How Cloud-native Is Transforming the Telecommunications Industry


With cloud-native architectures, service providers can expedite 5G adoption and unlock the full range of capabilities it has to offer, says Ram Ramanathan, senior director of product management at Ribbon Communications.

This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) highlighted some of the best innovations in telecommunications, from sustainability to 5G. But one topic stands to play a major role in the evolution of the industry: cloud-native. At the conference, I was fortunate enough to provide my thoughts on the benefits of cloud-native in a panel along with telecommunications leaders from Rakuten Symphony and Google Cloud. But the conversation shouldn’t stop there – as providers look to take full advantage of what 5G has to offer, organizations should continue to reflect on the role cloud-native architecture has in making 5G a reality.  

Specifically for communications service providers (CSPs) looking to capture new markets, it’s imperative to invest in new solutions that provide superior quality of service, faster deployment, and agility to their customers. With customers now prioritizing ease of use and value, cloud-native enables providers to deliver new 5G services like telehealth and mobile gaming efficiently without compromising on quality. Yet with 5G’s complex workload needs, providers’ traditional communication architectures will not be sufficient to support the full potential of these real-time services. 

See More: Why Connectivity Providers Must Prepare for a New Digital Divide

Factors Driving the Adoption of Cloud-native

There are a variety of driving forces behind the accelerated adoption of cloud-native technologies. 

Over the past decade, the telecommunications industry has been slow to adopt a software-defined networking approach. Historically, when the industry first made its foray into virtualization from a hardware-centric model, most vendors brought applications from the hardware world and developed a unique, proprietary operating system for each individual network function to transition to software. 

However, as the need for multiple service offerings and applications increased, vendors have found that proprietary operating systems tend to create complex issues where there is now a need for simplifying operations. 

Additionally, as CSPs look to diversify their service offerings to meet customer needs, the industry is embracing cloud-native and containerization as a way to provide better service, greater agility, and faster deployment. As consumer demands shift with the evolving tech landscape, customers require APIs that deliver the experience the end user wants, such as low latency, increased security, and easy access to data. CSPs may find that legacy infrastructure cannot efficiently support such requirements. 

Cloud-native services enable service providers to spend less time managing their complex legacy hardware and more time deploying innovative services like 5G and simplified service offerings on common, standardized infrastructure and orchestration layers. 

The Benefits of a Cloud-native Approach

For providers looking to maximize profitability by meeting customer needs, cloud-native offers an increased ability to utilize resources to their full advantage, reduce operating expenses, and launch new services efficiently. In addition, cloud-native allows organizations to:

  • Accelerate digital transformation:  Cloud-native solutions represent the next critical step in digital transformation. Operators can take full advantage of their architectural destiny by implementing cloud-native network functions (CNFs) as microservices deployed in containers that are managed by automated cloud-native operations. Containers are standardized building blocks that can assist organizations in deploying some of these cloud-native services more efficiently and can run in any environment – private or public cloud. Leveraging CNFs, operators can design a network that is developed with the end-user in mind, as it allows them to select the most ideal software from the open-source and vendor marketplace and assemble them in a simplified, common architecture. 
  • Minimize downtime and speed up recovery: As the industry has seen a pivotal shift in the way consumers communicate and work virtually in the aftermath of the pandemic, automation has proved to be a valuable resource for CSPs looking to accelerate service delivery with minimal human intervention. Cloud-native technology can ensure continuous service delivery and integration by leveraging CI/CD tools (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) that automate testing, lifecycle management, and provisioning, helping to minimize downtime and recover faster from security attacks. With the CNF architecture, CSPs can dynamically adapt to the changing end-customer behavior and move the network closer to where the end customer wants to consume the services.
  • Reducing data silos to improve security: As organizations undergo digital transformation efforts, they effectively increase their exposure to attack by expanding the attack surface. With security attacks a top concern, there is increased demand for cloud-native platforms – particularly those that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to identify and prevent fraudulent attacks. By leveraging automated behavioral analytics and ML across a network, operators can reduce security management siloes and create an overarching security environment that can reduce VoIP threats. 
  • Decrease the cost and complexity of security: The new shift towards containerization requires a large-scale intensive effort to proactively identify fraudulent calls and attacks that could potentially put customer and company data and reputation at risk. Operators can leverage machine learning to implement reputation scoring based on fraudulent call patterns and destination detection. Cloud-native solutions reduce the cost and complexity of securely connecting a wide variety of VoIP services that provide robust network security.

Considerations Before Making the Move to Cloud-native

Although there are several benefits for providers when moving to cloud-native, in some situations the transition won’t deliver the expected return on investment. 

Certain parts of traditional legacy infrastructure, mainly TDM, are expected to fade into obscurity as CSPs look forward to 5G and other technologies. As a result, many experts advise service providers to instead move their TDM to a secure, isolated environment and focus on virtualizing other functions that can deliver better ROI. 

In order to successfully transition to cloud-native, organizations must adopt an entire cultural shift that promotes innovation and achieves efficiency. During the transition, providers must be ready to ask a variety of questions to identify the best solution for their needs and workloads, whether that’s a public, private, or hybrid option. Organizations that are not willing to invest in organizational change for processes, skillsets, and culture will not experience the results they seek from cloud-native. Before beginning the transition, organizations must be sufficiently clear about the business premise for making the change, including answering questions about how to handle automation, upgrades, observability, and which cloud model to invest in. Without sufficient buy-in from leadership, organizations may find the transition difficult to navigate. 

Cloud-native Is Just the Start of Better Business Outcomes

Over the last decade, the telecommunications world has seen a shift from vertical to horizontal thinking. Like other industries, service providers are rethinking the entire software infrastructure and are moving towards virtualization as a way to structure networks. Along with benefits like cost savings, increased efficiency, and the ability to provide diversified services, cloud-native offers opportunities to generate better business outcomes. Through a comprehensive shift in culture and ongoing conversations about meeting the needs of the end-user, cloud-native represents the opportunity providers have been waiting for. 

What trend do you predict for the telecom industry as service providers make the shift to cloud-native? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!

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