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Microsoft ‘improving the cloud for telcos’ after AT&T Network Cloud acquisition

Azure for Operators is a carrier-grade hybrid cloud solution, says Microsoft

Microsoft said it’s “improving the cloud for telcos” almost seven months after it announced it had acquired AT&T’s Network Cloud. Shawn Hakl, VP of 5G strategy, Azure for operators, broke out the company’s news in a new blog post.

The original announcement noted that AT&T will run its mobility network on Microsoft’s Azure for Operators cloud. “Bringing existing and future network workloads to Azure for Operators will enable AT&T to increase productivity and cost efficiency while focusing on the delivery of large-scale network services that meet its customers’ evolving needs,” said Microsoft, at the time.

“Microsoft aims to harness trends toward Software Defined Networking (SDN), Cloud-Native Network Functions (CNFs), and Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) coupled with the service-based architecture of 5G, to begin digitally transforming the network,” explained Hakl. 

To that end, AT&T’s Network Cloud operations are aligned and integrated with Microsoft’s Azure for Operators business. This direct integration assures a seamless transition, Hakl said. What’s more, Microsoft Azure for Operators focuses on the hybrid cloud. 

“Our efforts are aimed at getting workloads on the network to function on a carrier-grade cloud, which is a hybrid cloud, spanning both public and dedicated on-premises cloud infrastructure. Telecommunication services are highly distributed and will likely become more so over time. As a result, the value of creating a carrier-grade hybrid cloud model lives in its ability to meet customers where they are—at the edge of the cloud, the edge of the network, or the edge of the enterprise.”

Building a hybrid cloud portfolio

Hakl said that Microsoft and AT&T have a clear division of labor. Microsoft is developing carrier-grade hybrid cloud technology. AT&T selects and manages VNFs and CNFS and their configurations, to help deliver customers mobility services.

“As such, we’re taking the AT&T Network Cloud technology, building it into Microsoft’s standard hybrid cloud product, and then delivering a carrier-grade hybrid cloud solution back to the market and AT&T itself, where it can run at AT&T on-premises or on Azure public cloud,” said Hakl. 

“Microsoft hybrid cloud technology supports the AT&T mobility core network workloads used to deliver 5G connectivity that supports consumer, enterprise, and the FirstNet responder community,” he added.

Hakl emphasized that AT&T customer data remains secure, and that Microsoft cannot see it.

That hybrid cloud synergy between Microsoft and AT&T is visible in the companies’ rollout of Azure Edge Zones, which began with a soft rollout in Atlanta this past November as a private preview. Azure Edge Zones and Azure Private Edge Zones provide their customers with 5G-based on-premises edge computing. Dallas and other metropolitan areas in the U.S. are coming soon, said the companies.

Hakl said that Microsoft’s 2020 acquisition of vEPC specialist Affirmed Networks, then a month later, cloud-native VNF provider Metaswitch, brings together the features for carrier-grade hybrid cloud. 

“These features, available to the entire partner ecosystem, contribute to an open, interoperable network that offers support to all operators,” he said.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Peter Cohen
Peter is a Technology Editor for RCR Wireless News whose coverage areas include hyperscalers, telco cloud, edge computing, and data centers. Before joining RCR, Peter was a freelance writer with a background in tech journalism. He worked as a senior editor for Macworld magazine, editor at iMore.com and has contributed to many other tech publications. He and his family live in Massachusetts.

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