A key question that telcos are struggling with at the dawn of the 5G era is how to manage the growing number of services and multi-cloud environments, according to Chris Antlitz, telecom senior analyst for Technology Business Research.
It is a gargantuan task. Antlitz, in the second of a two-part conversation with Telco Transformation, said that MANO tools upon which telcos will rely will be a mix of open source and proprietary software.
Telco Transformation: What role do the open source communities such as OpenStack play in creating edge cloud capabilities?
Chris Antlitz: OpenStack is critical for building out the cloud environment, especially the IaaS implementations. I think of open source as providing the foundational software upon which the customized software is built. I like to also think of open source as facilitating innovation. When you're open about sharing code, it stimulates and facilitates and accelerates innovation in those ecosystems.
TT: With higher bandwidth, lower latency and intelligent interconnections, how important is it to have heterogeneous computing acceleration?
CA: It's very important. The world is moving to a multi-cloud environment, and there's a mix of public and private and on-premise [clouds] in that. You have different customers -- different enterprises, different telcos -- all using different clouds and different configurations to source their computing resources. That requires new networking architectures that can seamlessly accommodate these various configurations. That requires heterogeneous computing.
TT: How should a carrier think about this complex and fluid environment?
CA: All the telcos are struggling with that same question. Even the most advanced telcos in the world are struggling. What is going to happen is there's going to be a significant increase in the complexity that needs to be properly managed. This is going to be critical to enabling and supporting these environments. All of the things that you mentioned, the distributed cloud, multi-clouds -- the whole stack -- needs to be supported in near real time, and it needs a significant degree of automation built into that.
That's where MANO comes in. When we look at what AT&T did with ECOMP and what some other companies have done, we're seeing a portion of MANO going open source and we're also seeing a portion of MANO remaining in-house with the telcos taking a very proactive approach to writing their own code, which is being put on top of this foundational MANO software.
The telcos are trying to differentiate themselves on the robustness of their MANO and how well it's going to be able to support these new needs in the network of the future. We're going to see the AT&Ts, Verizons and NTTs of the world really pull out ahead in terms of being able to support these advanced networks in the digital era.
TT: At the end of the day, will the differentiation and added value give end users real choices, or is it going to be Coke versus Pepsi type of thing?
CA: I think initially there will be some degrees of variation where they can differentiate, but if we project out 10, 15, 20 years, I think we're going to have a few telcos around the world that all have a very similar system in place that can support these types of environments that we're talking about. It's really all the big names: NTT, AT&T, Verizon, even perhaps companies like Comcast and maybe a few companies in Europe would have the wherewithal to invest in these systems and the sophistication required to operate and manage these types of systems at scale.
TT: What is the relationship between 5G and the rest of the network, including the cloud?
CA: 5G to me is really just about the access layer, and the access layer evolving. When we look at the rest of the network, we see that it also is evolving. Some people put the 5G umbrella around the whole stack, but I think that can be problematic. The industry is still trying to figure out how to define and characterize some of these things, and then how cloud fits in with all that. There's a lot of moving parts here in terms of how the architecture is evolving.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation