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Going cloud-native in telco network operations

Going cloud-native in telco network operations

06 July 2024

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When cloud computing first arrived, established telecoms operators saw new competition from cloud providers with low-cost services which could be switched on quickly and scaled flexibly. Telcos themselves quickly needed to “cloudify” and virtualization technologies, such as NFV (Network Function Virtualization) and SDN (Software-Defined Networking) soon made their way into the industry, helping operators deal with network operation complexity. Such cloud-native network operations are now transforming the economics of telecoms and making operators more agile in adopting new technologies.

 

The advantages of a cloud-native approach 

Telcos are revisiting their software architecture designs to improve application scalability, software security, and innovation flexibility. Instead of a monolithic piece of software, cloud-native software is built from a set of a modular microservices. The microservices architecture is based on the principle of breaking down software into easily manageable components, each designed to handle a distinct task. It becomes easy to implement and replace and rely on widely used open-source components and best practices from the IT domain, like state-of-the-art databases, repositories, event buses, data visualization and access management. Cloud-native also facilitates the re-use of IT innovations, allows a fast learning curve, and avoids proprietary lock-ins because it allows a mix of vendor and operator-supplied apps.

 

How does cloud-native translate from IT to telecoms?

While “cloud-native” is often used as a catch-all term, it specifically refers to technologies that are used to develop applications built with services packaged in containers, deployed as microservices and managed on elastic infrastructure through agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery workflows.

 

Micro service image

 

By studying the Webscale providers of the IT world (Google, Amazon, Netflix, etc.), we can derive best practices for applying cloud-native principles in the telecoms world to overcome network operation complexity:

  • Small, stateless microservices, running in containers, because compared to large things, small things are faster to get deployed and upgraded. And small things use fewer cloud resources, because you deploy just what is needed, instead of the entire network function.
  • Cloud DevOps for automation and fast time to market. When you deploy an upgrade, use canary deployment to test it with a smaller group before extending it out to everyone.
  • Open architecture & APIs so you can continually onboard innovation. For example, 5G’s core uses a service-based architecture, with well-defined APIs for network functions to offer services or call on each other. This, along with the cloud-native service mesh, enables rapid manipulation of your 5G core, whether for integrating new network functions, or rapidly scaling or deploying per-enterprise slices.
  • Cloud agnostic, so you can deploy anywhere. Because the infrastructure is abstracted, you can eliminate the hardware dependencies.

 

What are cloud microservices and containers?

Containers isolate an application and its dependencies into a self-contained unit that can run anywhere. In this environment, hardware and operating systems are virtualized, which means the same operating system is shared with other hosted applications.

In a traditional IT environment, operations teams manage the allocation of infrastructure resources to applications manually. With cloud-native network operations, applications are deployed on infrastructure that abstracts the underlying compute, storage and networking primitives.

 

What is a service mesh?     

The service mesh is how many microservices share information with each other. When you have a lot of messages — which happens when moving from big monolithic applications to many microservices — a service mesh becomes critical. It abstracts the messaging between the microservices in a dedicated service mesh architecture that is instantiated alongside those microservices.

This gets to the heart of cloud-native network operations: the service mesh enables the cloud-native architecture’s modularity and programmability so that the network or service can quickly be scaled or updated ‘on-demand’. You can bring new ideas to market much faster and respond more quickly to your customers’ demands. By using APIs and the service mesh to abstract the microservice network’s complexity, you enable the speedy creation of new services by yourself or partners.

 

Cloud agnostic

Solutions for telcos should be cloud-native by design, and built to work in any hybrid cloud, in order to accommodate and honor customer choice. Openness ensures telcos are not locked-in to cloud platforms and retain the ability to migrate workloads swiftly, across the entire cloud value chain including platform, containers and infrastructure-as-a-service.

While great technology is a start, CSPs need more than that to deliver sustainable business value – they need to balance technology and people. By embedding the right business processes and workflows within their day-to-day operations, they’ll be able to flawlessly execute their cloud strategy and achieve their business objectives while providing network IT teams with tools that boost efficiency from day one.

About Nokia

At Nokia, we create technology that helps the world act together.

As a B2B technology innovation leader, we are pioneering networks that sense, think, and act by leveraging our work across mobile, fixed and cloud networks. In addition, we create value with intellectual property and long-term research, led by the award-winning Nokia Bell Labs.

Service providers, enterprises and partners worldwide trust Nokia to deliver secure, reliable and sustainable networks today – and work with us to create the digital services and applications of the future.


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