While the new cloud-native era, and evolving mobile cloud architectures and models offer new opportunities, they also bring in new challenges. Here is how to deal with it.
By Pratima Harigunani
One year was equal to five years. Yes, 2020 pushed the pedal on many digital investments, especially around the cloud. But what next, what now? Taking up the discussion on how to cope up with the new cloud-native era, including mobile cloud architectures and models, Sukanta Dey, Director Sdela Consulting posed some hot questions to a panel of digital and telecom experts at the 20th Telecom Leadership Forum. What happens to legacy systems now? How do we have talent pools and skills that fit the culture of the Cloud environment? Should we have captive capabilities for Cloud or use other models?
The answers and musings that followed at the panel discussion gave a lot of clues for the way forward.
Having Cloud is a good thing for sure – both for the telcos and enterprises. “Cloud is an enabler for the most efficient way to deploy workloads of modern enterprises,” pointed out Jagbir Singh, CTO, Vodafone Idea Limited. “When we move to new deployments, cloudification gets strong with cloud-native support. For many telco applications though, it is still a beginning and a long way to go. For any telco, it would be a mix of VMs, cloud-native infrastructure and in the future 5G too,” he explained.
Mathangi Sandilya, Global Technology Lead, and MD, Accenture pointed out that culture would be crucial to enable what is the latest and what’s next. “Cloud-native requires an acknowledgment for change. Network and IT are not in silos. We need to change and think about networks if we want to make the most of this new paradigm. Changing is not going to be simple but as long as we acknowledge and start moving, that will help. We need to do this at scale and be holistic about this change.”
The new era would be dotted with many changes. A lot of consumption will move to the mobile space, even in B2B areas, Dey remarked before asking Sandeep Arora, Country Head and MD, Customer Experience, India and SAARC, Cisco how will the new landscape shape up.
“Half the story is about experiences. That’s fundamental to how technology gains shape. We need to see what problems we are solving with the technology and what experiences can we give to the customers. Transformation is like changing the engine of a plane while it is flying. It is going to be challenging. We have to become the pivotal point of any strategy for a customer. We need to help them derive value out of technology,” Arora said.
As to captive strength vs. outside strengths, the experts gave a wide spectrum of arguments. Sandilya contended that the battlefield would be around the network edge now. “Hyperscalers are trying to get in the space but telcos have a great advantage here. Private networks are getting good too. Most enterprises are looking at these shifts as the path grows towards 5G industry-specific applications. Can equipment providers go beyond connectivity and create applications on top of the platform. That would be a value-addition for the customer. That’s not yet tapped but we should look at capitalizing the space.”
“What customer value has changed over time?” challenged Arora. “If a company is enjoying a higher ARPU than telco, it is because of some value it is providing. There would be another inflection point and that would be edge computing. Would it eat the cloud or help it? We do not know and it can pan out in any way. What we can do is to create an as-a-service platform with agility and speed. We need to give instant value to this application through a service platform. That’s where cloud-native work will help.”
A similar discussion transpired for the argument between the private and public clouds. Depending on workloads and requirements, cloud choices would vary, reasoned Singh. “Some core applications of telcos would continue to be in the private cloud until public cloud gains a level of performance and cost-effectiveness. We want to move as close to the customer workload as possible. We need to have edge computing and that is going to be provided by the telcos.”
“Will 5G trigger machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality, etc. in a big way,” Dey asked the panel at this point. 5G is not an extension of 4G but a completely new architecture, so how will it change the industry, he wondered.
Singh said that it is going to be like a hybrid cloud. “Telcos are the front-runners to serve customers and enterprises – whether it is AR/VR, edge or 5G. Our infrastructure comes in handy. We also have the customers’ trust. We have always been oriented to technology in a good way. So, all that would help.”
The panel covered similar questions as it fleshed out a new face of the telecom industry in light of new competitors and opportunities. Sandilya added that the industry should think of collaboration instead of being ousted by hyperscalers. “There is enough for everyone to be in the play. There is also enough for everyone to up the game. Are we using the power of the cloud here?”
What Cloud does is actually bring down the costs, Dey averred. “I always believe in challenging ourselves. Let us leverage the strengths we have – customer stronghold, proximity, and trust,” recommended Arora.
The person who owns the customer relationship, at the end of the day is the telecom service provider. Should they be okay with the kind of ARPUs after all the effort? That’s a good cue for both telcos and enterprises. And that means a whole swathe of new applications and services ahead if we move in the right direction.