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The Traditional Telecom Vendor Is Dead. Long Live the Continuous Innovation Partner!

by Seshadri Sathyanarayan Seshadri Sathyanarayan No Comments

For years, the traditional telecom vendor has been the leviathan on the landscape, generating billions of dollars in revenue through hardware, software, and network-related services. But those vendors are going the way of the dinosaur—that is, toward extinction. Telecom operators (i.e. Communication Service Providers, or CSPs) are looking for a new kind of partner, one that can help them innovate and evolve to compete in a cloud-based world that they didn’t create and can’t easily control. It’s a frightening world for many CSPs, one teeming with exotically named inhabitants like Kubernetes, Jaeger, Docker, Elastic and Istio. And it’s the reason why the role of telecom vendors, more than ever, is to help CSPs tame this new world.

What has become increasingly apparent in my conversations with customers around 5G and the future is that CSPs aren’t looking for network vendors. They’re looking for Continuous Innovation Partners (CIPs). In other words, they’re seeking partners who can help them effectively leverage cloud-native, microservices-based technology to drive innovation and service creation.  Telecom operators understand that the fast-fail, webscale development mode popularized by Amazon, Google and others is the future, but they also realize that they don’t have the skill sets and expertise to seamlessly shift to a service creation environment based on containers, microservices, NoSQL databases, and other advanced technologies. That’s where CIPs enter the picture.

The CIP effectively splits the DevOps process by focusing on the development side of the equation, allowing CSPs to focus on the more familiar operational side of managing networks and subscribers. In an environment where services are constantly being created and updated, this looks like a Continuous Innovation/Continuous Development (CI/CD) process. In the CI/CD framework, the CIP is responsible for:

  • Synching code between developers (a/k/a “checking in” code) and building it out
  • Testing the individual service/microservice components
  • Performing quality control
  • Deploying new code to a test environment
  • Fetching the latest builds
  • Service integration and regression testing
  • Packaging and archiving

This process typically takes place in an isolated part of the network, away from production, so as not to impact existing network services. In this way, telecom partners can quickly decide whether to shelf the service or move it into their production network and scale it. By accelerating the service creation process, the CIP allows the telecom operator to adopt a fail-fast mode of deployment and more quickly monetize services that look profitable.

Of course, not every telecom equipment vendor is ready to take on the role of a CIP. At Affirmed, we had a significant head start with our cloud-native UnityCloud platform. To create UnityCloud, we analyzed hundreds of different cloud developer tools to find the best few dozen, then packaged and integrated them with our cloud-native, microservices-based architecture. Doing this required a deep understanding of cloud developer tools and concepts, something that lies outside the core competency of most CSPs and even most telecom vendors.

It’s not unusual for CSPs to register apprehension the first time they see UnityCloud up close, because many of the components are unfamiliar to them. But this apprehension soon becomes comprehension as CSPs realize that we’ve already done the heavy lifting for them by selecting and packaging these cloud-native tools together. By working with a continuous innovation partner like Affirmed, CSPs can leverage the cloud for a competitive advantage without retraining themselves or investing millions to update their software development skills.

The road to 5G is a journey, but it’s a journey that telecom vendors must be able to take with their customers. With a continuous innovation partner (CIP), telecom operators (CSPs) can reach their goals sooner and continue on a path of innovation and monetization for years to come.

Affirmed Networks Awarded Leaders Board Partner Twice in a Row as Part of Intel® Network Builders Program

by Amit Tiwari Amit Tiwari No Comments

Good leaders understand the value of teamwork. They know that good ideas can come from individuals, but good solutions come from people. That’s why it means a lot to us to be recognized again for this year’s Intel® Network Builders Winners’ Circle Awards: it validates everything we believe at Affirmed about the importance of leadership.

Intel Network Builders represents a broad ecosystem of solutions vendors, equipment manufacturers, systems integrators, and communications service providers that have come together to build better solutions using Intel’s industry-leading technology. This year, only a few dozen partners were selected for the Intel Network Builders Winners’ Circle, representing an elite corps of Intel partners. Those companies selected for the Winners’ Circle are awarded the status of Partners, Solution Partners, and at the highest level, the Leaders Board.

This year marks Affirmed’s second year in the Leaders’ Board, and it is representative of the collaboration between Affirmed and Intel to bring together the best of both technologies.  Affirmed’s solution runs on Open NFVI environment which uses Intel® Architecture powered by Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, accelerating time to deployment with deterministic behavior and transforming network technology with value-propositions for Communication Service Providers, including top-of-the-line performance, lower cost per bit, better ROI, and as a future proof platform for 5G services.

This year’s award comes at a critical time in our industry, as telco operators and enterprises prepare for the commercial arrival of 5G services. Together with our partners, we’ve helped advance the adoption of Network Functions Virtualization infrastructure (NFVi), move network services to the edge for greater efficiency, and deploy 5G services to real customers. The opportunities for growth and innovation are just beginning, and we’re determined, along with our partners, to build the next generation of solutions that drive growth and innovation.

Being named a member of the Leaders Board means that, together with Intel, Affirmed Networks is making meaningful contributions to the acceleration of network transformations around the world—contributions like building the world’s fastest 5G cloud-native platform. We’ll continue to work with technology visionaries such as Intel, Red Hat, and VMware to ensure that the advances being made in cloud and virtualized architectures can benefit telco operators too.

This is what leadership looks like. It’s about putting your customers first and leaving your ego at the door. Accolades like the Leaders Board validate that what we’re doing is important, but the real validation comes from knowing that we’re not just giving our customers the best that Affirmed has to offer, but the best that Intel, Dell, HPE, Red Hat, VMware, and other leaders have to offer as well. Together, we can do more than transform networks; we can change the world.

Cloud Native: The Disaggregation of Software

by Seshadri Sathyanarayan Seshadri Sathyanarayan No Comments

“If virtualization is the disaggregation of hardware, then cloud-native is the disaggregation of software.”

As we stand on the cusp of 5G’s arrival next year (according to most analysts), it’s surprising to me how many people in the industry still don’t agree on what 5G will look like when it does arrive. You’ll hear the usual terms in a conversation about 5G —virtualization, cloud-native, the Internet of Things—but little consensus on what constitutes a true 5G network. Is virtualization enough or does a 5G network have to be cloud-native too? Is a cloud-native architecture simply one that features containerized software or is it something more?


What is Cloud-Native Architecture? Here’s a Simple Definition:

Part of the confusion around cloud-native architecture stems from our industry’s affection for making the simple complex. For example, the industry definition for cloud-native invokes a whole laundry list of requirements—containerization, microservices, network slicing, etc.—that many in the industry don’t fully understand. It was during one such conversation, at a recent panel session on 5G networks, where I finally discovered a simple way of defining cloud-native architectures. “If virtualization is the disaggregation of hardware,” I said, “then cloud-native is the disaggregation of software.”


Disaggregation & Cloud Native

For me, that’s the whole crux of the 5G discussion right there. Virtualization is a mandate for 5G, true, but there’s a higher purpose for 5G than squeezing more cost out of the network: a mandate to make money. This requires an innovation platform built on cloud-native architecture principles that can enable new network slices and fail fast modes of operation. And disaggregating software is the key to creating and managing such a platform and driving new revenue opportunities of the 5G future. Achieving the right level of disaggregation is the true art within the science of Cloud Native.

To be clear, cloud-native is more than disaggregated software. It involves, among other things, containerization, dynamic management, an externalized state, a service mesh and, perhaps most importantly, a microservices-based architecture. Unfortunately, many network equipment vendors are clouding the perception of cloud-native by limiting its scope to a few checked-off boxes. They build on a foundation of hardware virtualization by re-packaging their existing software in containers, provide some dynamic management tools and announce that their solution is cloud-native architecture. Not surprisingly, their 5G conversations also stop short of promising more revenue. Instead, their focus is on operational and capex savings. Let’s be very clear: If your 5G roadmap ends at network savings, you’ll be running out of road a lot sooner than you think.

Ultimately, 5G is defined by how you define success. If success is saving money and watching other people innovate, then stick to virtualization. But if you define success by shaping the future and embracing the opportunity, cloud-native is a must. There are a lot of roadmaps out there, but in the race to revenue, the path for 5G is clear: the winners will be those who figure out how to drive revenue through new services, faster than the competition.

Virtualization Simplified with Affirmed Professional Services

by Alexandre Carvalho Alexandre Carvalho No Comments

These days, it’s almost impossible to find a technology product that doesn’t tout artificial intelligence (AI). Antivirus software uses it to screen out malware. Cars use it to parallel park. It’s only a matter of time before your toaster is using AI to determine whether to lightly toast your bagel or set the controls for the heart of the sun.

While AI certainly has its place in technology, there’s no substitute for human intelligence. Our customer conversations may start with our technology, but they quickly turn to our people—specifically, our Global Professional Services team. Whether it’s a highly experienced human being tackling network changes in your NOC or a sympathetic voice on a Help Desk line at 2:0 in the morning, Professional Services are the face and the heart of our company.

We know that we’re at the cutting edge of something important—advanced networks that will drive the 5G experiences of tomorrow—and our customers know that too. That’s why you’ll often find Affirmed Professional Services embedded where the action is: in Tier 1 carriers that are delivering the world’s first 5G services or the next-generation disruptors that will provide services we haven’t even imagined yet. Our customers know where they want to be in the next three to five years, and they trust our people to help them get there because The Future is our business.

Human intelligence and experience is what makes a good product a great solution. It’s the difference between a 4G strategy that leads to nowhere and one that connects seamlessly to your 5G strategy. It’s the competitive advantage of being first-to-market with new services and delivering them at a lower cost than anyone else. It’s the confidence of building the future based on a proven design rather than learning from your mistakes along the way.

Affirmed not only has the expertise in Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) infrastructure design, but we are the only company that is one-hundred-percent-focused on virtualized mobile networks built on the principles of NFV and the Cloud. It’s why the most prominent players in the virtualized space like Intel and RedHat choose to partner with us, and why the biggest mobile service providers in the world are betting their future on us. Whether it’s a resident network engineer, network operations engineers, projects managers or a remote Help Desk technician, we focus on virtualization so that you can focus on the rest of your business.

Of course, we’re the world’s leading experts on our products, but our virtualization expertise doesn’t stop there. Many of our customers hire us to manage their entire virtualization migration or transformation. We believe multivendor, best-of-breed networks are still the best way to go, so long as everyone is following the same standards; multivendor leadership; however, more often leads to delays and additional costs. Our systems integration expertise allows us to architect, integrate, and support multivendor platforms for our customers, in effect “owning” the success of the virtualization project.

Ultimately, it all comes down to a very human emotion: trust. Our customers believe in our technology, but they trust our people to make it work. Because if you’re trusting technology to just work without the right team behind it, sooner or later you’re going to be toast.

How to Implement Seamless Service Provisioning for 5G Networks

by Scott Heinlein Scott Heinlein No Comments

Service Provisioning Makes 5G Services as Smart on the Inside as They Are on the Outside

As 5G approaches, the telecom conversation has shifted from smartphones to 5G services such as smart cars and smart cities. And while 5G services are fun to talk about, one of the things that many telco vendors aren’t talking about is service provisioning; how these services will actually be turned up, provisioned and managed in a network environment where 5G, 4G, 3G, and even 2G technology are likely to co-exist for a long time.

Of course, being the 5G-focused company that we are, Affirmed is not just talking about it, we actually did something about it by developing telecom solutions to address service provisioning in just such a hybrid environment. You can read more about it in the new ACG Research paper, “Hybrid Networks: Integrated Provisioning for Virtual and Physical Networks.”

Service provisioning and creating new services, go hand in hand. Particularly with enterprises, which stand to be some of the largest consumers of 5G services, issues such as speed-to-service and service assurance are very important.

It’s one thing, for example, to turn up and provision mobile data services for an individual subscriber, but what happens when your subscriber is an entire city? Suddenly, you’re talking about mobilizing a small army of network resources that may be spread across different domains and vendor technologies, all of which need to work together seamlessly. Even in a purely virtualized world, that’s a challenge; in a network where virtual and physical elements are mixed together, it’s a mistake waiting to happen.

What is Seamless Service Provisioning for MNOs?

What is seamless service provisioning, and what does it look like for Mobile Network Operators? For starters, it looks the same whether the underlying technology is a virtual network function (VNF) or a physical appliance, using a single, easy-to-use interface to manage both. (By “easy to use,” we’re talking service orchestration with drag-and-drop simplicity, so it’s easy even for non-engineers to use.) It also dynamically allocates the right amount of resources for the job, so network operators don’t have to take the cost hit of equipment sitting idle.

In addition to its ease of use, service provisioning also manages the service for the entire lifecycle, from inception to deletion, and automated provisioning allows for automated management tasks. In other words, provisioning makes 5G services as convenient inside the network as they’re intended to be outside the network.

A Smarter Approach to Service Provisioning:

Affirmed enables seamless service provisioning via its domain orchestration and service automation solutions. At a high level, Affirmed’s Domain Orchestrator provides end-to-end service orchestration across hybrid, multivendor network environments. It also includes automation for complex provisioning scenarios: activating a new service, performing self-healing, or scaling service resources as demand changes.

The Affirmed Service Automation Platform (ASAP) features a simple drag-and-drop interface for rapid service creation, again connecting seamlessly across physical and virtual network functions from a variety of vendors through standard interfaces. Together, Domain Orchestrator and ASAP make it much easier for mobile service providers to deliver 5G services quickly and consistently, whether they’re rolling out an IoT service for an entire city or deploying consumer mobile broadband services in an entirely new region. And that’s important because, in a world where everyone is talking the 5G talk, you need a smarter approach to service provisioning if you expect to walk the walk.