Telco cloud may be the future

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All clouds are not created equal, and telco clouds have unique capacity, latency and scale requirements.

So says Said Ouissal, VP of Junos and product portfolio management at Juniper Networks, speaking on cloud innovation at the NetEvents Cloud Innovation Summit, in California, this week.

Ouissal says large telecom operators have "the right stuff" to be a significant force in multi-tenant cloud services.

Driving telco cloud futures, he says, is evolving technology - but this is coupled with unique challenges telcos face due to their inherent nature. "The main challenges come down to five things: time to service, product evolution, the big over-the-top (OTT) threat, network to cloud integration, and operation support system (OSS) agility.

"Telcos face lengthy service provisioning times of days to weeks and the IP activation process is cumbersome. In terms of product evolution, they face lengthy new product introductions and certification times, and bundles are limited by physical infrastructure, OTT cloud providers compete using the Internet, and telcos lack integration of public and private cloud offerings.

"OSS agility is probably the biggest challenge. It is expensive to replace or augment telcos' current OSS systems."

Telco edge

Jeremiah Caron, senior VP of analysis at Current Analysis, says OTT operators' more nimble business model was already a hot issue by 2007.

He says the cry has been that telcos must find new business models, lest they end up being dumb-pipe operators. But this was easier said than done, says Caron - at least until 2012, when the cloud began opening up endless possibilities for new ways of doing business.

"But it was still not telcos driving cloud services, but organisations like Apple, Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft Azure - accounting for over 40% of Ethernet ports shipped worldwide."

While telcos bear "the capex burden", Caron notes they do still have the edge in terms of infrastructure and an established customer base. "So, should they leverage their advantage and try for a competitive role, or is it time to stop asking what opportunities today's cloud can offer and start looking for ways to shape tomorrow's cloud as an environment offering limitless opportunities for all?"

Noting that co-operation between a comprehensive range of stakeholders across the industry has built a $50 billion Carrier Ethernet services market, Caron suggests a similar approach could drive tomorrow's $200 billion - "and growing" - cloud services market.

Cloud approach

How telcos approach the move to cloud is critical, says Caron.

He says Current Analysis recently presented its recommendations to one of the world's biggest telcos.

"We told them first of all to avoid the 'Amazon Web Services trap'. Everybody wants to be Amazon, but the costs and profits may not add up. Telcos need to rather focus on their core competencies."

Secondly, says Caron, operator strengths come from network and expertise. "Cloud portfolio is built around the strongest asset. Operators need to promote network orientation in helping customers through the cloud on-boarding process and find new opportunities in the middle."

Last, but certainly not least, he says - the security connection. Caron says there is an emphasis on threat management and this presents an opportunity for operators.

"[Telcos can] create more options/packages for customers that may be insourcing some security functions."

He says the issue of connectivity - "telcos' crown jewel" cannot be downplayed or brushed over. "They need to consider how cloud acts as a driver for connectivity concerns."

Ouissal notes that, when the Internet started 15 years ago, it did not start with telcos. "Now it is powered by the telcos. Effectively, we are all accessing Internet via them. We went from dial-up to the Internet being integrated in the networks - and I think the same kind of evolution could happen with cloud.

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