What happens when you put a mobile core in a hyperscale cloud? Awesomeness.
For years, even before the cloud, there was software-as-a-service. Then followed a sort of “service mania” as vendors offered infrastructure-as-a-service, network-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, ad nauseum. In the telco world, however, networks were still built primarily with dedicated boxes running proprietary software. It wasn’t cheap or easy to scale these networks, but they were reliable. This article outlines mobile-core-as-a-service solutions and the advantages of a fully integrated hyperscale cloud and mobile core.
Cloudification & Mobile Core
Today, many elements of the telco network have been virtualized and even cloudified. The result has been cheaper, more scalable, yet still reliable networks. One area that resisted this sweeping cloudification was the mobile core. Though virtualized, the mobile core remained very much an on-prem solution. That is, until Affirmed announced UnityCloud, the world’s first 5G mobile core that can be fully deployed in the cloud as a mobile-core-as-a-service, and integrates with a hyperscale cloud platform.
Benefits: Mobile Core on a Hyperscale Cloud
Running a mobile core in a hyperscale cloud has a number of benefits:
- The deployment can be fully automated to increase service velocity and accelerate the time to revenue for new 5G services
- Operators can orchestrate cloud workloads and private workloads using Kubernetes to compose new services in any configuration
- Network functions can be scaled up or down automatically based on network demand
- Operators can automate their continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD) pipeline through automated software upgrades
- Network fault detection can also be automated and enhanced through AI and machine learning tools
Managing your mobile core with ARM and ARC
UnityCloud can run on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform as well as private cloud environments or on premise-based equipment. Within UnityCloud is a complete set of cloud-native functions (CNFs) built on a stateless microservices architecture. These CNFs provide both the control and user plane functions and can be separated in different environments; for example, with the control plane functions hosted in the Azure cloud and the user plane functions hosted on premise-based, bare metal servers.
The UnityCloud services reside in the platform-as-a-service layer, where they perform service assurance, CNF lifecycle management, security, and edge functions. One of the great features of deploying UnityCloud on Azure is the Azure Resource Manager (ARM), which serves as a GUI portal and an API layer. ARM lets you easily manage everything in the Azure environment and create templates to automate and orchestrate services.
Automation and unified management are critical to operating a 5G mobile core, but what happens when elements of the core are split between Azure and non-Azure environments?
With Azure Resource Center (ARC), you can manage non-Azure infrastructure from the same GUI portal. So, we’re not just allowing operators to deploy their mobile core any way and anywhere they want, but we’re doing it in a way that doesn’t add any complexity to the management of that mobile core.
Real-world use cases for mobile-core-as-a-service
UnityCloud is already helping some of the world’s most sophisticated mobile operators deploy 5G networks. For example, in Finland, a leading operator is using UnityCloud to deploy both 5G smartphone service and fixed broadband wireless using a mix of 4G and 5G radio access networks. In Latin America, a tier-one operator with 50 million subscribers is deploying its network services closer to the edge with UnityCloud, providing a better customer experience to subscribers across a widely dispersed geographic area. And, in the UK, a tier-one operator has dramatically reduced its network complexity with UnityCloud.
While mobile core efficiencies are a big part of UnityCloud’s story, content optimization is also important. UnityCloud includes a host of value-added content optimization services including TCP optimization, video optimization, firewall, carrier-grade NAT, and more. Consolidating these services, which were typically purchased from different vendors, into a single-vendor solution further simplifies the 5G network.
We expect that other mobile-core-as-a-service solutions will follow from other vendors, but even so, UnityCloud will have a unique advantage: full integration with a hyperscale cloud platform, Microsoft Azure. While accelerated deployment is one obvious advantage of this, UnityCloud can also now take advantage of all the features and benefits of the Azure cloud ecosystem including AI and machine learning. In fact, you could say UnityCloud has taken the concept of “cloud native” to a whole new level.