Walk Before You Run – Network Cloud Transformation Tips for CSPs

In a recent survey of CSPs, 88% agreed that adopting an open network architecture is necessary for them to be a best-in-class provider, yet only 20% reported having an open architecture strategy in place today. Given the broad recognition that transitioning open networks will position themselves for the future, this gap indicates that many CSPs may be grappling with the steps and processes needed to operationalize their open network strategy and begin their cloud transformation journey.

MeriTalk recently sat down with Dell Technologies’ Glenn Exline, senior director of Dell enterprise architects, and León Taiman, client principal of the global telco practice, to discuss their experiences and perspectives from guiding CSPs through the cloud transformation journey.

MeriTalk: Where does the cloud transformation journey typically start for a CSP?

Exline: Transitioning to the cloud and an open network is typically driven by a thought leader in the C-suite who looks at the efficiencies that cloud-native architectures have delivered over the last decade and ultimately champions cloud transformation because they see the capabilities, functionality, and flexibility that cloud can deliver in telco space.

MeriTalk: What does transformation look like from within a CSP as they begin the journey to more open networks?

Taiman: New CTOs, CIOs, and chief network officers are coming in from the IT industry with deep cloud experience, and they’re driving change from the top down. They’re focused on driving business outcomes that reduce their total cost while maintaining their network reliability, and ultimately, they are in a position to monetize their network. Our job, with our ecosystem partners, is to help them accelerate that process. We do that by bridging the gap between the legacy point of view and the cloud-native standpoint. Ultimately, we are helping telcos transform into technology companies.

MeriTalk: What are the major drivers in the decision to move to the cloud? Are they cost, operational challenges, potential new revenue streams, or other factors?

Exline: Cost is definitely a factor, as are choices and flexibility. CSP leaders have seen the value of an ecosystem approach to cloud transformation in the enterprise space, and they want the same benefits for their organizations.

In Europe, we see an emphasis from CSPs on power savings. As they go to 5G and look at 6G, they realize they’ll have to deploy tens of thousands of additional sites. If those sites consume the same amount of power as today’s sites, their power requirements increase exponentially, without serving any additional customers.

Finally, a major driver is innovation. They want to make it easier for their developers to

develop new applications, and they also want to expose their network to customers so they can write and develop applications and services on the network. That is a big part of driving new revenue opportunities through cloud transformation.

MeriTalk: After a CSP leader articulates a cloud transformation vision and the business case, how do they get buy-in across their organization?

Exline: They need to overcome some obstacles to gain buy-in. One obstacle is a natural tendency to want to tackle the entire initiative at one time, which is daunting. Dell Technologies and our partners typically work with CSPs to find a place where they can start and be successful, rather than trying to “eat the proverbial elephant” all at one time.

Here’s an example. Some of our customers are very advanced. Some are already hosting OSS and BSS. Some customers aren’t doing that today, and that’s where we can say “Let’s modernize this area first to support your SBS workloads.” Or we might look at the core network. If it looks more like a traditional network, it’s another place they can start and be successful. These types of examples do two things: They give CSPs a place to start, not just on the technology stack, and they let CSPs address the operational processes and people challenges they’re going to face as they undertake the broader transformation.

MeriTalk: Some CSPs may hesitate to shift to cloud architecture due to the complexities and risk factors. How do you address these concerns and simplify the process, especially for staff?

Exline: Typically, this is where organizational entropy arises. CSPs often think of these transformations as a technology upgrade and they’re not looking at the operational changes that are required, or quite frankly the efficiencies that you can derive from some of these technologies. This requires a baseline understanding that it’s a new operational model, which also means looking at people and processes.

In addition to having the expertise to deploy a cloud-native architecture, you need a team who knows how to operationalize that environment, and in some cases that may mean going outside of your organization to find that cloud-native talent.

Taiman: As legacy network functions are re-platformed from physical to virtual to containers to truly cloud-native, there is a skills gap. CSPs can support the reskilling process with support from organizations like Dell Technologies and our ecosystem partners. We bring the experience and lessons learned from years of successful enterprise cloud transformations using a build, operate, transfer model, as the CSP ultimately wants ownership.

MeriTalk: What do multi-partner ecosystems bring to the table?

Taiman: Dell Technologies has been building cloud platforms for over a decade. For the enterprise vertical, we’ve been very successful at helping organizations re-platform and migrate large-scale applications so they can run cloud-native on a consistent horizontal cloud platform.  We’re providing that platform for telcos, and an open ecosystem is essential in that effort.

We have an Open Telecom Ecosystem Lab where our application partners – for example, the Amdocs, the Ericssons, the Nokias, etc. of the ecosystem – can test and certify that their workload can run on the horizontal cloud platform. The CSP can then deploy a pre-tested, pre-certified solution into production with confidence.

Together with our ecosystem partners, we help CSPs build new environments quickly – by operationalizing the environment, and helping their teams come up to speed. Our CSP customers can move towards their business outcomes faster – i.e., reducing costs, maintaining network reliability, and monetizing their network. There is enormous opportunity ahead for CSPs.