3 Questions About Telco Journey to Cloud Native (With Answers)

Jun 6, 2018 | News and articles

For the last few years, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have been experiencing a profound technology disruption. With the increasing customer expectations, OTT providers competing for subscriber revenue, and the growing inefficiency and complexity of traditional architectures, they have been moving their operations into the cloud.

Now, they’re going a step further, by adopting cloud-native solutions. And, like Vodafone, they expect their vendors to comply.

Designing finely tuned cloud-native applications will soon be conditional to landing a deal with any major CSP. But how to transition to cloud-literacy from inefficient, legacy software running on hardware or virtual servers, when the vast majority of network software vendors and telecom companies are not ready for the cloud-first revolution?

Let’s start from understanding what cloud native is, and how it fits in the telco space.

1. What Is Cloud Native?

Cloud native applications have become an enabler for the emerging market opportunities, such as telemetry, AR/VR, IoT, network slicing, or other 5G technologies.

However, there is no common understanding of what cloud native really is. The term has multiple definitions.

The most general definition of cloud native would be that it’s software that has been designed with the intention to run in the cloud, as opposed to applications built to exist on a physical appliance or standard virtualization servers.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation defines a cloud-native application as:

  • Containerized. Each element is packaged in its container, which facilitates deployment, improves transparency, and allows processes and applications to run independently across different cloud infrastructures.
  • Dynamically orchestrated. An orchestrator takes care of resource utilization, and container scheduling. This helps save time and money by reducing manual processes and accelerating operations.
  • Microservices-oriented. Applications are organized into microservices, which provides them with high resiliency and allows for quick enhancements and updates. Such an approach helps shorten time to market.

2. What Are the Benefits of Cloud Native Transformation for Telco Companies?

The ultimate goal of telecom companies is to generate more profit. The best way to do that is through instant delivery of high-quality repeatable services to end customers at minimum cost.

Thanks to the technological capabilities that cloud native applications provide, they make it possible for CSPs to achieve these business goals. No wonder providers push for replacement of inefficient legacy software and solicit or even demand cloud-native innovation.

For software vendors interested in achieving their revenue targets, this CSPs’ requirement should be the major driver to implement cloudification.

If this reason is not compelling enough, here are a few more tangible benefits:

  • Faster deployment. Cloud-native software is deployed as containers, which means that you can independently scale, upgrade, and deploy them. Instead of deploying the entire app, you only select the minimum resources for the deployment, which reduces the time and helps maintain performance.
  • Greater efficiency. Cloud native applications consume up to 40% fewer resources compared with virtual machine-based SW.
  • Higher resiliency. If a failure is detected, a cloud-native app processing will instantly and seamlessly move from one data center to another, without any service interruption.
  • Extreme flexibility. Cloud-native apps support auto-scaling, which allows providers to test new services more quickly, scale them fast if successful, or shut down instantly if otherwise. This is also beneficial for the end customer who pays only for the services and resources they utilize in the pay-as-you-go scheme.

As a result of these technological advantages, business benefits abound: Reduced time to profit, lower business risk, superior innovation factor, quicker service delivery, greater customer stickiness, increased revenue streams.

3. What Are some of the Major Obstacles to Transformation into the Cloud Native Model in Telco?

With so many benefits, and the pressure to bring cloud-native, microservices-based offering on the CSPs side, there seems to be no other option for telecom software vendors but to start delivering VNFs in the cloud.

But what are some of the major barriers and challenges to transitioning to cloud-native in the telecom world?

  • Legacy software. To fully enjoy the benefits of the cloud-native approach, vendors must start from reconsidering their… software. Virtual network functions must be architected in such a way as to support the flexibility and dynamic resource utilization of the cloud. Most monolithic applications designed with the purpose of running on physical appliances or bare metal x86 fail to meet this expectation.
  • Resistance to overturn the status quo. Cloudification, and cloud native in particular, enforce a major change in thinking about product development and management, service delivery, or software deployment and maintenance. The application layer may not create as many challenges, but the lower layers of switching and routing require a complete paradigm shift. Without acceptance of this change, companies won’t be able to move forward and get ready to innovate.
  • The current investment. It’s not only about the infrastructure investment made so far, but also about the expenses incurred on human resources. Undoubtedly, for most companies, the fact that they now have to rearrange their teams, invest more in DevOps and software development skills, and reorganize or even build their infrastructure from scratch, is hard to accept.

Embracing Cloud Native as Software Development & Integration Experts

Various companies prepare for their journey towards cloud native in a different way. In Amartus, we deliver software development & integration expertise to vendors and service providers, so that our customers can accelerate their growth through innovation. Unsurprisingly, cloud-native has been increasingly in demand recently.

Over the last year, we’ve been experiencing a growing number of customer engagements and industry PoCs covering DevOps, containers, microservices architecture, cloud orchestration, Kubernetes and Docker, or cloud VNFs. To meet that demand, we invest in cloud-focused training and certification, expand our knowledge by contributing to open source, and spin off internal R&D projects to build experience that can later benefit our customers’ use cases.

What are your challenges as you are trying to transition to cloud-native applications? Is there anything that could help you achieve this goal faster?

Share your thoughts with us and tell us about your experience with cloud-native.