Microsoft launched its brand new next-gen hybrid cloud platform – Azure Operator Nexus – for network operators today. Azure Operator Nexus is an expansion of the Azure Operator Distributed Services private preview. Azure Operator Nexus is a hybrid, carrier-grade cloud platform designed for the specific needs of the operator in running network functions such as packet core, virtualized radio access networks (vRAN), subscriber data management, and billing policy. Azure Operator Nexus is a first-party Microsoft product that builds on the functionality of its predecessor, adding essential features of key Microsoft technologies such as Mariner Linux, Hybrid AKS, and Arc while continuing to leverage Microsoft Services for security, lifecycle management, Observability, DevOps and automation.
Azure Operator Nexus has already been released to our flagship customer, AT&T, and the results have been incredibly positive. Now, we’re selectively working with operators for potential deployments around the world. In this blog post, we provide an overview of the service from design and development to deployment and also discuss benefits the customers can expect, including research and analysis into the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Microsoft Azure Operator Nexus leverages cloud technology to modernize and monetize operator network investments to deliver benefits such as:
- Lower overall TCO
- Greater operations efficiency and resiliency through AI and automation
- Improved security for highly-distributed, software-based networks
Azure Operator Nexus is a purpose-built service for hosting carrier-grade network functions. The service is specifically designed to bring carrier-grade performance and resiliency to traditional cloud infrastructures. Azure Operator Nexus delivers operator mobile core and vRAN network functions securely in on-premises (far-edge, near-edge, core datacenters) and on-Azure regions. This delivers a rich Azure experience, including visibility into logging, monitoring, and alerting for infrastructure components and workloads. Operators will have a consistent environment across both on-premises and Azure regions, allowing network function workloads to move seamlessly from one location to another based on application needs and economics.
Whether deployed on-premises or in Azure infrastructure, network functions may access an identical set of platform capabilities. On-premises, the service uses a curated hardware BOM of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based servers, network switches, dedicated storage arrays, and terminal servers. Both deployment models are Linux-based, in alignment with network function needs, telecommunications industry trends, and relevant open-source communities. Additionally, the service supports both virtualized network functions (VNFs) and containerized network functions (CNFs).
The Azure Operator Nexus is based on the experience of a large telecommunications operator that has spent the past seven years virtualizing more than 75 percent of its network and overcoming the scale challenges of network-function virtualization. From this deep networking and virtualization experience, Operator Nexus was designed to:
- Provide the network function runtime that allows the fast-packet processing required to meet the carrier-grade-network demands of network functions supporting tens of millions of subscribers. Examples of requirements the platform delivers include optimized container support, flexible, fine-grained VM sizing, NUMA alignment to avoid UPI performance penalties, Huge Pages, CPU pinning, CPU isolation, Multiple Network Attachments, SR-IOV & OVS/DPDK host coexistence, SR-IOV trusted mode capabilities and complex scheduling support across failure domains.
- Ensure the quality, resiliency, and security required by network-function workloads through robust test automation.
- Deliver lifecycle automation to manage cloud instances and workloads from their creation through minor updates and configuration changes, and even major uplifts such as VMs and Kubernetes upgrades. This is accomplished via a unified and declarative framework driving low operational cost, high-quality performance, and minimal impact on mission-critical running network workloads.
In addition to the performance-enhancing features, Azure Operator Nexus also includes a fully integrated solution of software-defined networking (SDN), low latency storage, and an integrated packet broker. The connectivity between the Operator premises and Azure leverages Express Route Local capabilities to address the transfer of large volumes of operational data in a cost-effective manner.
One of the key benefits of a hybrid cloud infrastructure is its ability to provide harmonized observability for both infrastructure and applications. This means one can easily monitor and troubleshoot any issues that may arise, ensuring systems are running smoothly and efficiently. The platform collects logs, metrics, and traces from network function virtualization infrastructure (NFVI) and network functions (NFs). It also offers a rich analytical, AI/ML-based toolset to develop descriptive and prescriptive analytics. Our goal with this observability architecture is to securely bring all operator data into a single data lake where it can be processed to provide a global-network view and harvested for operational and business insights.
Stockholm Sweden based Enea is amongst the first to join the program. They will deliver subscriber data management and traffic management in 4G and 5G for the new platform.
The introduction of Enea’s Telecom product portfolio will further enhance mobile operators’ ability to unlock the potential of 5G and provide more choice in pre-validated solutions to ensure a faster time to deployment for solutions. Enea’s telecom products include the Stratum Network Data layer, 5G Service Engine, Subscription Manager and Policy Manager, providing a range of subscriber data management, authorization and traffic management capabilities for both 4G & 5G mobile environments.
Azure Operator Nexus program provides an API layer to automate and manage network functions. The Enea network functions will integrate and validate at both the API interoperability level and the automated deployment level to provide telecom operators the option to build, host and operate these containerized functions as part of a network in a cloud or hybrid cloud environment. As pre-validated services, the Enea network functions will be available in the Azure Marketplace.
“The integration with Microsoft Azure Operator Nexus demonstrates Enea’s commitment to multi-vendor telecom architecture, software-based solution and open interoperability.”, said Osvaldo Aldao, Vice President of Product Management at Enea. Further adding, “The addition of our Stratum network data layer as an open 5G UDR & UDSF will provide the data management foundation to drive a fully cloud native architecture with Azure Operator Nexus”.
“Enea joining the Microsoft Azure Operator Nexus Ready Program enables both network function expertise and deployment experience from their extensive portfolio”, said Ross Ortega, Vice President – Azure for Operators, “Enea’s pre-validated functions in the Azure Marketplace will be an essential building block for operator networks.”
Microsoft Azure for Operators:
Enea software portfolio:
Network Data Layer: https://www.enea.com/solutions/4g-5g-network-data-layer/
5G Applications https://www.enea.com/solutions/data-management-applications/
Enea is a world-leading specialist in software for telecom and cybersecurity. The company’s cloud-native solutions connect, optimize, and secure services for mobile subscribers, enterprises, and the Internet of Things. More than 100 communication service providers and 4.5 billion people rely on Enea technologies every day.
Enea has strengthened its product portfolio and global market position by integrating a number of acquisitions, including Qosmos, Openwave Mobility, Aptilo Networks, and AdaptiveMobile Security.
Contact: Stephanie Huf, Chief Marketing Officer [email protected]