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What makes a telco cloud a telco cloud?

‘Telco Cloud’ describes a cloud computing environment optimized for the workloads and demands of telecom operators

It’s a deliberately vague industry buzzword which connotes the application of cloud computing technology specific to the telecom market. What’s more, the definition is changing as telco operations change to embrace new networking and communications models that work with hybrid, public and private cloud networks.

Telco operations have more stringent performance and quality of service requirements than IT or public cloud operations — along with vastly more regulatory oversight. Operator networks need faster traffic management, more reliability, minimized jitter and lower latency than public clouds can provide, so clouds for telcos are built with special requirements in mind. 

Whether on a local network or on a telecom network, however, cloud computing is a distributed computing architecture. Software operates on the network as microservices or virtual machines. These apps are managed and orchestrated by hypervisor and app container technology. The software is available at scale, depending on demand and resource availability.

Virtualizing and going cloud native

Telco clouds are built on the concept of Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI), an approach to implementing Software Defined Networking (SDN). In a telco cloud, Cloud Native Functions and Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) replace physical devices to provide essential network services. 

Essential network functions can be implemented as software processes. These process run on Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) data center server hardware. These replace specialized hardware devices that require a physical location to be installed, maintained and serviced. By implementing functions in software, managing their lifecycle and using automation, carriers can scale operations and introduce new features faster and more efficiently. 

“Telco cloud is a software-defined, highly resilient cloud infrastructure that allows telcos to add services more quickly, respond faster to changes in demand and centrally manage their resources more efficiently,” said Red Hat.

5G cloud infrastructure enables Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), network slicing and ultra-low latency communications, as well as Radio Access Network (RAN) disaggregation via Open RAN and other initiatives. These foundational technologies are key to emerging business opportunities in the 5G economy. 

“A telco cloud represents the data center resources that are required to deploy and manage a mobile phone network with data transfer capabilities by carrier companies in production operations at scale. These clouds have traditionally been based in private data center facilities, which are used to manage the telecommunication requirements of 3G/4G and LTE networks. With the current roll-out of 5G equipment across the mobile service provider community internationally, vendors have adopted strategies related to network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined data center (SDDC) management. This makes the deployment of required operating software to carriers more efficient,” said VMware.

Telco cloud examples

IBM has launched a telco-focused hybrid cloud architecture with dozens of ecosystem partners. The companies are focused on “accelerating business transformation, enhancing digital client engagement and improving agility as they modernize their enterprise applications and infrastructure to unlock the power of 5G and edge,” according to IBM.

IBM Cloud for Telecommunications incorporates IBM Cloud Satellite and Red Hat OpenShift for flexible cloud-based service delivery and integrates IBM’s Edge Application Manager and Telco Network Cloud Manager. 

VMware sees its Telco Cloud Platform as a way for 5G operators to maintain a consistent horizontal architecture “to continue to run existing services, such as vEPC and have the same platform support new, cloud-native services, including standalone 5G services.”

Dish selected VMware Telco Cloud as the basis for its forthcoming greenfield 5G network. In a statement announcing the deal, Dish Chief Network Officer Marc Rouanne said the telco cloud platform will enable them to bring online distributed cloud, edge computing and network slicing features for their customers.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Peter Cohen
Peter Cohen
Peter is Technology Editor for RCR Wireless News. His coverage areas include telco cloud and the convergence of 5G and cloud computing. Peter's background includes IT management and a decade as a senior editor at Macworld. He and his family live in Massachusetts.

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