The hyper-scale cloud blueprint for 5G liftoff
Today we are all familiar with the hyper-scale technology and business construct we call the cloud. It’s a disarmingly clever umbrella that hides a wide array of complexity and integration problems that ‘someone else’ has solved in order to deliver a set of highly topical, consumable, resilient, distributed, supported, and enterprise-grade services. In fact, cloud technology, despite not being new, has been a key driver in the digital business transformation journey that so many organisations are undergoing in response to the global health crisis, says David Hovey, executive director – 5G, Cloud of Openet.
Cloud services are now selected, combined, sized and paid for by enterprises for their own internal purposes and requirements, and elements of storage and compute can be dialed up or down at the click of a button. Cloud is an integral part of the technical and commercial success of those organisations who adopt and consume it. Cloud has become the new platform. But it’s not just enterprises that can benefit from the technology and its hyper-scaling business blueprint.
Telcos experience deep business improvements from cloud
Telecom service providers are waking up to the numerous advantages and deep business improvements that cloud can deliver. Indeed, telecom service providers are quickly realising that building a cloud-native infrastructure will be instrumental in propelling them into the 5G era. No longer will they be tied down and held back by huge proprietary, legacy IT stacks that create inflexibility and limit the potential of 5G to deliver significant enterprise and consumer use cases such as massive IoT, self-driving vehicles and cloud gaming.
Shifting to cloud will act as a springboard to support the service provider’s wider business function and ambition to become more than a “dumb pipe”. But there are other very significant benefits. Huge reductions in CAPEX and OPEX are primary reasons for operators to make the switch to cloud-native infrastructure, but cost savings aren’t the only improvements telcos can expect.
Investments are forward looking, so operators no longer have to continue backward spending to maintain infrastructure and “keep it all standing up”. Instead resources can be spent on creating, rather than sustaining. Moving to cloud represents an unprecedented “time to cash” for the operator by reducing product time to market and improving the agility and speed at which a service can be delivered to the customer. Telecom service providers can also leverage the reach and scale of the cloud to deliver more services to more customers. And with the topology of the data centre likely to change to a network of smaller distributed sites closer to the user, telecom service providers can begin to bed in some of the early 5G applications that will be hosted at the network edge.
Parallels of the 5G opportunity and cloud’s global transformation
There are huge parallels that can be drawn between today’s 5G opportunity and the way in which cloud providers transformed the world. The way cloud hyper scaled to appropriately increase as more and more demand was added, is a business model that telecom service providers must apply to 5G if they are to see a return on their investment. 5G can become the next global platform and need know no borders, just as the cloud industry has demonstrated. 5G lands service providers directly in the path of cloud technologies and market dynamics. Just as cloud has done, there is the opportunity for 5G to define its own dynamic, forceful position.
Like cloud providers, telecom service providers need to deeply understand their customer segments and how to become an indispensable part of their present and future. As cloud did with hyper-scaling compute capabilities, 5G offers faster and better bundling, continuous connection through distributed small cells and will be influential in supporting the IoT and connected device industries. Telecom service providers must take the same approach with 5G, as cloud has, in delivering services based on shifting requirements.
The cloud’s flexible model of allocating more storage and compute power based on the changing needs of the customer can be applied to 5G by leveraging its network slicing capabilities. Telecom service providers can offer both hard and soft network slicing to tailor network services to diverse requirements by a particular application. These applications will be new use cases that require, ultra-low latency, availability and reliability that have previously been unattainable – for example, automated machinery and remote surgery. Ultimately, much like cloud, 5G is an opportunity for telecom service providers to hyper-scale revenues in ways unseen before.
With 5G the tables can turn. Astute telecom service providers have the potential to shift the business and technical structures from delivering “faster dumb pipes” to establishing “5G as-a-platform”. This change would see service providers drastically improve their positions in the 5G value chain. New capabilities of 5G such as network slicing offer a real opportunity to rethink telco business models and monetise dynamic value-based Quality of Service. 5G will have a transformative impact, but the opportunity must be built at scale, learning lessons from the way cloud has transformed numerous industries.
The author is David Hovey, executive director – 5G, Cloud, Openet.