When was the last time you talked to your service provider? If it’s been a while, it might be time to check in. Over the past few years, the world’s leading communication service providers (CSPs) have been modernising their networks – from the core to the edge – to reimagine their businesses. And it’s all in the service of one goal: bringing life-changing new applications and services to enterprises and consumers.
Today’s CSP is much more than just a connectivity provider. They’re a sophisticated IT partner that uses the latest cloud architectures and IT software models to deliver digital capabilities businesses can’t get anywhere else: ultra-low-latency edge services to power augmented reality, telemedicine, smart factories, mass-scale secure access service edge solutions, and private 5G and LTE networks. And that’s just the beginning.
There’s a common theme behind these innovations, and it goes deeper than the expanded flexibility and agility of modern CSP networks: openness. For the first time, operators have embraced open architectures and ecosystems, so they can engage with partners and customers in new ways. Today, CSPs can mix and match best-of-breed network functions to give enterprises more customisation and choice. They can unify resources from multiple public cloud providers within a single, consistent framework. They can partner with leading application providers to use their unique network and edge capabilities in new ways and jointly create new possibilities for businesses.
The best part: this transformation isn’t something you have to wait for. It’s happening right now, all over the world. Following are just a few examples:
BT: building an open and flexible core
BT – one of the world’s biggest providers of fixed and mobile services – is using open ecosystems to reimagine its core network. BT can now assemble best-of-breed networking and security services from multiple vendors, package them within a single offering and deliver them as a fully managed service – practically anywhere, on demand.
These capabilities are fuelled by an open, flexible core network and a dynamic ecosystem of third-party network function providers building solutions. BT can mix and match more than 200 third-party network functions that have been prequalified for its network to create tailored enterprise offerings. And, through partnerships with 225 ISPs worldwide, they can distribute those next-generation services anywhere.
Bottom line: BT can give enterprises more choice and flexibility to create positive business outcomes. By working with best-of-breed providers across multiple technology areas, they can jointly bring to market innovative, exciting new concepts and differentiated customer experiences. And they can do all of it on an open, flexible, cloud-based digital platform. BT’s enterprise customers gain a choice of management, commercial flexibility, and the ability to link their systems directly into BT in powerful hybrid cloud architectures that they can control.
NTT DOCOMO: unlocking massive scale at the edge with Open RAN
Operators around the globe are opening up their radio access networks (RAN) to enable more choice and flexibility and more efficiently handle the huge increase in radio traffic that comes with 5G. At the top of the list for Open RAN (O-RAN) innovation is NTT DOCOMO, Japan’s premier mobile carrier.
NTT has not just opened up its own environment to third-party RAN vendors and open radio interfaces. Its created the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem, where network vendors, third-party solution providers, enterprises and even other operators can test and validate new Open RAN technologies.
With the lab initiative, NTT is demonstrating the viability of open, disaggregated radio networks in a test bed that mirrors one of the world’s most demanding environments: the Tokyo metropolitan airport region. NTT is now working with other service providers – including smaller operators, who could never create this kind of test environment on their own – to validate new multi-vendor RAN solutions.
Through this effort, NTT is accelerating the development of new enterprise solutions that will capitalise on the huge improvements in capacity, performance and latencies that come with tomorrow’s 5G RAN to empower a new breed of consumer and enterprise services.
Telefonica: bringing fluid, flexible edge services to enterprises
In Spain, one of the world’s largest multinational mobile network operators, Telefonica, is reinventing the edge. It transformed its global networks to employ open, cloud-native, disaggregated network components. As a result, it now runs a modular, multi-vendor, software-defined architecture to deliver customisable fixed-line and mobile offerings to enterprise customers.
For example, Telefonica can combine fixed and mobile connectivity, SD-WAN, and web and endpoint security into a single offering, using whichever vendors their customers prefer. At the same time, because these services are based on modular, cloud-native components, enterprises can manage and control them using the same IT tools and processes they use in other parts of their business.
That’s just the beginning. Telefonica is currently deploying new cloud-native edge nodes across its footprint and shifting to open, standards-based O-RAN that will bring powerful new real-time processing capabilities to the edge. Initially, enterprises can take advantage of Telefonica’s own edge cloud services. But those new edge nodes also provide an ideal starting point to deploy external workloads.
In the next few years, businesses will begin consuming next-generation enterprise services that take advantage of Telefonica’s edge computing and 5G capabilities over both public and private networks. Telefonica is already partnering with third-party application providers and enterprises to co-create high-value use cases in areas like augmented reality for tourism, using digital twin applications to optimise manufacturing via real-time models of smart factories, industrial traffic management and many others.
The future is bright – and wide open
After years of CSP transformations, it’s exciting to see the results making it to market and changing the way people work, live and play. The next step in the transformation, the part we’ll most excited about at VMware, is when nearly all of the network is multi-cloud, multi-vendor and cloud-native. It will connect and enable people, companies and machines in new ways that were never possible before.
by Stephen Spellicy is VP Product Marketing and Solutions at VMware