5 ingredients for taking full advantage of the telco cloud

Cloud computing has been a mega-trend in the IT industry for several years. The telecommunications industry is now moving to the cloud as well, looking for the same benefits of lower capital and operational costs and increased business agility.

Yet, rather than jumping on the bandwagon, it’s important to consider the very stringent requirements needed to build your telco cloud. When done right, operators can reduce service deployment times from months to hours and even minutes, while achieving dramatic cost savings.

Many network operators are currently defining their cloud strategies. For several reasons, it makes sense to start the cloud journey at the “heart” of the network, in the mobile core. Here the cost-benefit ratio is clearly the best since payback time is fast, the technology is mature and the implementation is relatively risk free if certain requirements are met.

So what is important for operators at this first stage in order to take full advantage of the telco cloud?

1) Make telco-specific adaptations of the cloud stack

The basic components of the cloud platform are virtualized computation and storage resources that are connected via virtualized LANs, all coordinated by an infrastructure manager. However, the cloud platform needs to be adjusted to meet the high availability and latency demands of network functions, especially for signaling. Therefore, NSN works closely with its partners on cloud stack extensions that meet these requirements. It contributes modifications to the OpenStack Forum so that they become part of its defined open standards, helping avoid proprietary solutions.

2) Ensure independency of hardware and cloud stack

Operators should not bind themselves to a particular cloud provider API. The industry must either agree on a limited number of API versions, or better yet, operators can achieve independence from specific hardware or cloud stacks by choosing an open solution.

3) Add orchestration and application management

Virtualization is not nearly enough. A fully functional telco cloud also requires orchestration and application management to provide automated network functions and achieve the maximum elasticity and scalability gains. These capabilities allow the continuous monitoring of the runtime status of the software in the telco cloud and distribute the software on different clouds to flexibly cope with fluctuations in capacity demand

In addition, the network functions can be adapted to the volume and type of traffic on the network. Faults in the management of the cloud infrastructure are the biggest risk for the availability of the telco cloud. Only a high degree of automation can minimize this risk. Thus, the application deployment should be controlled by pre-set templates that define exactly which virtual resources are required. Orchestration and application management should be separated from the underlying IT infrastructure by clearly defined APIs.

4) Avoid complexity by integrating into legacy FCAPS system

The new cloud infrastructure should also be integrated into the existing FCAPS (Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance, Security) system in order to avoid additional complexity. This is especially important in the transition phase, when classical network elements run in parallel with virtual network functions.

5) Adjust processes

The telco cloud is set to change the way operators run their networks and will affect many parts of their organizations. To reap the full rewards, the technological transformation must be accompanied by a fundamental shift in an operator’s working processes and organization.

Exploiting the full benefits of cloud technology

NSN has made detailed calculations of the benefits of cloud technology based on a realistic reference mobile network serving approximately 10 million subscribers. The study shows that fewer site locations produces savings in site costs of up to 65%, while IT administration improvements through automation generate 25% cost savings. Additional TCO savings are achieved by resource utilization on-demand. In addition, operators will be able to create networks for particular services and/or specific customers quickly and automatically. In other words, a service such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) could be deployed from scratch in a number of hours.

NSN telco cloud is ready for commercial deployment

NSN has been a leading proponent of the telco cloud from an early stage, with the launch of Liquid Core in 2011, which incorporated virtualized MSS and TAS network elements. Since then, NSN has run proof-of-concepts and live cloud trials to provide the technology foundation for the telco cloud. These projects have demonstrated that core network software can be run on virtualized infrastructure with the virtualization of network functions such as IMS and TAS, which are required for VoLTE and HSS front-end as well as MME and S/P Gateway.

Additional projects have demonstrated the telco cloud readiness of end-to-end VoLTE and verified the automated deployment and elastic scaling of virtualized network elements, live migration of virtual machines from one server to another and recovery from hardware failures. NSN was first to deploy a commercial telco cloud platform in a live operator multi-vendor network with its robust end-to-end services expertise.

Migration towards telco cloud requires experience

A successful telco cloud migration requires the expertise and experience of a capable vendor. NSN has this expertise, supported through three Global Delivery Centers and over 40 cloud verification projects in NSN labs.

Check out our webinar: Reinventing telcos for the cloud where we share our approach and hands-on experience from several cloud trials with global operators who are ushering networks into the cloud era. You’ll also hear about our latest innovation, cloud-ready application management, which enables operators to freely choose the most competitive hardware and cloud platform for their needs.

For more information about NSN’s telco cloud approach, please visit our web page.