Technology Record - Issue 23: Winter 21/22

133 MED I A & COMMUN I CAT I ONS “Leveraging the cloud gives network operators the opportunity to create new services and new revenue streams” RAINER KELLERHALS, MICROSOFT With the demand for constant connectivity, secure collaboration and immersive experience growing at an ever-faster pace, networks and operators are being pushed to their limits. They must make the most of their infrastructure to optimise their operations and drive down costs, while also developing new and innovative services. These infrastructures have traditionally consisted of physical hardware. However, the development of the cloud means that this model is currently undergoing a significant shift, suggests Rainer Kellerhals, managing director of media and communications for the EMEA region at Microsoft. “Historically, these services were implemented in hardware, but these days service providers are migrating to software-based network services using standard hardware or cloud platforms. This drives significant economic benefits, with lower costs and better utilisation of resources,” says Kellerhals. “Perhaps even more importantly, moving to the cloud gives telecommunication companies the opportunity to move away from their hardware-based, fixed-infrastructure operating model to a software-defined, scalable and agile operating model. This will be key for companies to keep up with network innovation and stay competitive.” One partner making use of Microsoft technology to offer a new service is Verizon. Through its relationship with Microsoft, Verizon is offering businesses an on-premises, private edge compute solution that enables real-time applications. The solution leverages Verizon 5G Edge with Microsoft Azure Stack Edge to bring compute and storage services to the customer’s premises, providing increased efficiencies, higher levels of security and the low lag and high bandwidth needed for applications involving computer vision, augmented and virtual reality, and machine learning. “Our partnership with Microsoft brings 5G Edge to enterprises, dropping latency at the edge, helping critical, performance-impacting applications to respond more quickly and efficiently,” said Sampath Sowmyanarayan, chief revenue officer of Verizon Business. “5G is ushering in next-generation business applications, from core connectivity to real-time edge compute and new applications and solutions that take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) transforming nearly every industry.” Meanwhile, German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom and Microsoft have expanded their partnership to help accelerate customers’ cloud transformation initiatives. Telekom will offer its customers direct access to the Microsoft cloud through Azure ExpressRoute, which provides faster connectivity through a private connection. Furthermore, its enterprise customer unit T-Systems is providing the capability to migrate large-scale applications and critical enterprise workloads to the Azure cloud, allowing organisations to access the global scale, advanced security and innovations of cloud infrastructure without needing to manage its installation and maintenance. “This is probably the most important advantage for telecommunications networks,” says Kellerhals. “Leveraging the cloud gives network operators the opportunity to create new services and revenue streams by combining voice and data communications services with cloud-based services like team collaboration, data processing and analytics, AI and the internet of things to create integrated, differentiated business-to-business and business-to-consumer offerings.” AI is another important technology in the journey towards next-generation networks. By automating elements of network operations like congestion management, providing predictive maintenance and improving energy efficiency, AI can help to significantly improve existing network infrastructures. For example, behavioural analytics models can be built to identify abnormal behaviour in an element of a network that could indicate a compromised component. An automated process could then sandbox the suspect element for further analysis and repair, or even roll back to the last known working configuration. “Applying AI in network operations management can improve the customer experience,