Cloud-native: It’s Not a Matter of If, but When for Communications Service Providers

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The journey to a cloud-native network environment is complex for communications service providers (CSPs). To transform their networks into a cloud-native ecosystem, CSPs must evolve them from a virtual machine infrastructure, currently built to use virtual network functions (VNFs), to a container-based infrastructure, using cloud-native network functions (CNFs). CNFs will allow carriers to achieve the required flexibility to future-proof their networks in support of automation, configuration, testing, and scalability for agile resource management to meet the demands of emerging technologies such as 5G, 6G, and beyond.

Research shows the global telecom cloud market is predicted to gain $32.5 billion by 2027, and the cloud platform is estimated to gain the largest share of the market...

Challenges on the Way to Cloud-Native

In addition to the network and emerging technologies, CSPs must ensure carrier-grade services as they consider new partnerships, vendor tools, compliance standards, and the upskilling of internal teams, to name a few problems (see Figure 1).

  • Partnerships: Emerging cloud technologies and 5G have ushered in the need to form new partnerships with system integrators and hyperscalers in support of managing and deploying public-cloud solutions. These partnerships, once formed, can contribute to the bottom line for carriers by providing an opportunity for them to distribute their offerings in the public cloud for potential revenue.
  • Multiple vendor tools: 5G disaggregated architecture and the cloud-native components of the network allow for multiple vendor offerings and solutions. Vendor lock-in can become a consistent challenge, and carriers must pursue vendor-agnostic tools to minimize any negative impact on network performance, subscribers, or services.
  • Standards and compliance: Bringing the next generation of wireless technologies to life is no small feat. And several groups within the mobile industry work to develop the necessary standards for compliance for every phase of the new technology cycle. Carriers and partners must comply to ensure technical specifications and requirements are in alignment for managing successful networks.
  • Upskilling of teams: Cross-functional work is reinforced in this new open network ecosystem, and it demands knowledge and collaboration. A literal knowledge transfer is occurring between carrier network teams and information technology teams within carriers and enterprise organizations, as well as with external partners. The right language is necessary to encourage meaningful dialogue and to break down internal silos. Proactive support of internal teams’ learning outcomes is warranted to ensure knowledge gaps are minimized as teams engage with new partners and automated technologies to ensure efficiency, productivity, and business outcomes.

Better and Faster, with More Innovation

The journey to CNFs is moving forward with containerization, Kubernetes-like environments with orchestration, and service meshes, along with virtual machine-based microservices. This outcome will bring considerable advantages for carriers because their operations will gain greater agility—which is particularly important for service innovation—enabling them to change things on the fly in response to customer needs.

But as CSPs chart their journey to cloud-native, they must understand the overall jobs to be done (JTBD) with cloud transformation work within their own private cloud environment to identify and resolve challenges with established workloads and orchestration management prior to partnering with hyperscalers to manage public cloud events. This action will improve the knowledge of their internal teams and increase control and ownership within CSP domains.
5G with emerging technologies has changed the core business and operations dynamics for carriers. Certainly, the road to cloud-native is filled with challenges for CSPs, but as their journey continues it is not a matter of if, but when, because carriers will soon realize a fertile ground with the possibilities for boundless innovation when they arrive at their cloud-centric network destination. 

NETSCOUT Offerings

NETSCOUT’s cloud solution offers complete visibility into microservice, pod, and pod-to-pod communications in 5G environments where encryption is involved. Our cloud-optimized software is vendor-agnostic and supports multivendor encryption/decryption with end-through-end visibility, providing a seamless and proactive view of the network for service assurance and rapid triaging to reduce outages and mean time to repair (MTTR). 

Flow Diagram starting from bottom depicting various cloud native journey states
Figure 1: The various challenges of CSP's cloud-native journey


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