Telco cloud is all about people, process and technology—but mostly about people
One of the key messages from expert presenters at Arden Media’s recent Telco Cloud Forum was, perhaps not surprisingly, that people are key to success. While the move to cloud-native network operations is relatively new for operators, it’s old hat for enterprises and webscalers; the technology works so optimally leveraging cloud investments for efficiency and revenue generation is much more about strategic organizational changes.
“As we moved into the cloud and embraced this transition to cloud, one of the biggest changes that we dealt with was a change in how our team was structured,” Verizon Vice President of Information Technology Abby Knowles explained. Specifically, she said team members had to shift from being generalists to being specialists. “This was a hard thing for us because we had been so focused on doing it one way. What we found [after the shift to specialization] was that we were able to actually scale faster. As we created infrastructure experts, as we created applications experts, as we created folks who focus on performance, we were able to learn it faster. We were able to turn it up faster. We made sure that even as we functionalized, we were able to keep focus on the customer.”
Lessons learnt by Rakuten Mobile
This is a familiar story to Rahul Atri, who has served as managing director for Rakuten Mobile, a greenfield Japanese market entrant that built its 4G and 5G networks using telco cloud and Open RAN architectural and operational principles. “The most important challenge as an operator or service provider you face today is the skillset of the team,” he said. “Talking about the people, I think we are in a transition stage with telecom where we need the expertise of the SMEs who are coming from a typical telecom domain but also thes hift of understanding of the cloud, how to run the IT workloads, rather than the bare-metal or the legacy applications. For us it was challenging because when you try to hire somebody and they say, ‘We come from webscaler,’ or, ‘We come from telecom,’ there’s no skill which kind of intersects.”
To solve for this, Rakuten Mobile set up a center of excellence to re-skill or up-skill employees. This started by understanding management of physical infrastructure, hypervisors, cloud telemetry coming from virtual machines, and the application layer. “You have to make sense of it,” Atri said. “I think the largest change of biggest impact we had were people and how they adapted. I think we were able to create something magical in Rakuten just because of that.”
Atri also acknowledged that sometimes thing break. But, “Be bold. You don’t have to have a plan B. No decision is bad.”
Stay tuned for the second part of this story which will incorporate perspectives from Google Cloud and VMware, both of which have extensive enterprise and data center expertise that’s relevant for 5G operators in the transition to telco cloud.