Service providers are becoming increasingly aware of the necessity to migrate their networks to a cloud-native environment. However, they exhibit prudence and concern regarding the obstacles related to the network transformation process.
Their apprehensions are well-founded since embracing a cloud-native architecture necessitates a substantial alteration and reorganisation, not solely in technological aspects but also in the traditional functioning of telecommunication companies. The immense magnitude of the telecommunication network, combined with intricate configurations, further compounds the difficulty. Nevertheless, telcos can optimise their chances of achieving favorable outcomes in their transition to a cloud-native environment by being mindful of a few key factors:
Mitigating workforce challenges
The proficiencies essential to manage the novel cloud-native network are substantially distinct from the current skill sets. Typically, the network and IT teams operate independently in conventional service providers; however, the cloud-native environment necessitates the integration of both skill sets. To ensure the teams work in tandem with the evolving demands, telcos must amalgamate and restructure the two teams. Telcos may have to enlist additional resources since IT skill sets are more imperative in a cloud-native environment and adopt DevOps practices.
Infrastructure and tooling
Cloud native network deployment typically requires a variety of tools to support the development, deployment, and management of network infrastructure and services. Some of the key tooling required for cloud native network deployment include continuous integration and continuous deployment (CICD) pipelines, network security tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, monitoring and observability tools such as Prometheus, Grafana, etc., service mesh technologies like Istio and most importantly network function virtualisation platforms.
Adopting novel models
Traditionally, telcos have opted for one or two network equipment vendors. However, in a cloud-native environment, they would be collaborating with new stakeholders such as Wind River, Red Hat, or VMware, who provide the underlying container software platform and public cloud providers as well. Telcos should exercise caution and prudence regarding the commercial models accompanying support and licensing, whether it is a perpetual or recurring revenue basis.
Existing legacy systems and applications may not be designed for cloud-native environments, which can make it challenging to integrate them into a cloud-native network. A way to mitigate this challenge is by implementing interworking functions, which interwork open interfaces with legacy protocol, allowing operators to perform a gradual transition from legacy applications or interfaces.
Design for failover scenarios
Superior design practices for cloud native functions (CNFs) should be adopted so that application state information is not stored on any single instance. While cloud-native applications are designed to run in distributed environments and can be easily replicated across multiple geographic locations, high availability and geo-redundancy considerations must be validated. When deploying in public clouds, high availability is achieved by deploying redundant CNFs in separate availability zones (AZs) within a region. Geo-redundancy is achieved by deploying redundant CNFs in separate AZs in more than one region.
Cloud-native applications are deployed in a containerised environment that provides security at the container layer, in addition to the cloud layer and the cluster layer. Additional security measures at the application development lifecycle early on must be optionally considered to mitigate security breaches. The open interfaces implemented in the cloud-native applications will pose new security challenges, these interface must ensure privacy protection, protection against external threats and compliance with regulatory requirements.
Leveraging network visibility and analytics
One of the primary advantages of transitioning to a cloud-native environment for telcos is gaining visibility into the network, enabling them to utilise analytics to enhance network performance and provide a genuinely unique experience to subscribers. Additionally, telcos can leverage full slice assurance to monitor the slice’s performance and optimise the network in real-time to meet the slice requirements.
Service level agreement (SLA) requirements
The adoption of a cloud-native network creates novel possibilities for service providers to provide a differentiated experience and expedite the launch of new services while simultaneously decreasing the total cost of network ownership.
Mavenir is currently assisting numerous service providers in realising the complete potential and benefits of migrating their networks to a cloud-native environment.