At the end of an event the temptation is to look back – and indeed you can look back in detail at all the demos, the company news and the live sessions that we have covered for you over the past three days.
You can assess the impact that you have had over the week, and perhaps even relax now that the day is over.
But the more intriguing proposition is to turn round, look forward and ask the question, “What comes next?”
There’s no doubt that public cloud has a role to play within telco, and also that mobile network operators have a role to play in the cloud. When AWS and Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure speakers all say – as they did here at CLOUD CITY LIVE – that it is the intelligent RAN, the edge infrastructure and the capabilities of 5G that excites them, then we should listen.
Network slicing, private networks and the ability to open up the “black box” of the network via APIs and CNFs deployed as microservices – all of these give operators the ability to create the network as a platform, and that’s something the hyperscalers know about.
We’ve seen Google Cloud and AWS in particular make a series of high level telco partnerships – where the edge presence and 5G access and upcoming Standalone core of the operator is married with the AI/ML capability and scale and flexibility of the cloud. That gives enterprises and developers the ability to create new applications, enriched by network capabilities such as low latency or very high bandwidths. So that’s the vision.
And it’s not as if other telco vendors have not responded. In CLOUD CITY, network companies like OneWeb and Allot and Mavenir were already talking about their work deploying on AWS and other services. Elsewhere, even the legacy names are making moves. We know DISH is deploying its Nokia 5G Standalone core network software on the AWS cloud, for example. But it’s not as if they’re all just going to pick up applications and services they’ve been developing and customising and integrating for years, and move the whole lot. They’ll choose what to move – in some cases in response to customer requirements, and in others in response to new money moving into cloud software companies.
The question, then, is not if telco moves workloads to the public cloud, but how. Will it open up that network to developers used to working with cloud players, and enable co-creation of applications that exploit network resources for a huge range of use cases?
Or will it be content to run its own processes in the cloud, gaining some cost and elasticity benefits, but not necessarily go the whole way to the Network-as-a-platform model? And yet… once a network has enough of its functionality and supporting logic on cloud platforms, the thinking is that cross-fertilisation between applications (think billing, policy, charging, disaggregated network functions, security) becomes much easier. That’s the more evolved piece – but they may not all get there.
Shailesh Shukla, VP/GM Networking at Google Cloud, said at CLOUD CITY LIVE that he sees the future as a triad: Enterprise – Operator – Cloud. A large screen at CLOUD CITY has been saying “Unlock The Possibilities” on repeat. The possibilities – I think everyone can see those. It’s unlocking them that will take the work. CLOUD CITY represents just a part of that process, putting down a marker for us to look back on, and to look forward from.