|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2014|
|Topic:||Reinventing telcos for the cloud|
|Title:||Head of Mobile Broadband Solutions for Asia Pacific|
|Organisation:||Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN)|
Nils is Head of Mobile Broadband Solutions, Asia Pacific for Nokia Solutions and Networks. Based in Singapore, Nils is responsible for promoting the mobile broadband solutions in the region.
Nils has been in the telecommunications industry for more than 15 years. Nils brings with him an in depth experience in the industry and a proven track record in solutions and sales management leadership roles, spanning the areas of enterprise, fixed and mobile networks in Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Nils has been based in Asia since 2007, performing several regional roles such as sales director for WiMAX, Core and Radio in Asia South and Australia/New Zealand. He was also the sales head of mobile broadband solutions for Asia Pacific.
Bringing cloud computing to the telecommunications industry promises forward-looking operators an unprecedented ability to respond quickly to changing market needs, along with substantial overall cost savings.
Mobile broadband operators today face multiple challenges and exciting new opportunities to build profitability. Traffic growth continues almost unbounded, demanding new network capacity. By 2020, it is likely that mobile broadband networks will be called on to deliver 1GB/User/day.
Yet traffic patterns are unpredictable. This was starkly demonstrated in September 2013 when Apple released its iOS 7 operating system. Within a few hours, 130 million people had updated their devices, doubling the data demand on some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) around the world.1
At the same time, providing a great network experience for subscribers is extremely important and will become critical as a principal driver of revenue.
To meet all these needs, operators require extreme flexibility in their network and operations to enable then to respond rapidly to changing customer demands. In parallel, to maintain and grow their profitability, operators will need to see a drastic reduction in their total ‘production’ cost per bit.
Evolving their businesses and operations to the telco cloud has the potential to help operators meet all these needs.
What is the telco cloud?
Consumers and businesses today benefit widely from cloud-based services, such as email, hosted on servers and delivered over the Internet. Many industries also benefit from cloud computing, which allows them to separate their business from their IT infrastructure by using automated and programmable data centers with virtualized computing and storage. In essence, IT can be delivered as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS). The benefits include substantially lower costs, greater flexibility and the ability to upgrade instantly to the latest IT capabilities.
The adoption of cloud computing in telecommunications, the telco cloud, is a gradual, evolutionary process.
The telco cloud shifts network functions away from dedicated hardware platforms into ‘virtual’ software components that can be implemented on general-purpose hardware, much of which can be pooled in centralized data centers, rather than being distributed around the network. The attractions of the telco cloud are similar to those in the IT environment, namely lower Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) and Operational Expenditure (OPEX) and increased business agility.
The telco cloud cuts CAPEX through on-demand scalability and commoditization. It enables operators to shift application capacity to match service demand, as well as sharing capacity across and within sites. The use and consolidation of commodity hardware also reduces the required investment.
Meanwhile, automation and standardization will drive down OPEX. Operations and maintenance is simplified by using the same hardware and software platform for different network functions including the deployment of new network elements. Business agility is a further benefit. Operators will be able to create networks for specific services and/or specific customers quickly and automatically, meaning that a service such as IMS-based Voice over LTE (VoLTE) could be installed and deployed from scratch in a number of hours. The development and implementation phases are reduced from months to days, while the inherent risks involved are minimized and the operator’s business agility is increased.
Moving to the telco cloud
So, how can operators adopt the telco cloud? The first step in adapting cloud computing technology for the telco domain is to virtualize service and control functions in the core network. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) separates the network functions from the underlying hardware. Moreover, by ‘building’ the necessary functionality as software, NFV enables the use of non-proprietary, commoditized IT hardware shared across multiple software applications from multiple vendors.
In other words, previous ‘silo-operated’ network elements with integrated software and hardware can be implemented on top of a private and shared IaaS cloud. This approach is widely adopted in IT, but existing features in IT-style cloud implementations do not provide the necessary capabilities to translate directly into the telco domain.
Additionally, a full telco cloud implementation is not only about virtualizing the mobile and fixed core applications; it is also about a complementing cloud application management approach. This must include cloud orchestration and application management of virtualized network functions integrated with classical network management for non-cloud systems in order to achieve the full benefits of automated provisioning and elastic scaling of the network.
With one of the benefits of the telco cloud being to provide operators with far greater flexibility and agility, it makes sense to adopt an approach that is independent of hardware and cloud technology for both NFV and the cloud application management. This independence enables virtualized core network functions and their management to support several cloud stacks, including Openstack© and VMware vCloud Suite. As other cloud stack vendors become relevant for the telco industry, such a cloud-agnostic approach will ensure they will be supported.
Reducing management effort through automation and orchestration
One of the main goals in introducing cloud computing is the harmonization and reduction of management effort involved in operating a network. On the other hand, the advent of software-based substitutes for traditional network elements, the introduction of new components and functions, and the need to distribute that functionality across virtualized resources all call for fresh thinking in network management and operations if they are not to offset the potential savings. Increased automation will therefore be crucial. Hence the data and application architecture will also evolve to drive automation, not just for individual network functions but also across multi-vendor virtualized software applications, enabling network-wide orchestration and end-to-end service fulfilment.
The benefits of automated and orchestrated initial NFV telco cloud solutions will be further enhanced by Software Defined Networking (SDN) technologies. SDN allows Open API based programmability of connectivity for virtualized applications in a data center as well as across multiple data centers. As such, an even higher degree of automation, end-to-end elasticity, and flexibility is achieved, allowing orchestrated assignment of application, networking and transport capacity when needed and where needed.
The Telco cloud to enable more innovation
Cloud computing, along with enabling concepts such as NFV and Orchestration, aims to make it easier for an operator to run a network by eliminating the need for specialized and dedicated hardware. However, the potential benefits don’t end there. ‘Cloud thinking’ can add flexibility and agility to the network, making it possible to trial new functions as software components, without jeopardizing the existing infrastructure. Meanwhile, resource pooling and physical resource virtualization adds elasticity to the network model and makes it more responsive.
Evolving to the telco cloud will be a game changer for many operators, pointing to a brighter, more profitable future. The telco cloud will enable them to innovate with exciting new apps and services in a small fraction of the time it would previously have taken. What’s more, the risks associated with such adventures in innovation will be far less than today, because they will not require changes in the network hardware. The selection, however, of a capable partner for a successful telco cloud migration is a must. It is the vendor’s expertise and capabilities which help in building a strong roadmap, executing seamless project management, deploying, and operationalizing the telco cloud for the operators.