Thursday, Jul 7, 2022
International Finance
Interview Magazine

The mind-boggling potential of telco cloud

ifm-interview-dipesh-ranjan-telco-cloud
Explicit bandwidth and low latency connectivity services are prime reasons for telcos relying on a network-centric approach

For years, telcos have traditionally been weak in their capabilities, suffering from complex services, but that is dramatically changing with the power of cloud technology. However, reports show that they are still facing challenges in migrating to a fit-for-purpose cloud operating model on the back of complex layers of network.

To build a unique operating model, telcos need to modify their approach—and the more important question is whether they need to forge into something new? Although there is no quick or an easy route to become comfortable with cloud technology, establishing a partnership with cloud computing providers can strengthen telecom capabilities on various levels. It is important that telcos partner with mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) to expand the provider’s business capabilities, churning them into new profits.

This trend is significantly taking place as cloud computing companies are giving telcos an opportunity to build differentiated cloud propositions that only a few competitors will be able to match. Now the dramatic shift that is taking place is observed with Network as a Service (NaaS). In fact, the powerful combination of NaaS and virtual machines are leading to a robust cloud-based network for telcos. NaaS can provide considerable benefits and business agility which is derived from three primary components: Functional elements virtualisation, active service catalog creation and process automation. That said, another aspect of NaaS that has become an attractive feature for telcos is the possibility of building mobile virtual networks, which in turn is making them full-fledged data networks to deliver bespoke services.

Recent reports show that virtualisation is a key aspect for telcos because it allows customisation of networks for a specific need. Examples of IoT sensors, VoIP phones and database servers require different network characteristics for the best possible performance. Another advantage is that cloud-based security management is becoming popular with rising threats within the industry on a global scale and security cannot be compromised as part of any network service. With that, the market opportunities for both telcos and cloud service providers is building a gateway for distinctive technology development in the industry.

Dipesh Ranjan, Vice President and Managing Director of NetFoundry APac in an exclusive interview with International Finance discusses NetFoundry’s cloud native networking and its reinvention of NaaS for the telecom industry. With a profound experience in telecom and cloud, Dipesh is at the forefront of cloud native software defined networks, ZTN and SASE. Currently, he is leading the APac organisation of NetFoundry, turning the company’s vision into reality through sound strategy development and mentoring.

Global businesses thrive on cloud. What is the key enabler for NetFoundry to have established itself as the leader in cloud native networking?
NetFoundry reinvents networking to meet the market needs by helping businesses to rapidly adapt and grow in a post-Covid-19 world. Networks are changing dynamically and becoming more complicated. The company spins up an instant on-demand programmable software-defined cloud, multi-cloud or IoT network as you can spin up your virtual machines in any public cloud such as AWS. This is enabled with three key features.

First: NetFoundry builds zero-trust based secure and reliable connectivity between our clients and various apps hosted across a distributed environment in the public or private cloud, regardless of where our client is based or connected. The platform’s agility allows clients to spin up an entire private network using virtualised network functions, cloud infrastructure, orchestration and software that enables creation of a whole private network in minutes. Of course, the most unique feature is that we have built into our solution a WAN optimisation component and internet path routing model that allows us to efficiently route traffic over the internet and dramatically improve application performance.

The company has gone a step further and launched an SDK which can be embedded into applications. Our platform is accessed through APIs, SDKs and DevOps tools integrations, enabling practitioners, application developers and network administrators to reach levels of automation and agility which are only possible with connectivity-as-code. On the service provider side, a telco can white-label our platform and launch a cloud-native Network as a Service (NaaS) to connect any cloud or any app to users worldwide regardless of what undelay internet network they use. We have been transforming telecom and mobile operators in digitalisation and helping them to become ecosystem orchestrators.

In recent years, the telecom industry has advanced on the back of modern technologies. What is the role of the company’s reinvention of NaaS for the industry?
NetFoundry is a NaaS with Zero Trust SASE security and high performance. Besides minimising the cost of managing infrastructure, the goal of NaaS is to remove all networking dependencies and restrictions, enabling software-level, cloud-paradigm agility and innovation. NaaS enables seamless communication for the modern workplace in the wake of the recent pandemic. It also allows for a solution to provide unhindered, consistent application performance and highest-level of security against cyberattacks. With the new ways of working, the solution allows users to work anywhere, anytime and on any device.

It is worth mentioning that IT seeks to minimise the costs of managing network infrastructure but requires control of secure, high-performance networking. For that reason, NetFoundry reinvented NaaS to remove the telco, hardware and circuit handcuffs providing full control to the IT for cloud orchestrated networking through one’s choice of web portal, APIs or their existing DevOps tools.

Companies can have a global networking infrastructure managed by NetFoundry and they can use any underlay public internet network. The telecom industry can now build and manage connectivity to any or several clouds such as AWS, GCP and Azure on a single window and programme the connectivity, export and import it as a software code.

Gartner has recognised the company to be a top player in zero trust networking. Can you elaborate on your next-generation software-defined networking connections and the value it brings to digital telcos?
As we have been witnessing the transition, the world has become a software-driven ecosystem and hardware is taking a support role. Globally, the telecommunications sector is proving to be a core and essential infrastructure service to national economies, with data infrastructure becoming critical in a connected world. However, the telecom world has not been changing rapidly as the software and cloud ecosystem has evolved into a XaaS business. That said, the connectivity services require to match the cloud ecosystem and there is a huge gap in the telecom industry.

The core telecom services take a lot of time to deploy and are very expensive. They were essentially made for connecting buildings with wires and are not suitable for the cloud. Today’s cloud world requires a cloud-native network as a service where applications are at the forefront. Networks need to understand microservices, applications and should have the capability to bridge between multiple cloud environments. Moreover, with pandemic driving digital transformation, telecom players are now forced to create capabilities which can match the need of such transitions.

Most companies now need to have a hybrid world connecting their employees in critical centres, remote workers at home with private and public clouds through any kind of underlay internet networks such as 4G, broadband and similar options. We are now in an internet-first world and not a privately wired telco circuit system which was connecting buildings that are not operated today due to Covid-19.

NetFoundry’s software-defined networking platform enables digital telcos to build capabilities for the multi-cloud and microservices where cloud-nativity, zero trust security and performance optimisation is key. The company’s platform is a software-only connectivity solution enabling telcos to instantly spin up secure, performant, application-specific, zero trust networks called AppWANs with public internet’s reach and scale. We help telco players to easily white-label and launch cloud-native NaaS which can be programmed based on customer needs.

What are the persistent challenges in the telecom industry that robust cloud services can help using its capabilities? Give an example.
Agility is key in the modern cloud world. One constant challenge would be the long turnaround time to set up a private network. NetFoundry platform gives freedom from traditional telco networks providing them with the ability to spin up global, multi-cloud software networks in minutes with up to 10x performance using micro-segmented zero trust security model. For example, a situation where hundreds of TB of data needs migration to a public cloud such as AWS, the customer is forced to buy an expensive circuit for a year which takes multiple weeks tp months to implement.

Alternatively, the use of old technology like VPN will take months and years from them to migrate over the public internet. NetFoundry has been able to change the game by instantly deploying cloud-native migration networks, delivering the performance of high capacity private circuits over the public internet with high-grade data-in-motion zero trust security on a SaaS model. Companies can now migrate fast using public internet and pay for only the amount of data they need to migrate. Another advantage it brings to the table is by extending the same network to users at home, third-party vendors and bridging with any IoT network. In addition, NetFoundry has now an SDK called Ziti which can easily embed private, programmable networking into an app directly—creating a zero-trust, high performance networking on any internet connection without VPNs.

The continuous integration of telecommunication and the internet are proven to have a significant impact on the industry. In this context, how is NetFoundry gaining competitive advantage over its industry peers?
Besides zero-trust networking, NetFoundry has partnered with leading providers to offer complete edge computing and IoT solutions. Edge computing helps businesses to leverage their IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimise asset management, energy reduction, warehouse automation, surveillance, predictive maintenance, voice and video recognition. NetFoundry’s ZITI SDK enables customers to meet their edge computing goals without the hassle of deploying VPNs, firewalls or proprietary hardware. We are the only private 5G, LTE, WiFi, CBRS solution which embeds global networking and our solutions have been chosen by global players like Microsoft, Micron, Supermicro and several others in embedding our global networking to their market offerings.

How is NetFoundry capitalising on telco cloud opportunities? What effect does it have on the technology and telecom industry at large?
As we move towards a connected world, telecom operators have a unique opportunity to position themselves to capitalise on the growth of cloud services—both as providers and adopters of the technology. Telco cloud solution expects much higher resilience, agility, flexibility and cost optimisation compared to current data centre model.

In your view, what are the highs and lows of Indonesia’s telecom industry?
Indonesia is among the fastest developing telecommunications and cloud markets in the world. We have seen Google and Alibaba already launching their cloud node locally in Jakarta. Still, the geographies across Indonesia will struggle to connect to the cloud through any traditional technologies like VPN. Alternative private circuits are expensive and time consuming, while traditional telco circuits are not built for accessing cloud applications and doing fast migrations to public clouds.

The unbridled success of wireless networks is also attributable to technology companies, government agencies and academics who are joining forces to increase the efficiency of global telecommunications networks. There is no doubt that building a cloud-based approach to network management, at the very least, will enhance efficiency and provide full control over network traffic. Today, consumers are perceiving telecommunications as a product and service—which has scaled rapidly in the past few years to accommodate the growing demand.

The main challenge for telcos is to improve the network efficiency while providing consistent levels of service as they seek to expand. The most fundamental change, perhaps, for technology companies and telcos is the architecture of telecommunications networks. This refers to the general structure of the overall system and how different parts of the system can be augmented using technology. As a result, it becomes an effortless task for telcos to create new ways of increasing efficiency using sophisticated technologies. All these integrated developments point to a redefined telecommunications infrastructure comprising a suite of technologies, devices, facilities, networks and applications to support the whole ecosystem.

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