Telco CIOs can breathe easier when they think about their 5G transformation efforts if they look to open standards, according to Stéphane Téral, IHS Markit's executive director of Research and Analysis in Mobile Infrastructure & Carrier Economics.
Open standards are indeed widely agreed to be imperative to 5G evolution. After reaching out to Téral for his take on 5G trends and preparatory work from the communications service provider (CSP) CIO's view, Téral told Telco Transformation that he feels "positive about" OpenStack's ongoing impact on the 5G cloud, given numerous recent studies highlighting OpenStack's growth in the telco cloud market. Téral was even more bullish on the Linux Foundation's CORD initiative as essential to 5G agility. (See OpenStack's Vancsa on Adapting to the 5G & Converged Cloud Future, OpenStack's Vancsa on Unifying 5G Cloud and Highlights From the Inaugural CORD Summit.)
In this Q&A (lightly edited for length and clarity), Téral talks more about CORD in light of the important role he sees for colocation cloud services in enabling a 5G edge-fueled world for telcos. He also emphasizes the importance of automation in realizing that vision, and hails the recent approval of the 5G new radio ("NR") standards as representing a substantial weight off the CIOs' shoulders. (See 5G Is Official: First 3GPP Specs Approved.)
Telco Transformation: How are 5G and cloud-native transitions enabling each other?
Stéphane Téral: 5G is not just a radio play. It's an end-to-end networking play that requires a high degree of programmability, flexibility, agility and scalability to really deliver the promise of high throughput, ultra-low latency, and high reliability -- to just name a few 5G requirements. And that's exactly the building block cloud networking is providing. Cloud networking was there before 5G, and it's nice to see that vendors are already proposing cloud native core network platforms now that the 5G NR is coming and we're all ready to play.
TT: What is the one thing that the chief information officer of CSPs should be doing that they might not already be doing to prepare for 5G?
ST: Embrace artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning to bring about automation and create a self-driving network because complexity is not going to decrease; it will increase and surpass human capabilities. We need the machines to help us.
TT: What are telcos already doing in their cloud strategies and architectures that will prepare them for 5G?
ST: Many operators are deploying servers and storage to create "mini data centers" in a few large central offices -- what we call "smart-COs" or "cloud COs" -- to offer colocation, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud services. Operators are also planning to use servers in smart-COs for NFV to run network functions on servers rather than on specialized network equipment. Smart-COs are a natural place for distributed Broadband Remote Access Servers [BRAS] or Broadband Network Gateways [BNG] to be located. Many large operators were beginning smart-CO deployments in 2017, and 70% of operators in a late 2016 survey indicated they were planning to deploy in 2017 or 2018 along a carrier initiative, or CORD [CO Re-architected as a Datacenter.] In our discussions around the globe, large operators plan eventually to deploy CORD in one out of ten or one out of 15 COs. CORD and mobile CORD [M-CORD] architectures provide great flexibility and agility of a cloud provider by enabling fast new service creation, which will be essential for 5G.
TT: What else can telco CIOs do to ensure a smooth transition to a 5G-enabled "all-cloud" network? How do they minimize disruption to their and their customers' networks along the way?
ST: With the 5G non-standalone access [NSA] NR standard finalized, I don't see that much disruption because 5G stays in the LTE domain. The transition should be smooth.
TT: How will the different cloud layers -- IaaS, PaaS and SaaS -- each respectively enable service capabilities for 5G?
ST: This relates to the cloud strategies and architectures described above. With smart-COs and cloud-COs, they offer IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS cloud services.
TT: As 5G is expected to play a key role in supporting IoT and other digitally transformative edge-based functionalities, how do you view the interrelationship between big data and converged ICT platforms both now and moving forward?
ST: Telco data analytics platforms are fundamental to provide an end-to-end view of the network and automate as many tasks as possible to guarantee quality of experience. Most service providers have already developed their own platform.
TT: What is the role here of edge networks and edge computing for enabling 5G applications and services? What are the architectural/infrastructural considerations for best supporting edge-enabled 5G?
ST: Looking ahead, the next big driver for colocation leases will be the Internet of Things and "the edge." Colos can provide quickly scalable, densely interconnected, geographically distributed data center space, which is a necessity for enterprises to compete in the IoT.
It's crucial to address low latency requirements. M-CORD is the architecture to best support edge-enabled 5G.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation