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Hybrid Future

Dish's Big Bet on the Cloud, ORAN Paying Dividends, Chief Network Officer Says

Dish Network’s first decision in launching a software-centric 5G stand-alone network was to build the network using the public cloud, said Marc Rouanne, Dish Wireless chief network officer, Monday at the Silverlinings Telco Core Strategies Summit. Other speakers warned the move to the cloud isn’t a panacea and poses its own problems.

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We feel at home in the public cloud,” but Dish had to push through changes to make the cloud “robust enough and telco grade,” Rouanne said. “We’ve done that with a lot of success, as you have seen with the progression of our deployment,” he said. Then, Dish decided to use an open radio access network architecture, he said. ORAN gives Dish visibility into the technology that’s communicating with the devices on the network, he said.

Dish’s network is “data-centric,” Rouanne said. “We can consume the data ourselves to optimize” the network and “reduce the costs” and distribute the traffic, he said. Dish can also provide data to its customers so they can understand how the network is working for them, he said. Dish now has the largest ORAN in the world, he said. ORAN “integration … was faster and easier than I’ve ever seen before in the legacy technologies,” he said.

We are all learning how rich this data is and how we can use it,” Rouanne said. New use cases are emerging “every day,” he said.

The move to the cloud by providers is probably unavoidable, said Monica Paolini, analyst at Senza Fili. “The question is how quickly do you go there,” she said.

The network has to be ready to handle rapidly increasing demand, said Dilip Krishna, Rakuten director-telco cloud solutions and delivery. There will be a demand for horizontal and vertical scaling and more edge-use cases, he said. “The cloud is a natural fit for all these different requirements,” he said. “The elasticity, the automation and the related [total cost of ownership] savings are the main reasons” to move to the cloud, he said.

The experience of customers in UScellular’s “highest priority,” said Mike Dienhart, vice president-engineering and network operations. “We do view it as a burning” demand “that everything has to stop and move to the cloud immediately,” he said. “We are moving to cloud currently, depending on the platform and the service, in a very deliberate and measured fashion,” he said.

If there’s urgency, it’s that the cloud helps the provider accelerate automation, improve monitoring and performance management, improve the detection of anomalies in the network, and lower costs, Dienhart said. “In a few cases, we have platforms” where there are “no alternatives that do not rely on some cloud enablement, and for those we are moving very quickly, and others we’re testing in small stages to make sure we protect the customer experience,” he said.

Most business customers have already moved much of their workload to the cloud, said John Isch, Orange Business practice director-connectivity solutions, Americas. “We have a lot of customers who have cloud-first initiatives” while others, especially financial services companies, haven’t moved “to any great degree,” he said. Security is a major concern. “Just moving everything from the data center is only the first part of the transformation,” he said.

Costs, performance and security are the main concerns in moving to the cloud, said Justin Ryburn, field chief technology officer at network observability company Kentik. “Everybody has this bias in their head that as we migrate to the cloud things are going to be cheaper,” but that’s not always true, he said. Some customers “are a little surprised once they move workloads to the public cloud that they don’t wind up saving as much as they thought they would,” he said.

If all components aren’t migrated at the same time, companies can face high latency and connectivity issues, Ryburn said. The move has to be “well-thought-out” and “well planned so that the applications perform the way that you want them to,” he said. Security can also be a concern, he said: “The notion of a security parameter that your firewall secures for you doesn’t really exist in the public cloud -- that’s not the way they secure workloads in the public cloud.”

There is a lot of hype and a lot of friction around private versus public” cloud, said Colin Bannon, BT Business CTO. “Let the app decide,” he said. “Different locations attract different economic models,” he said: “Your workloads and the applications that you develop may need to be in multiple locations depending on your product, your business requirements and your customers’ requirements.” The future is a hybrid approach, he said. Part of the network may be on a mainframe computer, with third-party services on private clouds and microservices and frontends on the public cloud, he said.