The transformation to cloud native is happening
The IT-industry is going cloud native at full pace. Gartner estimates that 95% of all digital workloads in 2025 will be deployed on cloud-native platforms. The telecom industry is following the same path as the frontrunners and for several years Cloud Native practices have been a part of an ongoing standardization, both in 3GPP and other forums.
At Ericsson, we see a strong movement in the telecom industry towards cloud native and a convergence with the IT-industry with a rapidly evolving cloud native ecosystem, such as CNCF, where tooling and best practices are developed that can be applied also in the telecom industry.
CSPs are currently moving rapidly into cloud native. 60% of Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are looking to use cloud native technologies, even if is not suitable for every workload, according to TM Forum. Since 2021, Ericsson has seen a significant increase in interest from customers to create Proof-of-Concepts to explore how to best work across company borders to make the most of cloud native technologies. The trajectory is clear - it is time to accelerate and maximize value from cloud native.
Legacy operating models are holding us back
Traditional telecom operating models cannot realize the full value of cloud-native implementation. To unlock this value CSPs need to reshape their ways of working and create new processes built on a high degree of automation. Merely adding automation to legacy processes risks cementing current inefficiencies. However, CSPs should still increase automation legacy operations, for example with tools like ISSU for software upgrades. Transitioning to cloud native is a multi-year process and CSPs need to ensure efficiencies in both new and legacy technologies during this journey
Working with CSP C-suites, Ericsson has learned that individual teams must work independently and experiment with novel solutions to make the most of cloud native. This underlines the need for specialist knowledge within the organization. Further, according to a survey conducted by Telecoms TV in 2023, it is this lack of internal skills that continues to be the biggest barrier to the adoption of cloud native (over 57% of respondents claimed this). Bridging this skill gap is imperative.
Investment in skills and culture will drive cloud native
For CSPs, the shift to cloud native technology is only one piece of the puzzle. There are four main aspects to cloud native transformation; application design and development, technology and infrastructure, management and orchestration, and processes and ways of working. These four aspects do not exist in isolation, nor should they be treated this way. By omitting any of these aspects, you risk losing out. For example, suppose applications, infrastructure, and orchestration follow cloud native design patterns but ways of working and organizational setup are not aligned. In that case, you will not reach the full potential of cloud native. Our industry has achieved great progress in the technical aspects of cloud native technology. It’s time to put more resources into developing a cloud native culture, skills and mindset.
Cloud native ways of working drive customer success
Ericsson is a frontrunner in bringing cloud native technologies to CSP customers. From supporting Swisscom in transitioning from virtual to cloud based operations to running Ericsson 5G Core on bare-metal with SK Telecom, we have broken new ground and learned what it takes to make cloud native work.
Vendors and CSPs need to take joint responsibility in developing new ways of working and build relationships that span all areas; development and operations, common processes, as well as responsibility division between vendor and CPS resulting in new contractual setups.
The key steps to transform your ways of working
The cloud native transformation is a journey for our whole industry. It is not a matter of rip and replace and each CSP will need to design and plan their own journey, defined by their particular needs and starting points. However, from firsthand experience working with CSPs on a global scale, we have seen what works in practice for the telecom industry. There are a few key steps that CSPs can use to shape their unique journey.
Articulate future needs
It is important to establish a baseline for expected needs based on existing business plan and strategy. This can serve as a guiding star for the cloud native transformation with clear goals set along the way.
Invest in new competencies and upskilling
The cloud native journey requires significant investment in skills. It is not only about implementing new tools and best practices but also about making the most of them. This a challenge for the entire industry, where we can make use of learnings from IT-departments in vendors as well as in CSPs.
Start small, scale over time
Start with small, passionate teams in a confined environment. Build skills and experiences and challenge current processes and WoW. These Proof-of-Concept-like activities should not only be concentrated on the technology but also include WoW and collaboration with key vendors. As maturity is obtained, preparations to scale to different domains can be initiated based on business needs and strategy.
Evolve into cloud native operations
The ultimate end-goal in this transformation journey is to create a fully cloud native operation, where the best of IT is merged with the needs of telecom. This is pivotal in positioning our industry as a driver of future value creation, both for CSPs but, equally important, for our customers. This will require an industry-wide journey of collaboration, where we work together to become an important and contributing part of the ICT value chain.
Separate SW and functional Life-Cycle Management
A key element in the evolution towards cloud native operations is the separation of Life-Cycle Management in the realization (software) domain from the functional domain. This means introducing best practices and tooling from the vibrant IT ecosystem, like CNCF also in telecom. This will significantly improve our industry’s flexibility, reducing cost and Time-To-Market.