What Service Providers are Learning from the Cloud?
Part 1 – Network Value Shifting to the Cloud
When Service Providers (SPs) look to the future they see a tsunami bearing down that threatens to drown their traditional world. The over-the-top (OTT) delivery of cloud-based services has already diminished the SP role in many cases to being a pipe supplier and bit transporter. Cloud services are now also beginning to endanger SP’s value-added business, residential, and mobile services.
The threat from the cloud is more than just the services, it is the entire fluid nature of the cloud itself. Not only does the cloud enable creating, customizing, and managing services in highly agile manner, but it does so with high efficiency, squeezing out the maximum performance from underlying resources. This is a game changing one-two punch.
To remain competitive, SPs now recognize that they need to learn to swim in the cloud world. They need to introduce service agility and operations automation. Many have already begun introducing Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) technologies. These will help shift the value in telecommunications networks from transmission, switching, and routing hardware, to software applications that deliver services and control the network in an a holistic and automated manner. According to a recent IHS Technology report, “SDN software and outsourced services will be 66% of the $18B total SDN revenue in 2021.”
Examples of software applications are:
- Virtualized WAN business services
- Managed security services
- SDN network controllers
- Multilayer packet-optical path computation
- Zero touch provisioning service instantiation
- Predictive maintenance
- Network analytics
However, SPs are also learning that ‘simply’ shifting value to software applications is not enough. Equally important is how applications are developed, deployed, and managed. So some SPs have started adopting cloud architectures (using private cloud models for reasons of security and control) to enjoy the cloud’s multiple agility and economic benefits. In the same vein, SPs now expect that software-based applications solutions, including those coming from their traditional networking vendors, use the latest cloud software engineering techniques. This is needed to integrate the applications easily and extract maximum value over their life-cycle.
- Cloud-based services are changing the game.
- SPs want to move up the value chain: from bit-moving hardware to cloud-based software applications.
- SPs expect applications software are based on current cloud software engineering techniques, to facilitate their deployment and life-cycle management.
Software Engineering in the Cloud and DevOps
So what are these cloud software engineering techniques? Three essential “cloud native” techniques that I cover in two follow-on blogs are: 1) Microservices, 2) Containers, and 3) Platform-as-a-Service (Paas). They facilitate taking advantage of large clusters of server resources, and meeting the needs of a dynamic end-user services environment where changes need to be delivered quickly.
They also share an important collective ability of enabling a successful DevOps environment. This is being able to develop, test, release, update, and maintain software rapidly and reliably, to provide a competitive advantage in delivering applications to end-users.
DevOps encompasses a set of practices meant to smooth collaboration between software developers (Dev) responsible for writing and testing applications software, and software operations (Ops) responsible for deploying and managing the applications. It aims to overcome the “throw it over the wall” culture that previously separated these organizations which slowed down applications delivery. DevOps makes extensive use of automation, and is decoupled from scaling of the underlying infrastructure.
DevOps aligns with a fail-fast culture. It is changing the business dynamics between network solutions providers who develop the applications and the SPs who deploy them. To realize the full benefits of DevOps, it is expected that both parties use common or complimentary cloud software engineering techniques.
Stay tuned for two further blogs in this series:
Part 2 – Microservices and Containers
Part 3 – Service Provider Platform as a Service
Topics: Service Providers