During 2020, we’ve seen a rising trend in the telecom space related to the public cloud. Recent announcements from cloud providers targeting telecom operators to create new business opportunities include Microsoft introducing Azure for Operators1 and Google offering their Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to operators2. Verizon partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide 5G network edge computing with AWS Wavelength to enable ultra-low latency applications3. While AT&T followed up their $2 billion, multiyear deal with Microsoft by closing additional public cloud contracts. For example, AT&T is collaborating with Google Cloud for enterprise customers4. More operators, including China Unicom, Telefonica, TIM, and others, have also agreed on public cloud partnerships. However, this is only the start. As 5G continues to move forward, more and more operators will be embracing the public cloud, whether at the enterprise edge, network edge or the core.
Embracing the cloud
The telecom industry is on a journey to shift to the cloud, where operators are transforming how they operate and manage their networks by using standard IT hardware resources on a cloud platform several years ago. The “IT-ification” of operators means that traditional IT functions merge into network operations and engineering functions, silos are coming down, and the network infrastructure and management are converging.
With operators already moving to the cloud and embracing cloud-native technologies, they can experiment and utilize the public cloud and cooperate with cloud providers. Initially, public cloud providers looked at operator workloads as standard workloads. However, they soon realized that they need to deliver real networking workloads, driving the public cloud providers and operators to collaborate further. Combining the best of the operators’ efficiencies in networking and providing carrier-grade services with cloud providers’ expertise in managing cloud-native technologies at scale to unlock the cloud’s true potential and provide value to customers.
From the edge to OSS/BSS
According to an International Data Corp report, more than 30% of the data generated in 2025 will be real-time5. This advancement to ultra-low latency applications and real-time data requires that computing power move closer to data sources to reduce traffic that traverses the network. So, edge networks serve this purpose, and public cloud providers already have a significant advantage in this field because of the cloud platforms they’ve already built to support their businesses. For example, Amazon has 200 points of presence worldwide, and Google has more than 90 of the world’s 240 giant internet exchange points and more than 100 interconnection facilities around the world6. So, significant cooperation between operators and cloud providers has been on delivering these low-latency experiences at the edge. They are combining the public cloud with operators’ network expertise to unlock innovations for consumers and businesses for use cases like IoT, gaming, drones, and more.
Operators are also embracing the public cloud for operations, moving their Business Support Systems (BSS) and Operations Support Systems (OSS) to the cloud to enable greater flexibility and reduce costs. In a recently published report, this market is forecast to reach $64.3B by 20257. One of the significant benefits of BSS/OSS on the public cloud is its scalability. Scaling applications economically and on-demand are vital to operators’ ability to efficiently optimize and automate their networks in real-time – a must for 5G.
Public cloud challenges
With all network iterations and new technology, adoption come challenges that need to be overcome as networks are deployed. However, cloud-native technology is built to be agile and iterate fast, which is happening today as both cloud providers and operators push the technology forward to deliver exciting new services and eliminate any kinks in the public cloud.
Security and privacy
Many public cloud detractors point to the security and privacy issues, but with cloud providers specifically targeting the telco market, these concerns are being addressed. Cloud providers allow the operator to manage access controls such as identity access management, permissions, and security credentials. Operators can also define where and how traffic enters and exits their network, control where critical functions are executed, and the configuration and performance of crucial core network function parameters.
Delivering carrier-grade services 24/7
Cloud providers provide high availability and disaster recovery as built-in capabilities and ‘unlimited’ resources on demand. So, if any outages occur, they are rapidly fixed. As more and more operators have cooperated with cloud providers and their telco workloads migrated to the public cloud, the nature of the public cloud has fundamentally changed. The scale has grown. Toolsets have evolved to support various applications, and new solutions have been introduced, aligning with operator-specific requirements. Both cloud providers and operators are focused on delivering exciting carrier-grade 5G services today and next-generation services like remote surgery or mobile-connected drones using the public cloud.
The process will take time, but as operators continue working with public cloud providers, they will build trust, evolve their solution offerings, and move more applications to the public cloud. Embracing the public cloud is more cost-effective, more scalable, and easier to manage. So, if the public cloud’s adoption is inevitable, how do operators ensure they deliver the expected carrier-grade quality services and optimize performance?
Ensuring carrier-grade services
Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and managing containerized applications in cloud-native networks (on-premises, hybrid, or public). Kubernetes is a platform initially developed at Google and released as open-source in 2014. It is a cloud-based orchestration platform and acts as the brain of the cloud network. However, the brain needs senses and a nervous system that is native, communicates with the rest of the body, recognizes pain points, and then sends feedback to the brain to react to and resolve issues. In cloud (public, hybrid or private) networks, the sensory systems are automated 5G service assurance solutions built with a cloud-native, microservice-based architecture. By deploying automated assurance, operators can rapidly deploy and optimize 5G services in a public cloud platform more dynamically and efficiently. While using automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven insights to enhance the customer experience, reduce operational costs, and ensure 5G service quality.
Automated probe-based assurance of public cloud services, the benefits to operators:
Tight integration with Kubernetes
Automated assurance needs to run as a Cloud Native Function (CNF) within the public cloud and be deployed, scaled, and managed using Kubernetes. Being controlled by Kubernetes provides operators a closed-loop automated approach to assurance in the cloud for large-scale networks, enabling operators to deliver a superior customer experience while saving operational costs using minimal cloud resources.
Built-in AI and Machine Learning (ML)
By deploying cloud-native service assurance solutions with built-in AI/ML, the operator can utilize the data already collected through the solutions’ containerized probes. This means that AI is applied to all data collected, saves unnecessary expenses (such as storage), saves time massaging the data, and runs on any data set. Applying AI/ML also provides operators with insights into encrypted traffic for video streaming and gaming services.
Visibility into the customer experience
Containerized probe-based assurance is the cornerstone that will help operators ensure a successful public cloud deployment allowing an operator to understand the end-to-end service quality, including real-time subscriber analytics and troubleshooting network degradations issues experienced by a specific subscriber down to the packet-level. The operator can realize which network degradations affect the customer, therefore filtering out noise and troubleshooting essential issues. In essence, containerized probes watch all the traffic that flows through the public cloud and filters out individual transactions to compute the service quality experienced by each call or data transfer. They provide granular data that allows operators to determine the service quality at a per-service (QoS) and per-user (QoE) granularity across multiple transport technologies.
Rapid, cloud-based development
Using Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) development for rapid deployment of change requests and product customizations, automated assurance is built for the agile cloud environment. With a CI/CD management application for full control and an overview of the CI/CD lifecycle stages. Each new development and issue resolution results in automatic testing and verification stages to achieve ongoing stability and quality. All automated testing packages are delivered as part of the product and utilized at any CI/CD pipeline stage. Constant maturing with DevOps design and modeling enables automated assurance to evolve continually and keeps pace with the cloud environment, making changes quickly without compromising quality.
In conclusion, to ensure 5G service quality in the public cloud, operators will need to deploy automated assurance solutions that can correlate data from multiple sources, seamlessly integrate into an operators’ cloud environment and deliver advanced end-to-end subscriber analytics and troubleshooting capabilities.
RADCOM ACE provides operators with Automated, Containerized, and End-to-End assurance for 5G in public, hybrid and private clouds. Its probe-based network intelligence helps operators ensure that the technology transformations under the surface are transparent to the customer, and the customer experience remains high throughout the transition to 5G.
- Microsoft partners with the telecommunications industry to roll out 5G and more – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/microsoft-partners-with-the-telecommunications-industry-to-roll-out-5g-and-more/
- Google Cloud unveils strategy for the telecommunications industry – https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/inside-google-cloud/google-cloud-unveils-strategy-telecommunications-industry
- Verizon and AWS deliver mobile edge computing to customers in Boston and the Bay Area – https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/industries/verizon-and-aws-deliver-mobile-edge-computing-to-customers-in-boston-and-the-bay-area/
- AT&T and Google Cloud Team Up to Enable Network Edge 5G Computing Solutions for Enterprises – https://cloud.google.com/press-releases/2020/0305/google-cloud-att-collaboration
- Worldwide Next Generation Network OSS and BSS Industry – https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/08/11/2076266/0/en/Worldwide-Next-Generation-Network-OSS-and-BSS-Industry-to-2025-Identify-Emerging-Technologies.html