- Cortex gives organizations visibility into the status and quality of their microservices and helps teams drive adoption of best practices so they can deliver higher quality software.
- CrafterCMS is an open-source, Git-based headless CMS for enterprises that seek faster and easier development of large-scale, content–rich digital experiences such as global personalized websites, customer portals, employee intranets, OTT video, e-commerce, consumer mobile apps, AR/VR, and more.
- Cribl is an observability pipeline company built to reduce, normalize, enrich, and route observability data to where it has the most value.
- DataCore Software delivers the industry’s most flexible, intelligent, and powerful software-defined storage solutions for block, file, object, and container storage, helping more than 10,000 customers worldwide modernize how they store, protect, and access data.
- Daugherty Business Solutions is an advisory services and technology consulting firm delivering results through innovation and technology.
- Era Software observability data management offers modern IT and security organizations the ability to route, ingest, store, and analyze massive amounts of data to get actionable insights in seconds.
- Expert Thinking is a team of industry-certified cloud experts who will partner with your organisation, supporting every stage of your cloud journey – rapidly optimising your use of the ever-changing cloud technology landscape at scale to maximise value and benefit for your organisation.
- Finout‘s cost management platform combines your AWS, K8s, Datadog & Snowflake invoices into one mega bill, enabling an unparalleled view of your cloud spend in minutes with no heavy lifting.
- Fournine is a leading multi-cloud solution provider empowering enterprises’ digital transformation with key cloud native development solutions such as Kubernetes, DevOps, and building and delivering container based applications.
- GienTech is a leading financial digital consulting and software provider based on full stack information technology in the world, moreover, an expert in digital transformation services in key industries.
- Helios is a production-readiness platform that leverages OpenTelemetry to give developers the power to understand, troubleshoot, and test distributed applications, so they can deliver production-ready code faster – and with more confidence.
- Innogrid is Korea’s leading cloud computing solution and service company that supports successful digital transformation based on cloud native environments.
- itopia makes hybrid work easy for software teams by delivering containerized developer environments in a browser, enabling companies to onboard developers fast and prevent exfiltration with precise security controls, and devs to launch spaces with all their tools pre-installed and start coding in seconds.
- KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services with 227,000 outstanding professionals working together to deliver value in 146 countries and territories.
- KSOC is an event-driven SaaS platform built to automatically remediate Kubernetes security risks and enforce least privilege access control across distributed cluster infrastructures.
- Lightlytics empowers teams of all sizes to code and deploy configurations with speed and confidence.
- Lightrun is the world’s first IDE-native developer observability platform, that enables engineering teams to continuously identify and tackle critical issues in live applications without hotfixes, redeployments, or restarts by securely adding read-only logs, metrics, and traces in real-time and on-demand
- mogenius is a code to cloud platform that deploys and runs any application on a fully automated cloud infrastructure by simply connecting to a code repository.
- Mondoo is an easy to use security platform for DevOps and Security practitioners who want to automate manual security processes, find misconfigurations, and improve their security posture.
- Mycelial is the Edge Native platform for distributed, local-first applications.
- NHN Cloud is a leading cloud service provider based in South Korea, offering public, private, and hybrid cloud in various industries with reliable, flexible, and secure services.
- Okteto enables organizations to instantly spin up pre-configured environments in the cloud and start developing within seconds.
- OnGres (“ON postGRES”) is a highly specialized Postgres startup, creators of the Open Source project StackGres, the most advanced platform for running Enterprise Postgres on Kubernetes.
- Orca Security provides instant-on security and compliance for public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and GCP － without the gaps in coverage, alert fatigue, and operational costs of agents or sidecars.
- Oxeye.io delivers an application security testing platform designed for cloud-native apps and modern architectures, offering a contextual, effortless, and comprehensive solution to ensure no vulnerable code ever reaches production.
- Polar Signals is an observability company focusing on continuous profiling, empowering every developer to understand performance measurements down to the source code line number across their entire infrastructure to safe cost on cloud bills, improve performance, and improve the reliability of software.
- Posedio, based in Austria, specialises in the cloud-native journey of enterprise customers in the DACH region, providing deep technical knowledge and hands-on experience in running applications at scale.
- ProfiSea is an Israeli DevOps and Cloud boutique company that implements best practices of GitOps, DevSecOps, Kubernetes-based Cloud environments deployment automation and provides FinOps premium services using a unique AI-based Cloud management platform.
- RNG Technology is a leading cloud native digital acceleration technology partner that provides fully managed & engineered multi-cloud IaaS, BaaS, DRaaS, BCaaS, Kubernetes and DevOps solutions enabling enterprises to rapidly accelerate the delivery of innovative solutions.
- ScaleFlash is a software-defined, cloud native storage for Kubernetes, providing persistent storage for stateful Kubernete under Bare Metal DPU Servers connected with low latency RDMA network to achieve multi-milllion of IOPS performance.
- Scribe makes software trustworthy, by allowing software producers to attest to it and consumers to validate.
- Seekret is an API-first platform that empowers developers with revolutionary eBPF-powered APIOps through automation, governance, and observability.
- Spyderbat provides Linux runtime security, protecting dynamic environments by proactively tracking all user activities by their causal connections to detect and resolve external attacks, misconfigurations, and insider threats.
- Successive Technologies is an Enterprise Cloud Consulting Company that helps you leverage most popular container orchestration with their enterprise-class managed Kubernetes services to make cluster management and integration workflows easy and effective.
- True is an Amsterdam-based Managed Service Provider with 20+ years of experience in hosting scalable SaaS applications.
- Uffizzi is an open-source full-stack preview engine that provides on-demand cloud environments powered by Kubernetes and configured with Docker Compose.
- VNET Group, a leading carrier- and cloud-neutral Internet data center services provider in China, provides hosting and related services, including IDC services, cloud services, and business VPN services.
- Webera has the vision to help innovators build their own platforms by providing DevOps services breaking down silos, improving workflows, and using cloud-native technologies. See what happens when technology gets out of the way.
- Whitestack is delivering unprecedented value to the IT and Telecom industries, changing the existing paradigms by deploying open-source solutions that help Data Centers, Telcos and Corporations to implement hyper-scalable clouds, for mission-critical workloads.
- Wowjoy Technology is dedicated to providing healthcare digital platform construction and data services to governments and medical institutions. All products and applications are developed and served upon cloud native architecture.
- Zoi is a cloud-native IT consulting company that bridges the gap between hidden champions and the latest cloud technology – born in “THE LÄND”, made in the Cloud.
About the newest End User Members:
- Bancolombia: Colombian financial group with 147 years of history that provides financial and non-financial services to more than 20 million clients in Colombia, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala.
- BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services provider – North America’s 8th largest bank by assets, providing a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers globally.
- Fannie Mae advances equitable and sustainable access to homeownership and quality, affordable rental housing for millions of people across America.
- Lockheed Martin Corporation, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 114,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services.
- LSEG: Your trusted global financial markets infrastructure and data provider.
- ZenHub helps scaling teams get ship done, with enhanced visibility for software projects, automated agile experiences, and real-team productivity insights.
About the newest End User Supporters:
- BitMEX, founded in 2014, is one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency derivatives exchanges with a fully verified user base and the creator of the Perpetual Swap.
- FATMAP is the leading app for the mountains, featuring thousands of routes and guidebooks, professional terrain tools, national TOPO maps (including a 3D IGN map), and downloadable maps for offline use – it’s everything you need for your next adventure.
- MasterClass‘s mission is to unlock human potential by inspiring a learning lifestyle in everyone.
- TomTom is a geolocation company that provides maps, navigation software, real-time traffic information, and APIs.
- Vermiculus delivers innovative, modern, and high-quality solutions for clearing houses and exchanges all around the world. Leading the way with cloud-based and AI powered microservices.
About the newest Non-Profit Members:
- Cispi‘s goal is to promote cloud computing and open source in Israel.
- The Open Compute Project Foundation (OCP) was initiated in 2011 with a mission to apply the benefits of open source collaboration to hardware and rapidly increase the pace of innovation in, near and around the data center’s networking equipment, general purpose and GPU servers, storage devices and appliances, and scalable rack designs, and now being applied to advance the telecom industry & EDGE infrastructure.
- CNCF Newsletter
- CNCF Twitter
- CNCF Blog
- Learn About CNCF Membership
- Learn About CNCF End User Supporters
- Join the CNCF conversation on Slack
About Cloud Native Computing Foundation
Cloud native computing empowers organizations to build and run scalable applications with an open source software stack in public, private, and hybrid clouds. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) hosts critical components of the global technology infrastructure, including Kubernetes, Prometheus, and Envoy. CNCF brings together the industry’s top developers, end users, and vendors, and runs the largest open source developer conferences in the world. Supported by more than 500 members, including the world’s largest cloud computing and software companies, as well as over 200 innovative startups, CNCF is part of the nonprofit Linux Foundation. For more information, please visit www.cncf.io.
II. ABI Research did an in-depth and objective evaluation of the telco cloud platforms offered by eleven 5G Telco Cloud-Native Platform players. The companies are evaluated in the following order of ranking:
- Market Leaders: VMware, Red Hat
- Mainstream: Nokia, ZTE, Canonical, Huawei, Google, Ericsson, Wind River
- Followers: AWS, Microsoft Azure
“CSPs are looking to enable cloud-native 5G capabilities through the deployment of a horizontal platform that can span their entire network from the core to RAN to edge. Some of the key criteria that CSPs are looking for include the ability to build a multi-vendor network and avoid vendor lock-in. As the 5G SBA value proposition revolves around providing services on-demand through microservices and cloud-native principles, flexibility, agility, and scalability become major factors CSPs look out for when choosing a platform,” says Kangrui Ling, Industry Analyst at ABI Research.
VMware and Red Hat are assessed as leaders in the market, with VMware coming out on top due to their strong multi-vendor Network Function (NF) partnership program supporting more than 220 NFs. Red Hat follows closely behind with their Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and hybrid cloud and multi-cloud capabilities. Both providers are also top innovators, with VMware offering a variety of telco-specific features, including RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), SD-WAN, and orchestrators, while Red Hat offers auto-scaling of clusters and zero-touch provisioning through solutions such as Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, and Operator Lifecycle Manager (OLM).
“Cloud native is critical for telco applications in 5G, and is crucial in bringing automation, scale, performance, efficient operations, faster time to market, an improved CI/CD pipeline, and the easy introduction of new software and features. Newer trends are also emerging which include multi-vendor capabilities and hybrid cloud/multi cloud support as networks become more open and disaggregated,” concludes Ling.
These findings are from ABI Research’s 5G Telco Cloud-Native Platforms competitive ranking report. This report is part of the company’s 5G Core & Edge Networks research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Competitive Ranking reports offer comprehensive analysis of implementation strategies and innovation, coupled with market share analysis, to offer unparalleled insight into a company’s performance and standing in comparison to its competitors.
About ABI Research:
ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm delivering actionable research and strategic guidance to technology leaders, innovators, and decision makers around the world. Our research focuses on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces today.
Heavy Reading conducted an operator survey in association with Quanta Cloud Technology (QCT) to explore how and why operators are likely to deploy Open RAN. The data was collected in November 2021 and includes North American, European and Asian operator respondents in roughly equal proportions.
The first question in the survey that asked about the business justification for Open RAN. Here’s the result:
The lead response is for “faster greater control of feature development” with 25%, just ahead of “increase vendor diversity” at 21%, and “new service and monetization opportunities” at 20%.
The absence of an overriding reason to pursue open RAN is consistent with previous Heavy Reading operator surveys. These results indicate the business case will be founded on an accumulation of benefits that will deliver value relative to a classic, single-vendor RAN. They also point to the view that open RAN has not yet found — or at least, has not yet proven — a compelling business justification and that this diversity of views reflects an ongoing search for a business case.
Note that cost savings at 6% of respondents, indicates lower cost is not really a business reason to deploy Open RAN. There are likely two explanations for this:
- Open RAN has a similar bill of materials to classic single-vendor RAN. Ericsson and Nokia say Open RAN is more expensive than integrated, single vendor RAN.
- Operators in leading markets will not compromise on user experience simply to save a small percentage on RAN equipment costs.
With respect to cloud native vRAN (RAN software that is deployed in containers and centrally orchestrated) the survey asked when operators plan to deploy a containerized Distributed Unit (DU) vRAN application in their commercial network. 21% of respondents said they are “deploying now,” and a further 34% “will deploy within 1 year.”
While this response this looks overly optimistic, containerized DU products are now available and are commercially deployed and operational. Heavy Reading expects deployment of this technology to scale quickly. So even if this data seems too optimistic on the timeline, it is a good indicator of sentiment among operators that are likely to already be positive on vRAN.
Network operators must deploy RAN software — either in virtual machines, containers or both — on cloud infrastructure. A key question is which software infrastructure platform to use?
The chart below shows three leading operator preferences:
For vRAN software suppliers and DU server vendors that want to help accelerate open vRAN deployments, the three main cloud environments to pre-integrate with appear to be Red Hat, Wind River and VMware.
These are well-known solutions in the telco cloud and core network, and it is logical operators will want to extend their existing telco cloud to the edge to support vRAN. An interesting third option also emerges from this data. Wind River, which offers cloud infrastructure software focused on smaller footprint edge devices that can be optimized for RAN applications, also scores highly at 31%. This is consistent with several Tier 1 operator vRAN deals that reference Wind River publicly.
To learn more about this Heavy Reading operator survey, register for the archived Light Reading webinar on Designing and Deploying Cloud Native Open RAN.
— Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading
A Red Hat survey found that communication service providers (CSPs) now realize the role and benefits of cloud-native network functions (CNFs) and container-based cloud platforms as the means to advance their infrastructures. Benefits include features and efficiency, automation, scalability, and flexibility that will help further lower overall costs. Respondents confirmed their rollout of 5G services would utilize container-based 5G infrastructure, with three-quarters of those respondents indicating the use of container-based platforms in over 25% of their networks by 2022.
In a recent report from Heavy Reading based on a survey of respondents from 77 CSPs, the steady uptick of service providers evolving their RAN has been significant, with the following observations:
50% of service providers have deployed a vRAN in over a quarter of their network compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, when only 35% of respondents had achieved the same rollout.
vRAN deployment has doubled in service provider 4G-only networks and vRAN in service provider 5G-only networks has increased by 66% since the survey in Q4 of 2019.
By the end of 2023 , the above numbers are expected to be flipped, with the majority of service providers deploying vRAN into both their 4G and 5G networks and not 4G alone.
As service providers’ experience with network transformation grows, they are embracing horizontal cloud platforms over vertically integrated solutions. The increased flexibility provided by containers, coupled with automation, can take full advantage of horizontal platforms.
A common cloud-native application platform deployed across any footprint and any cloud provides a simplified operational model and allows greater choice of CNFs. This is important to fit service providers’ business needs and to deploy and scale where needed, so they can make future additions and changes more easily. A Kuberenetes-based platform offers other direct benefits for RAN workloads, such as reduced latency, higher throughput and precision timing.
In summary, service providers are evolving their RAN to deliver new 5G services that are adaptable, scalable and efficient. Successful vRAN deployments will build upon a telco-grade container platform solution that takes automation and flexibility to the next level. With that, disaggregated vRAN architectures can be optimized to deliver the lowest latency and highest performance. This infrastructure needs to be a consistent cloud-native platform that can support multiple RAN functions and that spans the entire service provider network from edge to core to cloud.
Red Hat OpenShift is an application platform that not only boosts developer productivity but can orchestrate both containers and VMs in production environments. OpenShift helps simplify workflows and reduce overall total cost of ownership (TCO). As an answer to ever-changing marketplace demands, Red Hat’s extensive partner ecosystem provides choices to select software functions and hardware from multiple vendors, while accommodating present needs and anticipating those in the future.
Less than one month after Dish Network disclosed it is collaborating with Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS) for its “cloud native” 5G core network [1.], Mavenir has announced support for deployments and integration of its “cloud-native” telecom network functions with telco infrastructure solutions on AWS.
Mavenir’s collaboration with AWS allows Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to deploy Mavenir’s 4G and 5G products and applications with AWS’s computing infrastructure, state of the art container deployment and management technologies, and big data analytics services.
Note 1. Both Mavenir and AWS are vendors for Dish Network’s (DISH) greenfield 5G wireless network which is comprised of a virtualized RAN (vRAN) and a “cloud native” 5G core network (which includes highly touted functions such as network slicing, orchestration/automation, virtualization, etc).
Mavenir’s “cloud-native” Open RAN, 5G packet core, IMS, and messaging will be combined with Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) anywhere, supporting AWS Outposts. There will also be options for existing deployments to migrate Mavenir’s IMS core, voice, and messaging to Amazon EKS and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) infrastructure.
AWS will also be able to run Mavenir’s orchestration and network slicing solutions. The two companies will combine their technologies to centrally manage data for network-wide insights and optimization. Mavenir and AWS will also work together to provide private networks and edge deployments.
The solution is designed to scale and leverages the same tools and technologies offered by AWS to enterprise applications today. These tools are the backbone for visibility and automation for any AWS-based offering and generally referred to as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
That, in effect, results in offloading some of the telco application business to cloud functions. Mavenir says that will reduce complexity, put service providers at par with organizations which are realizing cost savings from cloud migrations without losing insight, performance, and control on their networks.
Opinion: The above claims remain to be proven! Time will tell. However, this partnership provides a well respected host environment (AWS) for Mavenir’s cloud resident 4G/5G software. That certainly lowers the risk for service providers that want to deploy Mavenir’s products and applications.
Another key element from this collaboration is the enablement of Private Networks and Edge deployments on AWS, powered by Mavenir’s Digital Enablement platform. With a digital app store for enterprise and various industry 4.0 applications such as IVA, AR/VR, IIoT and Robotics control, Mavenir’s Edge AI application suite is empowering an ecosystem of developers, service providers, partners, and enterprises to create and deploy applications in AWS to power digitalization and industry 4.0 with 5G.
This collaboration also lowers the network deployment time and cost for Mobile Network Operators and enterprises equally fulfilling use cases of either adding 5G and edge capabilities to an existing network or a greenfield 4G/5G network launch leveraging public clouds.
“The collaboration with Mavenir and AWS allows us to build out our 5G network and messaging platforms in a true cloud-native manner, harnessing the speed and agility that the AWS cloud brings along with Mavenir’s expertise in deploying and operating cloud-native network functions,” said Sidd Chenumolu, Vice President of Technology Development, DISH. “Together, we will enable our customers to take full advantage of the potential of 5G, reimagining wireless connectivity and giving our customers the ability to customize their network experience.”
“Working with AWS enables us to bring new customer-focused 5G use cases and 5G deployments to the market faster and with unique capabilities to realize true 5G potential,” said Bejoy Pankajakshan, Mavenir’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Mavenir’s solutions are designed to support full public cloud as well as hybrid cloud deployments.”
“We’re delighted to collaborate with Mavenir to offer voice and messaging solutions for core network and RAN customers along with AI/ML solutions for orchestration and observability.” said Amir Rao, General Manager Telco Solution Portfolio and Tech Alliances, AWS. “Together, we are providing true cloud native benefits to CSP customers, combining Mavenir’s expertise in the NFV market with the global scale of the AWS infrastructure to meet industry challenges of agility, scaling, slicing, and resiliency.”
Mavenir’s 4G and 5G deployments on AWS provides unique capabilities, including:
- Integration of Mavenir’s cloud-native Open RAN (vDU, vCU-CP, vCU-UP), Converged 4G/5G Packet Core, IMS, and Messaging with Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) anywhere supporting AWS Outposts.
- Use of AWS platform services and tools to deploy and manage cloud native network functions.
- Options for existing deployments to migrate Mavenir’s IMS core, voice, and messaging solutions to Amazon EKS and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) infrastructure.
- Mavenir’s Orchestration and Network Slicing solutions to manage hybrid cloud workloads running on AWS.
- Adoption of AWS for centrally managed telco workloads on far-edge, network edge and core simultaneously.
- Deployment of Mavenir’s standards compliant observability framework, RIC, NWDAF, AIOps and Analytics platform in AWS to collect the data from various AWS nodes in a centrally managed data lake and process the data using AI/ML for network wide insights and optimization.
- Integration of Mavenir’s telecom adaptation layer (Telco PaaS) as a common open source-based platform adaptation layer designed for telco specific workloads to support various carrier grade requirements on top of Amazon EKS and AWS PaaS functions.
Chart Courtesy of Amazon Web Services
MTN Consulting publishes quarterly vendor share in the telecom vertical, covering more than 100 suppliers of hardware, software and services. Many of them are starting to call out the cloud service providers as among their key competitors. VMware is an obvious one. It notes that “providers of public cloud infrastructure and SaaS-based offerings, such as Amazon AWS, Google GCP, Oracle Cloud and Microsoft Azure” are direct competitors.
Nearly a decade ago, as cloud services began gaining popularity, many telcos hoped to be direct beneficiaries on the revenue side. The cloud market went a much different direction, though, with large internet-based providers proving to have the global scale and deep pockets able to develop the market effectively. From 2011-2020 webscale operators invested over $700 billion in capex, a big portion of it devoted to building out their cloud infrastructure.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) made the earliest strides in telecom, in 2015 (with Verizon), but Azure and GCP were serious about the market by 2017.
By 2020, cloud service providers had made significant progress in the telecom sector. The figure below, courtesy of MTN Consulting, provides an estimate of cloud revenues in the telecom vertical for the three top U.S. based cloud service providers as well as China-based Alibaba and Tencent.
Here is how cloud computing helps telecom operators thrive and provide better services:
- Ensure high scalability: telcos who have made their journey to the cloud can easily scale up for today and scale back down once the demand for telecommunication services returns to its normal.
- Guarantee resilience: cloud computing helps telecom companies quickly recover from stressful situations such as sporadic high loads, hacker attacks, hardware failures, etc. It is based on a well-architected approach that allows the self-healing of a system in time. Anomaly detection, automation, and adaptiveness are the key concepts of it.
- Offer quick disaster recovery: anything from a power outage at a data center to a security breach may cause data loss. If you have backups of databases stored in the cloud, you can quickly restore all the data.
- Improve time-to-market: with cloud computing, telecom companies can deliver their products and services faster, because they no longer have to procure individual pieces of hardware for each function in the network. They can now develop network functions from the outset as software and run them on servers hosted in a cloud environment.
- Cut expenses: in terms of cost economics, cloud reduces the operating expense of a company setting up and managing its own data center. This includes various costs associated with hardware, software, servers, energy bills, IT experts, etc. With cloud infrastructure, a telecom company simply pays only for services it uses.
- Enhance customer experience: cloud computing helps telecom operators minimize latency, strengthen security, provide automated customer support, predict customer preferences, and offer new omnichannel digital experiences.
- Enable network automation: cloud helps automate today’s manual processes regarding designing and testing new network components; deploying, orchestrating, and monitoring networks. This becomes possible thanks to continuous integration, continuous testing, and continuous deployment. Modern networks are able to analyze their performance and respond to issues in real-time that only boosts customer satisfaction.
- Make use of data: telecom companies process huge volumes of customer data. And cloud enables operators to drive valuable insights from this data with the help of data science and data analytics. As a result, telcos can use these insights to further improve their operations. For example, during the pandemic, telecom operators provide data to monitor how people and crowds are spreading the virus.
- Generate new revenue streams: telecom operators can monetize their physical infrastructures by partnering with cloud service providers. Until recently, operators and hyperscalers were seen as competitors. But partnerships between telecommunications companies and cloud providers will only support further market growth. Telcos can offer their infrastructures to cloud providers to help them get closer to customers at the edge by launching platform solutions dedicated to telecoms infrastructure and integrate directly with 5G networks.
- The latest of such solutions include: Wavelength from AWS, Azure Edge Zones from Microsoft and Anthos for Telecom from Google Cloud.
Several new telco-cloud collaboration announcements in the last few weeks:
- Telefonica signed a collaboration agreement with Microsoft for Azure Private Edge Zone, combining private 5G connections from Telefonica with Azure edge computing capabilities on the customer premise. (May 11)
- Vodafone expanded on existing work with Google Cloud to create a six-year partnership to jointly build a new integrated data platform to help Vodafone “more quickly offer its customers new, personalized products and services across multiple markets” (May 3)
- Dish Network, a greenfield open RAN-based operator in the U.S., agreed to build its 5G core network on AWS: Local Zones to support low latency, Outposts to extend capabilities to customer premises, Graviton2-based instances for compute workloads, and EKS to run containerized workloads. (April 21)
- Google Cloud and AT&T announced a collaboration to help enterprises take advantage of Google Cloud’s technologies and capabilities using AT&T network connectivity at the edge, including 5G. Additionally, AT&T and Google Cloud intend to deliver a portfolio of 5G edge computing solutions that bring together AT&T’s network, Google Cloud’s leading technologies, and edge computing to help enterprises address real business challenges.
The cloud service providers are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to go after business in the telecom vertical. Moreover, they are also partnering with the traditional vendors to the telecom vertical to develop joint offerings. Nokia announced three such deals last quarter, one each with AWS, Azure and GCP. There are many other examples. NEC and AWS teamed up in 2019 on a mobile core solution, for instance, and Amdocs has collaborations in place with each of the big three. Just last month Amdocs won a digital transformation deal at Singapore’s M1 which leverages their Azure relationship.
Matt Walker, founder and Chief Analyst of MTN Consulting LLC wrote in a Fierce Telecom article: “Whether the cloud players are competitors, partners, suppliers or all of those, they’re going to continue to reshape telecom’s landscape for years to come.”
Telco’s Move from Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) to Cloud Native Core Networks:
With VNFs, many network operators (e.g. AT&T) have automated portions of their infrastructures. But to satisfy new performance demands and meet the needs of modern customers, telcos are now migrating to fully cloud-native infrastructures.
Cloud-native network functions (CNFs) are a new way of providing a required network functionality using containers.
CNFs are dynamic, flexible, and easily scaled, making them a favored solution in the transition to 5G. While a VM with its own operating system may consume several gigabytes of storage space, a container might only be tens of megabytes in size. Therefore, a single server can host more containers than VMs, significantly boosting data-center efficiency while reducing equipment, maintenance, power, and other costs.
In the near future, it is expected that many of the deployments on the road to 5G will consist of a mix of CNFs and VNFs as we are now at the transition stage of moving to fully cloud-native architectures.
Image courtesy of N-iX (a Ukraine and Poland based provider of software development outsourcing and professional services)
Here are some suggestions to facilitate telco’s move to cloud native core networks from N-iX:
- Decide on the cloud strategy: choose the best deployment model: public, private, or hybrid clouds, select the most suitable approach: single cloud or multi-cloud, settle on the cloud provider (s).
- Create a clear migration plan: it should include your goals, costs estimates, timelines, services and technology to use, etc.
- Choose a VNF migration strategy: define which network functions need to remain as VMs and which can be re-architected as cloud-native microservices.
- Assess and prioritize your apps, processes, and operations: understand app dependencies; categorize your apps into mission-critical applications, business-critical applications, customer-facing applications, and other non-critical apps; define operations that can be automated; simplify processes so that they consist of fewer steps.
- Adopt microservices architecture: transform your monolith architecture into a number of loosely coupled microservices to be able to quickly develop, test, and deploy new features and fixes without impacting other components of the application.
- Make use of containers: Containers make it easy to move applications between environments while retaining full functionality. They also make it possible to build and run scalable applications across public, private, and hybrid clouds.
- Leverage edge computing: edge computing is among the top telecom trends. Telcos should make use of edge networks to reduce latency and improve network performance by bringing workloads closer to the users who need to access them. As opposed to the content delivery network (CDN), which is considered to be the predecessor of edge computing and only stores cached data, edge networks, by contrast, can accommodate a wider array of functionality (they can store and process data in real-time) and device types.
Nokia is a strong supporter of Cloud Native. Here’s what they say:
For 5G, service providers need more from cloud. Cloud must be re-architected to cloud-native so that they can get breakthrough business agility in rapidly onboarding new apps and deploying & operating new services.
The scale of 5G brings many more devices and a very diverse mix of services, there’s no way legacy operations can keep up, they need much more automation, especially for slicing. 5G brings new performance demands, so the cloud needs to move towards the edge, for the sake of low-latency, localized reliability, and traffic steering; for that CSP need cloud-native’s efficiency.