What is Cloud Native?

Telecom network operators were rattled when cloud computing first arrived on their doorstep. By Liron Golan, Director of Portfolio Marketing at Nokia

In an already competitive industry, the thought of more players entering the fray set alarm bells ringing. Telecoms couldn’t compete with cloud providers’ low-cost services, which could be switched on quickly and scaled flexibly.

The cloud business model appealed not only to end users, but to Telcos themselves. ‘Cloudification’ and virtualization technologies, such as NFV (Network Function Virtualization) and SDN (Software-Defined Networking), were ushered in with much fanfare. They promised to transform the economics of telecoms and make operators more agile in creating new services.

One term that is increasingly misunderstood by non-experts is “cloud-native”. More specifically, “cloud native” is used to refer to technologies that are applied in developing applications built with services packaged in containers, deployed as microservices, and managed on elastic infrastructure through agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery workflows.

In telecoms, we should understand “Cloud-Native,” by basing it on what we have learned from studying the Webscale providers (Google, Amazon, Netflix, etc.), applying it to telecoms.

· Small, stateless microservices, running in containers, because compared to large things, small things are faster to get deployed and upgraded. And small things use fewer cloud resources, because you deploy just what is needed, instead of the entire network function.

· Cloud DevOps for automation and fast time to market. When you deploy an upgrade, use canary deployment to test it with a smaller group before extending it out to everyone.

· Open architecture & APIs so you can continually onboard innovation. For example, 5G’s core uses a service-based architecture, with well-defined APIs for network functions to offer services or call on each other. This, along with the cloud-native service mesh, enables rapid manipulation of your 5G core, whether for integrating new network functions, or rapidly scaling or deploying per-enterprise slices.

· Cloud agnostic, so you can deploy anywhere. Because the infrastructure is abstracted, you can eliminate the hardware dependencies.

What are cloud microservices and containers?

Containers isolate an application and its dependencies into a self-contained unit that can run anywhere. In this environment, hardware and operating systems are virtualized, which means the same operating system is shared with other hosted applications.

In a traditional IT environment, operations teams manage the allocation of infrastructure resources to applications manually. In a cloud-native environment, applications are deployed on infrastructure that abstracts the underlying compute, storage and networking primitives.

What is cloud open architecture & APIs?

Webscale providers (Google, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) initially deployed without a service mesh, but they found their large cloud systems too difficult to manage, because messages were not observable

or controllable. So, they implemented a service mesh (open-source examples include Istio, Linkerd) to move where the messaging takes place — out of microservice and into an adjacent sidecar.

What is a service mesh?

The service mesh is how many microservices share information with each other. When you have a lot of messages — which happens when moving from big monolithic applications to many microservices — a service mesh becomes critical. It abstracts the messaging between the microservices in a dedicated service mesh architecture that is instantiated alongside those microservices.

Microservices offer and call on services from one another, as producers and consumers of information. The messages might flow one-to-one or one-to-many. The microservices ask for or receive the information they need, such as a slicing function asking for an enterprise’s policy definitions, for example.

As a result, the service mesh enables the cloud-native architecture’s modularity and programmability, so that ‘on-demand’ the network or service can quickly be scaled or updated. You can bring new ideas to market much faster and respond more quickly to your customers’ demands. By using APIs and the service mesh to abstract the microservice network’s complexity, you enable the speedy creation of new services by yourself or partners.

What is cloud orchestration?

Cloud automation is incredibly important. 5G services will continually need updated capabilities. DevOps helps you automate delivery, installation & testing.

At its core, DevOps for cloud is the automation of agile methodology. DevOps automation is becoming cloud-centric. Most public and private cloud computing providers support cloud DevOps systemically on their platform, including continuous integration and continuous development tools.

Telecoms providers are beginning to recognise the need for purpose-built pipelines to address this – to reduce time to value, improving its efficiency with all necessary assets automatically delivered (including software images, Helm charts, Test cases, etc) while the DevOps platform controls installation, test execution, and results reporting.

Cloud agnostic

Solutions provided by telecoms providers must be cloud-native by design - built to work in any hybrid cloud and to accommodate and honour customers’ choices. Providing customers with a cost-efficient and rapid way to run workloads, regardless of where they are in their cloud journey, is essential to modern operations.

Allowing developers to focus on their app’s business logic, by reusing common, shared micro-services helps the service provider, because cloud resources are more efficiently used. The future of Telecoms lies in offering solutions that avoid lock-in on cloud platforms and empower customers with the ability to migrate workloads swiftly, across the entire cloud value chain including Platform, Containers and Infrastructure as a service.

While great technology is a start, CSPs need more than that to deliver sustainable business value – they need to balance technology and people. By embedding the right business processes and workflows within their day-to-day operations, they’ll be able to flawlessly execute their cloud strategy and achieve their business objectives while providing network IT teams with tools that boost efficiency from day one.

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