With the emergence of Cloud technology in the telco domain there is now the need of a paradigm shift in the way that infrastructure is owned and managed, says Mohammed Samir, market services head for Middle East and Africa at Nokia.
CommsMEA: What kind of cloud business can actually reap benefits for operators? Which of these are long-shot opportunities and which are the low-hanging fruits?
MS: The Cloud presents multiple opportunities to telcos. By implementing Cloud infrastructure, telcos not only reap the benefits for their own operations through the agility and CAPEX/OPEX improvements achieved by the Cloud, but are also able to leverage their new infrastructure to offer new services typically referred to as XaaS, or “Anything as a Service”, which include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The “long-shots”, or rather “long-term opportunities” include the implementation of so-called “G-Cloud”, or “Government Cloud” infrastructure where the government of a country invests in building a centralised Cloud infrastructure that can be used by all nationwide institutions such as Ministries, Hospitals, Universities, etc. to help drive collaboration and innovation. For example, Nokia, with its CloudBand for voice over LTE, evolved packet core, multi-site NFV platforms, dynamic enterprise services and government cloud, has been building such cloud infrastructure for the Burkina Faso government in Africa, to help developing new digital services e-government, e-health, and e-learning. The “low-hanging fruits” are services such as Virtual CPE (vCPE) for delivery of quadruple-play services to subscribers’ homes and, for example, Disaster Recovery services for enterprise customers. In the case of Virtual CPEs the setup box in the customers’ homes becomes a “dumb box” with the “intelligence” is shifted to the telco’s Cloud infrastructure.
CommsMEA: What are the main features which make telcos suited to be the cloud provider of choice?
MS: The biggest advantages that telcos have are their existing infrastructure and customer base. Established relationships and rapid service delivery are key to introduction of new services. Many telcos are already playing in the triple/quadruple-play spaces and thus have connectivity to the subscribers’ premises/homes. As telcos introduce new Cloud-based services they can activate and deliver these with rapid turnaround. The Virtual CPE is, once again, a good example of this. Telcos have existing infrastructure which they can enhance and/or scale to implement the additional technologies/solutions required to deliver Cloud services.
CommsMEA: What in your opinion are the main factors that have hindered telcos from realising their optimal potential as cloud service providers?
MS: Transition to the Cloud is not just about technology. In order to truly harness the potential of the Cloud, Telco Services Providers need to transform their organisations and business processes; this is often the biggest challenge. Traditionally, at a high-level, telco organisations have been structured across network and IT domains, being led by the CTO and CIO respectively. Each organisation owns their hardware infrastructure, the applications deployed over this infrastructure, and the human resources to design, implement and manage these. With the emergence of Cloud technology in the telco domain there is now the need of a paradigm shift in the way that infrastructure is owned and managed. The promise of the Cloud is to allow the deployment of any application on common infrastructure, meaning that telco and IT applications can be deployed on the same servers. One model is for the infrastructure to be owned by a single department which then leases Cloud capacity to all other departments, including network, IT, Finance, HR, etc. However, this is now leading to friction between network and IT departments. Network departments are much more familiar with the complex telco applications whereas IT departments have stronger knowledge of virtualisation technology which is the underlying framework of the Cloud; many telcos are struggling with this. Quite simply, technology is easier to transform than people! Nokia offers consulting services to help telcos achieve their Cloud transformation strategy.
CommsMEA: What kind of partnerships are crucial to excel in cloud business?
MS: Telcos have long-standing technical capabilities in fixed and mobile telephony. However, the Cloud, and specifically the so-called “Telco Cloud”, is a different ballgame. Contrary to common belief, the Telco Cloud is far from simple. Whilst virtualisation and the Cloud have been around for many years in the IT world, these technologies have only recently started to develop the performance capabilities required to handle throughput-demanding telco applications. Deploying a web-based application on the Cloud is very different to deploying a packet core on the Cloud. Nokia has noted that some telcos are diving into the deep end with the Telco Cloud based purely on their confidence that their IT departments, with their long history of dealing with Cloud technology, will steer them through this brave new world. In our view, this can be a mistake. Telcos must encourage and build strong three-way partnerships between themselves, their cloud infrastructure vendors with strong consulting services like that of Nokia and their virtualised telco applications (VNF) vendors.