In recent months there have been a succession of partnership announcements between mobile network operators and the public cloud providers. Most recently these include Bell Canada and Google Cloud, Vodafone and Google Cloud, AT&T and Azure and Dish and AWS, to name but four.
The scale and scope of these announcements varies – some see agreements on moving BSS and OSS software to public cloud environments. Others go further into the network itself, moving core network and (in Dish’s case) RAN functions to the cloud. Another category sees the public cloud provider as the host environment for enterprise edge applications connected to service provider networks.
At MWC21, the decision of many vendors not to attend afforded one newly formed company, TelcoDR, the opportunity to grab the stage and pump out a message that public cloud is going to change the dynamics and the economics of the telco sector*. At the same time it launched Totogi, a TelcoDR-backed BSS and billing software company into the space, extolling the fact it had been built entirely for operation in the public cloud.
Amongst TelcoDR’s public targets were MWC no-shows Ericsson and Amdocs. In Ericsson’s case, TelcoDR was literally occupying its space. As for Amdocs, the intended occupation is more metaphorical, with TelcoDR targeting its sectoral position as a supplier of software to telcos for a variety of purposes.
Amdocs, for its part, did not remain silent. Its CMO pointed out that the company is happy to see public cloud raised as a topic. Not only was it taking part in AWS’ virtual partner conference, but it had even won an award from AWS. So much for being cast as the out-dated legacy vendor about to be side-lined as the industry moves to public cloud.
Niall Norton is CEO of Openet – a software provider that has been an Amdocs company since August 2020. Two years ago TMN profiled Openet, outlining how it had made a bet on redesigning its software to be cloud native, available as microservices in a Service Based Architecture (SBA). At that time, Norton was already asking if the introduction of cloud would create new vendors in the industry.
Within Amdocs, Norton heads up a telco software unit that includes Amdocs’ charging and policy software. He says that public cloud players are indeed going to have a big impact on the cloud infrastructure of the telco industry, but he is sceptical of claims that public-private cloud is an inherent dividing line in the industry.
In five years’ time I guarantee nobody’s going to remember this difference between public and private cloud stuff, it will become a weird anachronism.
Norton’s personal view is that public cloud providers are going to have a huge role to play as enterprise and application requirements means software must be blended with the edge, and be automatable. “From a pure infrastructure point of view, yes, anybody who wants to work well in that environment will need to have an architecture that is compatible.”
“Typically, hyperscalers entered the telco universe saying they will provide a much more robust set of tooling around your private cloud. But now as part of the infrastructure mix there’s a lot more collaboration between telcos and hyperscalers. We work very closely with Amazon and Azure, and are beginning to see GCP become a force. They’re going to be an important partner for our customers, therefore we need to make them an important partner for us.”
Security, not BS
But Norton does want to see some more nuance than merely “public cloud good” and boasts about processing speeds and scale. He points out that different clouds will be more and less relevant for different things, and that the pull for public cloud will come from enterprise needs for applications with the appropriate latency, resilience and security. “The concept of a generic cloud will become more specialised as technology evolves. Some environments will be more ready for certain market needs,” as he puts it.
And he’s concerned that “public cloud” is being used too loosely as a term.
“Those who talk about the public cloud as software vendors – there’s a lot of buzzwords out there and a lot of chancers out there. The public cloud is just a cloud. I see the posts – “I can do a million transactions per second” – well, Openet did 12 million TPS in the Amazon cloud a couple of years ago when we were getting into this. We have done trillions of events a day on our real time systems, literally trillions.
“There’s a lot of BS – trash talk – out there. But in fact when it really comes down to it, for applications in the public cloud, the big difference is security. You need to be much more aware of encryption even between microservices in your application. There are some brilliant groups out there, in Europe for example Vodafone has a hugely mature vision about how to make public and private cloud work really well for their business. But it’s actually an engineering problem, it’s less of a buzzword. To be able to deliver services and applications you’ve got to be mindful that you can you engineer it to the appropriate latency, and that you can be secure. And the guys who don’t know what they’re talking about don’t talk about it. That’s how you always know the bullshit press release from the real one.”
“There are some brilliant benefits to public cloud, and the future is definitely a blend of public and private, but in five year’s time I guarantee nobody’s going to remember this difference between public and private cloud stuff, it will become a weird anachronism. But they will remember the guy who went for the public cloud as part of their model who didn’t have the ability to continuously update their security capabilities.”
Openet within Amdocs
Approaching a year since acquisition, Norton says that the company has now “consolidated into the same tree” the Openet DNA, the Amdocs policy DNA and the charging products. “We’re all on one road forward and I’m lucky enough to be leading that group now.”
“2022 will be even stronger for us in terms of our market presence around, and taking into account things like our OSS assets, with tighter integration in end- to-end creation of a service on behalf of an enterprise or a customer in a cloud environment.”
He also says that a key part of the move to cloud is to use the 5G investment cycle to clear up complexity. Norton says that the business cases are about 2/3 driven by 5G revenue and enterprise business, but a good third of the value is in driving out network cost and increasing performance to investment ratio of legacy assets.
“Every single new deployment we are doing is helping customers clear up complexity they have in 3G and 4G. As they invest in 5G systems they need to consolidate out of old systems that are not fit for purpose in a cloud world and in a 5G dynamic world. So the business case talks about orchestration and automation and multi-cloud – and we can do that all day long – but it’s also much more here and now – “How can you help us use the 5G investment window as a way of refurbishing the existing network as well?”
“When we built the policy and charging product we built backwards compatibility so that you could migrate old systems onto a single new 5G orientated platform – and that’s been very powerful for customers and for us.”
Another key area is building in flexibility of an operational model within 5G’s Service Based Architecture (SBA).
Norton says,”My personal vision is to allow a service where an operator’s network can be evergreen. Like having an app on your phone it can update and you’d never notice, and you can only do that if you can work in an SBA, with constant drops and upgrades in a continuous model.”
- Disclosure statement: TMN was contracted to run and publish an event news site, CLOUD CITY NEWS, dedicated to TelcoDR and its partners’ presence at the event.