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'Burn the Boats'

Experts Advise Carriers to Take Phased Approach as They Move to the Cloud

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) Wednesday published a “Cloud Native Manifesto,” a document aimed at getting operators on the same page on the move to the cloud. Experts said at a TelecomTV cloud native summit the move to the cloud is happening, but there is still confusion about the reasons for the shift.

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Providers have struggled in the initial stages of moving to the cloud, said Danielle Royston, acting CEO of cloud company Totogi, at the virtual forum. “First decide your target platform,” she said: “When I talk to telco execs and ask what the target platform is, and they say all or multi-cloud, that’s a real big red flag for me.” That’s comparable to trying to learn to speak multiple languages at the same time, she said. Carriers also need to be clear about what their business reasons are for moving to the cloud, and have a plan to meet those goals, she said.

The advantage of the public cloud is the software, not the infrastructure, Royston said. “I tell telcos ‘burn the boats,’ and force everyone to live in a new public cloud reality as soon as possible and show everyone that you mean business about this culture change,” she said.

Some parts of a network can be moved to the cloud relatively easily, but other parts, like the mobile core that is very heavy on packet forwarding or subject to regulation, are more difficult, said Franz Seiser, vice president-access disaggregation at Deutsche Telekom. Providers need to look very closely at whether public cloud structures and architectures comply with telecom regulations, especially in Europe, he said.

You’d better start with one platform, and decide later if you need to add a second or a third,” Seiser said. “First learn to walk, then we can talk about running.”

The definition of cloud native “differs for everyone,” said Rahul Atri, consultant at Appledore. Most providers are shifting some parts of their networks to the cloud, he said. “If not, they have started moving some of their applications,” he said. Telcos haven’t always been successful at leveraging the cloud and getting the best return on their investments, he said.

Providers need to “be as dynamic as possible,” provide as simple an application programming interface (API) as possible and “then build some initial use cases” and “attract developers, third parties” to participate, Atri said.

In June 2021 Orange launched Pikeo, Europe’s first end-to-end, 5G-stand-alone experimental cloud network, said Philippe Ensarguet, vice president-software engineering at the European operator. “The core idea was clearly to prepare ourselves for the future,” he said. “It hasn’t been only a journey on the technical side, but as well on the methodology, on the culture, on the mindset and on the skills … to future-proof our transformation,” he said.

The manifesto shows the move to cloud is maturing and providers are working together and that we’re “on the right track,” Ensarguet said.

The concept of interoperability and creating open systems and the ability for multiple telcos to interwork with each other is supremely important,” as is having open standards, said Colin Bannon, chief technology officer at BT Business. Lots of apps have been moved to the cloud, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re cloud native yet,” he said.

A “clear position on cloud native is required,” NGMN Chairman Arash Ashouriha, DT senior vice president-group technology, said in a news release. “With this publication -- written by the NGMN Board and invited operator experts -- we provide that steering to the industry by outlining a clear set of prioritized calls to action, which, once addressed, will drive the migration at scale towards cloud native network workloads, for the benefit of the ecosystem and end-users,” he said.