Orange's network is evolving so that any type of wired or wireless connectivity -- including 5G -- can be used to deliver any desired service to customers. Building such agility into the network is a gradual process, however, says Arnaud Vamparys, the senior vice president for radio networks, Orange Labs Networks.
Vamparys, in the second part of a two-part Q&A with Telco Transformation, says that the carrier is a big fan of OpenStack and is gradually moving to cloud-native apps. In part one, he spoke about how Orange was building out its network to enable multi-service connectivity. (See 5G Is About Multi-Service Connectivity – Orange Lab's Vamparys.)
Telco Transformation: What is Orange's approach to the decentralization of the data center?
Arnaud Vamparys: Today, because of the step-by-step decoupling between the hardware, the infrastructure and the software, Orange has the opportunity -- on top of a big data center that exists -- to have a more geographical approach with next generation points of presence that enable us to handle the fixed and mobile network at the same time.
That can be quite good from the quality of experience point of view. For example, now more than half of our customers are convergent. They have both fixed access and mobile from Orange. It's a key step for us to be able to in the future offer them an even better quality of experience because of the decoupling of software and hardware.
TT: So how does this play into the resources at the edge of the network? How is the demarcation between edge computing and the data center eroding?
AV: Each next-generation point of presence is like a regional mini-data center. It has all the flavor of a data center with the capacity to orchestrate a number of connectivity features or IT capabilities. It's much better for more critical connectivity services that will use 5G. It will enable the low latency necessary for us to support healthcare, industrial apps and connected cars, for example.
TT: What special challenge does Orange face in shepherding this evolution for 5G, which hasn't been fully created yet?
AV: We have fixed and 4G assets. By the way, in terms of quality of experience, we are operating in eight countries in Europe and we are number one in six countries. We want to maintain this leadership. And we want this transformation of the way to operate to be a key differentiator for us with this capacity to have an all-in-one infrastructure; the same framework for all our network features and network capabilities. It's something where we can handle both our B2C and B2B customers.
TT: And you feel that you understand what 5G will eventually look like well enough?
AV: 5G is just a piece of SDN/NFV. But because we participate in the standardization efforts, we know that 5G will be evolutionary. It's multi-service connectivity by design. The way we have done it is to change in terms of the devices, the access, the core networks and the APIs on platform. We sometimes even use web-based protocols for that.
So it will not be finished just with the 5G introduction. We want a smooth evolution that is a step-by-step process where we can move from a traditional network to a more virtualized one with the agility for our B2B customers and performance and quality of experience for our B2C customer.
TT: Where are we on the road to a cloud-native?
AV: It's a step-by-step process. We are using more and more of the same elements. For example, you see more containers and microservices used in the ITT [inter-terminal transportation] delivery model, and the same way of continuous integration and deployment in terms of releases. So, step-by-step you have a really a convergent ITT platform.
Of course, you need to keep in mind how to operate it, how to operate hybrid connectivity where part of it is done on a traditional model and part on this new cloud model. That's why we are pushing ONAP, a new open source OSS to have the right tools to operate this network from day one.
TT: How important is OpenStack for Orange?
AV: It's very important. We have chosen OpenStack for our deployments. Today we need agility in our NFV transformation. We need to be able to decouple the software and hardware stack. For that, we are using the Red Hat OpenStack platform. We are using it today for multinational NFV deployment. And we want lots of VNFs integrating on this idea from a different branch of vendors. That's why we want our vendors to have their NFVs to be native OpenStack.
And of course, we need to continue to work to get additional features from OpenStack and from the open source communities. That's why, for example, we have recently pushed a community collaboration on what we called OpenStack BGPVPN. It's to have the right interconnecting infrastructure-as-a-service [layer] between all of our business customers and all the data centers. It's a good way to have a reference design for our multinational customers.
TT: How many virtual network functions are you offering at this point?
AV: We are offering a lot on the B2B side. We are moving more on the fixed access and core network. And with 5G, we'll move them onto our mobile network.
TT: It sounds like 5G and the cloud are deeply linked?
AV: The cloud transformation is arriving at the time at which we've introduced 5G. So it's a way to offer to our B2C customers, or to our mobile customers, real multiservice connectivity for any kind of object with different quality of services adapted to each type of object. It's a way to have the right specialized services for our B2B customers when they want more agile, on-demand connectivity.
And I hope we will have the right regulatory framework in Europe to be able to sell that. It's not at all in opposition to net neutrality. It's really a way to adapt the quality of services to the type of object that you don't serve in the same way as sensors, a fridge, autonomous cars, a drone, and a smartphone, for example. But for us it's the right way to operate our networks and to have the best quality of experience for each type of object.
TT: Do your business customers understand this is a massive transition?
AV: They have their own transition for their cloud-native operations. So of course they understand that that they are moving to a more ICT converged platform and that the benefit is a real improvement in terms of reactivity and time to provisioning.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation