5 Questions for Telcos in Considering a Cloud-Native, Edge-Defined Future

Global events have shifted our world overnight, turning most of our connections virtual. As we speed even faster than ever toward a cloud-native, edge defined future, organizations must now weigh each move in a completely different landscape, searching for additional support, flexibility and transparency from their partners and ecosystems. With this in mind, we’re sharing five questions every telco should consider when contemplating a cloud-native future.

How and when does 5G drive success for edge use cases?

Currently, active enterprise edge use cases today operate without 5G and with proprietary platforms and technologies. To accelerate the modernization of business capabilities around the world, many applications and services that require consistent low latency, high bandwidth and large-scale distribution of endpoints will gain a significant boost from 5G and edge and may not be possible without it. For example, manufacturing requires monitoring and reporting low data streams (such as temperature and air pressure) in real-time. With 5G, much higher data streams will be possible, creating a factory of the future where networked machines will be able to respond efficiently to tasks through human command, AI or robotics. Lower latency rates enabled by 5G distributed architectures will enable improved reliability of remote applications and processes, reducing risk. We will see similar success for 5G and edge in telehealth, helping aid video latency while improving the collaboration of health practitioners around the world. And this is only scratching the surface.

What are the benefits of working with hyperscalers (public clouds) to deploy these edge use cases?

A key benefit of working with the hyperscalers is quick time-to-market to test out innovative industry use cases without the need to deploy capital-intensive infrastructure. Many operators have forged collaborative partnerships with multiple hyperscalers to gain access to specialized industry applications ecosystems while sharing costs and revenues for these deployments.

Why should telcos consider going cloud-native?

There are three key reasons that telcos are considering cloud-native approaches. Going cloud-native gives telcos the freedom to deploy new applications anywhere, the confidence to accelerate service deployments and the ability to control and securely deploy applications at scale. With that being said, many telcos have already embraced the use of containers, microservices architectures and cloud-native applications across a diverse set of their IT, network operations, video and OSS/BSS environments to modernize their businesses and accelerate time to revenue. With 5G on everyone’s mind, many telcos are considering expanding their adoption of cloud-native technologies as part of their next-generation network infrastructure. Telcos see the potential benefits of cloud-native applications as an opportunity to offer innovative new services for their customers and they know it will play a key role in optimizing and mitigating the complexities of their distributed 5G edge mobile infrastructures.

What are the benefits of a fully containerized 5G network?

Cloud-native approaches offer compelling potential benefits for next-generation 5G network infrastructure:

  • Lower overhead: Containers consume fewer hardware resources.
  • Faster startup times: Container images are small applications modules that can start up in fewer than 50 milliseconds.
  • Ease of use: Containers provide a high degree of portability, making it easy to move workloads between private and public clouds. In addition, containers provide elasticity and scale for reach function making them easier to deploy.
  • Reduced maintenance: Containers, when used with the right automation and operational tools, can require much less effort to maintain.

The key benefits of a cloud-native 5G network are faster time to deploy services, elastic scale and easier mitigation of the complexities of operating a complex networking and service environment. In addition, telcos will benefit from the use of open platforms and common toolsets for cloud-native applications across their IT, data and networking environments, which reduces their operational costs while accelerating revenues.

What are the steps telcos need to take to be fully cloud-native?

The key to digital transformation is not just about technology evolution. It requires a wholesale change of mindset and a fundamental change in how we work. We do not expect telcos to be able to become fully cloud-native as they will not retire existing deployed technologies that are delivering revenue-generating services without a compelling business reason. Just like we will still see continued deployments of physical network elements, especially in optical, radio, access and routing, we will continue to see virtual network functions (VNFs) deployed by our communication service provider (CSP) customers on OpenStack for some time. Virtual machines will evolve to become part of a cloud-native fabric combined with containers and microservice-based container-native functions (CNFs).

Telcos will need to collaborate with their technology and business partners to modernize existing and future network functions into as many disaggregated stateless components as possible. A key aspect of this effort is managing interdependencies, scale and performance considerations to capture the maximum benefit of cloud-native applications on an open platform. Telcos also need to make thoughtful consideration on the expansion of their operational and business system environment to automate the orchestration of their applications and services infrastructure across all three of their domains: physical, virtual (VNFs) and cloud-native (CNFs).

As we have seen in their deployments of cloud-native enterprise applications with microservices in containers, many operators are working with their networking partners to extend their multi-phase CI/CD deployment automation approach to their network infrastructure and configurations. Operators are now employing cloud-native networking applications on open horizontal platforms that extend to the telco edge. As part of the evolution of their architecture to enable 5G and edge applications, operators are paying careful attention to security, service telemetry, performance, resiliency and efficient elastic scale across their entire environment. A key element of their success will be to adapt their organization, business and operational processes in an open interoperable manner to accelerate deployments while reducing their overall cost and risks.

Ian Hood

Ian is Chief Technologist, Global Service Provider Business at Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source technologies. Ian brings more than 30 years of engineering, business, and telecommunications industry leadership to Red Hat. Acting as a catalyst and trusted advisor, Ian brings together a wealth of industry and open source community insight to help customers flourish in the digital economy.

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