Home BLOG

BLOG

Affirmed Private Network Service revolutionizes private enterprise 5G networks for Operators with a fully automated, integrated solution on Azure

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

As enterprises continue their digital transformations with the evolution to 5G technology and deploy next-generation applications, many will be turning to dedicated private mobile networks to deliver the low latencies, massive bandwidths, strong security, and flexible scalability those applications will require. This marks a tremendous opportunity for mobile network operators (MNOs) and mobile service providers (MSPs) to quickly and securely deliver private LTE/5G network services to those enterprises.

Affirmed Private Network Service (APNS) empowers MNOs and MSPs to seize this opportunity with technology that combines Affirmed’s industry-leading mobile core with Microsoft Azure’s capabilities to create a complete turnkey solution for private LTE/5G networks for enterprises. On June 16, as part of their Azure Private MEC offering announcement, Microsoft also announced the availability of APNS on the Azure marketplace.

APNS is a fully managed, end-to-end solution that MNOs and MSPs can deploy to offer enterprises a carrier-grade private network. This lays the foundation for the application of a wide range of next-generation 5G use cases – including Industry 4.0 – over a flexible, scalable, cost-efficient core service. With its seamless integration between private and public networks, APNS allows comprehensive mobility across multiple enterprise sites and across geographical locations.

“Affirmed Private Network Service combines 5G core technology with the cloud, providing operators with the ability to scale private networks to thousands of enterprise locations,” said Sanjay Mewada, Worldwide Marketing Leader, Microsoft. “Along with high-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity, APNS and Azure will give enterprises enormous flexibility in three key areas: dynamically scaling regional locations on demand, maximizing CapEx and OpEx savings on cloud infrastructure, and the ability to manage applications and connectivity on an end-to-end basis.”

Powerful, flexible, scalable

Affirmed Private Network Service consists of Affirmed Mobile Core, Affirmed Service Manager, Microsoft Azure Stack Edge platform, and Azure Network Function Manager. APNS is built on a cloud-native architecture that allows MNOs and MSPs to deploy an entire mobile core at the edge of the network, entirely in the cloud, or as a hybrid, with the control pane in the cloud and the user plane on the enterprise edge. That flexibility and scalability removes much of the complexity and other barriers to deploying a private LTE/5G network and offers a number of benefits, including:

Lower cost of entry

By enabling MNOs and MSPs to deploy a virtualized 5G core in the cloud, APNS helps to significantly reduce the cost of deploying 5G technology.

Simplified operation and management

The integration between Affirmed’s mobile core and Microsoft Azure enables MNOs and MSPs to easily deploy and manage private 5G networks remotely, from service orchestration and lifecycle management to maintaining and monitoring KPIs.

MNO-integrated mobility

APNS delivers seamless mobility across multiple enterprise sites through its distributed subscriber core and provides full mobility between private and public networks.

Deep business insights

MNOs, MSPs, and enterprises can leverage advanced services from Azure marketplace partners, including analytics, AI, machine learning, and other technologies.

With greater 5G adoption, the edge will become even more critical to driving new and future applications such as AR/VR, IoT, M2M, automation, and robotics. Moving, processing, and storing massive amounts of data closer to the end user will be a key requirement for enterprises. MNOs and MSPs will be critical enablers in this transformation. We welcome MNOs and MSPs to explore how they can create the next generation of 5G and cloud-based infrastructure for their enterprise customers and help them accelerate their digital transformation. Click here to learn more about how APNS and Azure can help you build that network today.

Making—and not just saving—money should be your focus with 5G

by Seshadri Sathyanarayan Seshadri Sathyanarayan No Comments

For years, “bigger, faster, cheaper” has been the mantra for telecom transformation. In the 5G future, however, the new mantra is value. While saving money is good for communications service providers (CSPs), the focus with 5G should be making money. Communications service providers CSPs need to look beyond reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their network and invest in increasing the total value of ownership (TVO) of their network by delivering new revenue-generating services to enterprises and consumers.

CSPs, of course, have heard this message before. The rise of over-the-top (OTT) providers during the 4G transformation included a warning to CSPs not to become merely bit-pipe providers. But the opportunity in 5G is very different from 4G because the demand for new mobile services is there and is being driven by enterprises this time. Smart factories, real-time healthcare applications, autonomous vehicles, private mobile networks, and augmented/virtual reality experiences are just some of the 5G applications that enterprises are looking to their CSPs to help deliver and manage.

Building Valuable Networks

So, how do you build a more valuable network? A value-driven network focuses on service creation and innovation rather than simply driving down costs. Moving hardware into the cloud is primarily a TCO play because it drives down CapEx costs through better resource utilization. But what happens when you move edge services into the cloud? Or the entire 5G mobile core?

Strategies like these become game-changers for delivering private 5G services to enterprises because now you don’t have to worry about processing real-time data off-site or backhauling sensitive data over the Internet. And if you connect those services to a cloud platform like Azure, you can bring in machine learning, AI, and other technologies to bear on those enterprise services.

How CSPs Can Use a TVO Approach to 5G

A TVO-driven approach isn’t intuitive for telecommunications companies because the focus for years has been running the network as a cost center rather than an innovation engine. With the arrival of 5G, there are many more opportunities for CSPs to bring innovation to enterprises and even enhance the offerings of OTT providers through partnerships.

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is one such innovation, and network slicing is another. Bringing this technology to the enterprise market is about more than connecting endpoints; it’s about connecting businesses to the advanced technology that will power mobile solutions of the future.

Using a “TCO Plus TVO” Equation

There is a cost-saving component to 5G transformation, to be sure. The ability to shift virtualized network functions from a CSP’s premises to a public cloud service provider, for example, brings additional levels of cost efficiencies. These TCO-driven initiatives are where CSPs start the journey to 5G because they can pay for the investments to come. However, the real payoff in 5G transformation occurs when you combine these savings with new revenue generation. The “TCO plus TVO” equation is what CSPs need to make money from 5G and create a sustainable future strategy.

How to Calculate Total Value of Ownership

Calculating TVO can be problematic because most 5G services are still in the development stage. Likely, the most profitable 5G services have yet to be discovered. But to illustrate the opportunity, we’ve created a TVO formula to show how investing in network innovation can pay high dividends. You can view that formula and the business case for considering TVO as the best measurement for 5G success in our new whitepaper, Total Value of Ownership: The New Metric for 5G Transformation. The paper outlines why TVO is essential, what it looks like, how to measure it, and how to get there.

Making Money With 5G

Saving money is good, but making money with 5G is better. Read the paper and find out how Microsoft can help you and business customers make more money with 5G technology.

Five Metrics to a Successful 5G Digital Transformation

by Seshadri Sathyanarayan Seshadri Sathyanarayan No Comments

Most of us are familiar with the concept of total cost of ownership, or TCO. But I would submit that the total value of ownership (TVO) is a far more relevant metric when weighing the investment of 5G digital transformation. A more relevant metric is needed because 5G transformation is so different from the network transformations of the past, both in terms of what it requires and what it can achieve.

Digital transformation 1.0 centered mostly on CapEx reduction through virtualization. The goal was to decouple the hardware from the software to give telco operators more flexibility and efficiency in how they deployed their networks as well as who they partnered with to deploy them. While this first wave of digital transformation did reduce costs, it didn’t present many opportunities for new revenue creation.

With 5G, the second wave of digital transformation arrives, bringing with it cloud and cloud-native technologies that not only reduce costs, but also reduce operational complexity and accelerate time-to-market for new services. Just as webscale companies like Facebook and Netflix have done with their cloud networks, telco operators can now turn their network into a competitive differentiator and an agile platform for new services.

5 Metrics for 5G Transformation

Pervasive improvements require pervasive change. While bringing cloud and cloud-native technologies to the network is an important part of the 5G transformation, it is just one part of a broader telco transformation that needs to take place. There are, in fact, five areas of transformation that telcos need to consider in order to ensure that they maximize the value of their 5G investment.

1. Network Architecture

Migrating from a virtualized infrastructure to a cloud-based infrastructure is the first step in transforming the network for 5G, but not the final step. The goal for operators should be a cloud-native architecture that can support the rapid creation of new services and take advantage of orchestration efficiencies through containers and Kubernetes.

2. Hybrid Coexistence and Joint Operation

It goes without saying that 5G digital transformation for most operators will be an iterative process that could take anywhere from five to ten years to complete. During that time, operators will need to run existing 4G and 5G networks concurrently – across private and public cloud deployment environments in a hybrid mode. Seamless joint operation and co-existence is key to ensuring strong revenue pipelines “status quo” business can continue while the migration to a value business happens overtime.

3. Business Organization

5G is more than a network transformation; it’s a business transformation. Telcos need to re-align their business, and especially their network management teams, to adapt to the changes that 5G will bring to their networks. At Affirmed, we spend a lot of our time with telcos discussing how best to re-organize procurement, technology planning, engineering, network support, and other teams to thrive in a 5G environment.

4. Network Automation

Where 4G transformation was more of a CapEx reduction play, 5G transformation is about both CapEx and OpEx reduction. With a cloud-native architecture, telcos can run their networks in a fully automated fashion. Automation opens the door to lower OpEx costs and, importantly, much faster and more agile service creation.

5 . Business Model

For years, telco investment models have been CapEx-oriented with long-term ROI projections. At the same time, telcos have been regulated in what they can charge for services, which means they’ve had to squeeze OpEx costs to increase margins. As telcos move to the cloud, however, CapEx investments are replaced by a subscription-based model. This fundamentally changes the business model and requires telcos to shift their revenue models accordingly.

In Closing

It’s a lot to think about 5G transformation, which is why I’ll be breaking down these key considerations in greater detail with an upcoming blog series on 5G digital transformation, 2.0 and beyond. 5G and the cloud are here to stay, so stay tuned here for more on this industry-changing transformation.

Mobile operators, it’s time to get your mojo back

by Ashwin Moranganti Ashwin Moranganti No Comments

Mobile operators are about to become liberated in a way that they’ve never felt before. And I choose that word because what’s happening with the convergence of cloud, edge computing, and the everything-as-a-service consumption model is unburdening for mobile operators that, for the first time, allows them to soar with the startups and service innovators. This new disruptive approach allows telcos to focus on monetizing networks in preparation for 5G.

The Old Approach

Until now, service agility wasn’t an idea you encountered in telcos; it was something that other companies did (Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Because telco operators shouldered the burden of deploying and managing the mobile core, the RAN, and everything in between for each service they offered, service creation took a long time.

First, you had to build the business case, then you could build the network to monetize. Meanwhile, over-the-top (OTT) providers simply had to deploy an app in the cloud and scale it up (if it was a success) or down (if it wasn’t) without worrying about infrastructure costs.

Those tables are being turned in preparation for 5G. For the first time, mobile operators can deploy everything they need in the cloud: the infrastructure, the VNFs, the private network, even the network slice that manages the service. This allows operators to leverage the same cloud economies of scale and rapid deployment models that OTTs have used for years to quickly and cost-efficiently bring new services to market.

Taking Back Control with Cloud

Until now, mobile operators have focused more on the network than the service innovation that could monetize that network. They have had a very different experience leading up to 5G: they build the network and outcome the OTT players to profit from it.

But mobile operators are getting wiser. They’re now reaching out to cloud service providers and network equipment vendors and telling them to provide the infrastructure, the edge computing, and the APIs so that the operators can focus on delivering services and creating customer experiences. In other words, they’re not standing on the sidelines anymore, and watching OTTs have all the fun; they’re getting into the game with the intent to win.

Unified Operations: Sharing Responsibility and Revenue

By shifting the burden of managing the infrastructure, product roadmaps, people, etc. from the telco to the equipment and solution vendors, will enable operators to reduce high upfront costs and the risks of creating and deploying new services. This new disruptive (for telcos) approach entails moving to an as-a-service offering and is built on the four key principles:

  1. Managed Infrastructure
  2. From Products to Services
  3. Leveraging the Power of Cloud
  4. Single, Centralized Management Environment

 

1. Managed Infrastructure

The shift to a managed infrastructure approach allows operators to focus on business outcomes and customer experiences while the cloud infrastructure providers focus on managing the different components of the infrastructure and network. Sharing the responsibility for SLAs and risks, lowers the burden of integration on the vendors, enabling operators to move their attention from “How do we build networks?” to “How do we monetize networks?” while benefiting the vendors with higher rewards.

2. From Products to Services

By moving from a premises-based model to an infrastructure/network-as-a-service model for BSS, mobile core, RAN, orchestration of cloud-native network functions, operators can achieve their core business outcomes quickly, significantly reducing the time-to-market for deploying vertical-specific services.

3. Leveraging the Power of Cloud

Telco operators now have the option to spin up a mobile core in the cloud rather than building a standalone core for a vertical service. Operators can also use the cloud to deploy services on the edge of their network or on the customer’s edge, and even move network slice management into the cloud.

4. Single, Centralized Management Environment

Operators can manage all aspects of orchestration, lifecycle management, and service level assurance through a single, centralized management platform as opposed to managing multiple disparate systems through different dashboards and portals.

Truly, the sky is the limit for mobile operators because they’re no longer tethered to heavy infrastructure investments, lengthy business cases, or complex integrations if they want to deploy and test a new vertical service. They can find everything they need in the cloud, operate it as part of their existing network, move edge processing where it makes the most sense, and do it with the same agility as any OTT digital native.

So, what will these new services look like?

  • For manufacturing companies, it will likely begin as private 5G network services for automated factories that can process massive amounts of data and video to drive real-time decisions.
  • For video gaming  platforms, it could be seamless gaming services where the apps are deployed closer to the end consumer for better experiences—whether the user is on a console, a desktop, or on their mobile device.
  • For sports stadiums, it could be in-stadium instant replay services that stitch together applications hosted on-premises for immersive experiences.

With cloud computing and the move toward service automation, the playing field between mobile operators and OTT has effectively been leveled. Game on!

A More Power-full Approach to Network Planning

by Tim Irwin Tim Irwin No Comments

Like most people, I was horrified by the Texas power grid’s recent failure and the devastating impact on many citizens’ lives. I think many people wondered how something like this could happen. As someone in the telecommunications industry,  it occurred to me that the power and telecommunications sector face similar planning issues.

You might not think that power grids and telecommunications networks have much in common on the surface, but they have more in common than you might initially think. Both power and communications are fundamentally infrastructures that we are increasingly reliant upon as a society. Both experience fairly predictable demand behaviors, whether it’s everyone turning on their air conditioning during a sweltering summer day or everyone calling home on Mother’s Day. These events are predictable because history tells us that the past usage trends are reasonable predictors for future consumption behaviors. 

Both types of infrastructure are also subject to anomalous outages from technological or natural forces. We tend to know that these atypical events will eventually happen because probabilities also tell us these events are likely to occur. Still, the exact size, scope, and scale are often difficult to predict with precision. Infrastructure planners for both services spend much time worrying about these kinds of reliability, redundancy, and overall capacity issues. 

Another area of similarity is the cost of redundancy. Spare capacity cannot be instantaneously created out of thin air, and this extra capacity incurs a cost in any infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to question additional charges on “sunny days” when needed. It is not until we encounter the “rainy day” scenario that we value the rationale behind it.

Planning for Failure

Returning to the realm of telecommunications and network planning, let’s look at how an operator typically plans for their future capacity needs. Most operators rely on premises-based servers (both virtualized and non-virtualized) to handle their infrastructure workloads. Let’s look at an elementary network capacity planning model.

As a rule of thumb, a single server should never run at higher than 80 percent of its full capacity. To understand why this is, think about your desktop or laptop. As your computer’s memory and processing capacity get closer to 100 percent, performance drop exponentially.

So, you might think that an operator only needs to purchase an extra 20 percent of capacity more than they need. Not so fast. In a typical active/standby failover, the redundancy model requires that, for every primary server, there is some reserve capacity that can take on the workload in the event of failure. In the illustration below, I show the example of a single pair of redundant servers, Server A and Server B. Each server runs at 40 percent full-time during regular operation because, if Server A should fail, Server B can assume Server A’s workload and still stay under the 80 percent threshold.

The need for redundancy complicates network capacity planning. For example, if an operator plans ten percent month-over-month growth, they need to double their capacity year-over-year. Unfortunately, most operators can’t merely add extra capacity a month in advance because of the time required to purchase and install new hardware. There are multiple steps involved—budget approval, vendor quoting, supply chain processes, shipping times, installation and cabling, etc.—that can take anywhere from six to twelve months to complete. In other words, operators realistically need to begin this process as much as a year in advance. 

Generally speaking, most planners project their capacity from the end of the current fiscal year to the end of the next fiscal year and order the necessary amount of capacity at the beginning of the fiscal year. Pre-planning in this way avoids being caught “short-served” at the end of the year, but at a cost: for most of the year, operators end up sitting on idle capacity, particularly in the first six to nine months of the year.

Advantages of Capacity Planning and the Cloud

But what if operators could expand their network capacity using the cloud? Spinning up workloads in the cloud takes a fraction of the time, meaning that telcos could add capacity as they needed it, not a year before they needed it. This approach to network capacity management saves the operator from paying for unused server capacity, along with the associated power, real estate, and remaining operational costs required to maintain those unused servers.

There are several other advantages to moving operator infrastructure into the cloud. For example, consider that operator networks face not only seasonal spikes in usage but also daily spikes. The chart below illustrates a typical day in the life of a network. Notice there can be a significant difference in the resource requirements throughout the day.

  • Only Pay for Resources You Use
  • Visibility of Network Cost
  • New Opportunities for Service Expansion

 

Only Pay for Resources You Use

Even with virtualized servers, operators still need to plan for enough physical infrastructure capacity to cover the peak busy hour. In genuinely cloud-native software architecture on the cloud, resources can be dynamically allocated during the busiest times throughout the day and deallocated when they are no longer needed. With cloud-based infrastructure, operators need only pay for the resources they use, which means operators are not charged for unused capacity. And because many workloads among many customers are statistically multiplexed on the cloud, operators can dynamically spin up additional resources as required.

Visibility of Network Cost

Cloud-based infrastructure also provides better visibility into actual network costs. Operator costs are analogous to an iceberg because only the physical costs (i.e., the hardware) are often visible. The real costs of running that infrastructure—operations, power, real estate, etc.—remain partially obscured. However, in the cloud, the combined CapEx and OpEx costs are visible as a total monthly cost.

New Opportunities for Service Expansion

Finally, the cloud opens up new opportunities for service expansion by eliminating most of the network’s upfront costs. Today, new service rollouts require much planning and a compelling business case because of the substantial sunk costs involved. By using cloud infrastructure, operators can dramatically reduce those costs and “dip their toes” into new services and new markets without having to make large investments while retaining the ability to scale up network capacity quickly if those services take off.

Cloud, and Especially Cloud-Native, is the Future

What kind of cost savings can be achieved? Early models show that operators can 30% or more by moving from an on-prem infrastructure model to the cloud. And that total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) gets even more attractive when using a cloud-native versus traditional virtualized cloud infrastructure. Our research shows that a cloud-native infrastructure can reduce TCO by another 25 percent.

As attractive as the cloud is, most operators aren’t ready yet to move their entire network infrastructure into the cloud, which is understandable. A hybrid model that mixes on-prem infrastructure with cloud-based infrastructure allows operators to expand network capacity in the cloud on-demand, a technique known as cloudbursting. By doing this, operators can make sure they always have enough capacity to handle whatever nature or the future throws at them.