Data centers, central offices, and enterprise campuses all over the world make up “the cloud.” Public and private cloud configurations with compute, storage, and networking capabilities are provided by distributed physical servers, networking equipment, and software. Whether it’s physical, virtual, on-premises, in a distant data center, or a hybrid mix of all of the above, the cloud fuels the digital operations of any business. Digital transformation of the business paired with the rise of 5G services requires exploring and deploying cloud service—and that’s the core of what it means to be cloud-native.
The cloud-native landscape is often referred to as a cloud stack, and includes infrastructure, provisioning, orchestration, management, and application development. These components take advantage of the cloud delivery model, and provide cloud services like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
Cloud infrastructure and services
While some Communication Service Providers (CSPs) choose to add servers and network equipment to their own central offices and data centers incrementally, others prefer to run their workloads in the cloud, using a Cloud Provider’s Infrastructure as a Service offering. This model allows CSPs to add more digital scale, capacity, and compute power than their co-located private cloud can accommodate, without incurring the deployment delays and costs of physical hardware and software licenses. The need for elastic infrastructure capabilities will only grow as businesses transform their business operations and customer-facing support and services into digital channels.
Communication Service Providers also look to Cloud Providers to deliver application development platforms as a hosted service. PaaS allows providers to leverage a range of application development and testing tools hosted by the Cloud Provider’s platform, with the Cloud Provider maintaining underlying infrastructure, security, operating systems, and backups. Central offices and operations centers may also use multiple cloud-based SaaS offerings for Business Support Systems (BSS) like help desk ticketing, product management, order management, revenue management, and customer relationship management.
To avoid yet another form of vendor lock-in that Providers are all too familiar with, Communication Service Providers need simultaneous access to multiple Cloud Providers that leverage BSS data in real-time. This access allows CSPs to choose cloud services that meet their needs at the most competitive price.
Users gain access to cloud services and resources via cloud provisioning. Cloud Providers allocate resources based on what’s needed, how and when those resources need to be delivered, and payment terms.
- Advanced cloud provisioning is based on a formal contract and is billed as a monthly flat fee. Customers use advanced provisioning to access cloud resources for specific resources and services at will.
- Dynamic provisioning is based on variable or fluctuating demand and billed on a pay-per-use basis. Customers use dynamic provisioning to scale up quickly to accommodate unexpected workload spikes, and scale back down when workloads normalize.
- Cloud self-service supports transactional cloud service(s) that don’t require contracts or billing. Cloud self-service allows customers to order cloud services on-demand from a web portal with a credit card.
Communication Service Providers may find that certain types of cloud provisioning lend themselves to certain cloud services. For example, advanced cloud provisioning may work best for regular workload spikes that impact customer SLAs but are not big enough to require CAPEX spending for a particular network segment. Advanced provisioning is also a good option for BSS SaaS tools like customer relationship management or help desk ticketing systems. Enterprise development teams delivering CI/CD customer services might use PaaS with advanced cloud provisioning or dynamic provisioning. Cloud bursting might use dynamic service provisioning to deal with unexpected workload spikes. Cloud self-service provisioning may work best with employee productivity bots and tools.
Cloud containers and runtime
While Cloud Providers offer efficient and effective ways to host applications and application development, to fulfill those promises, their offerings require that hosted applications run in cloud environments. Application developers who develop new products and services in cloud-native environments will use cloud-native application containers that operate in isolated, standard, and secure ways. In another Fujitsu blog, we define it as follows:
“containerized open source software stacks in which each element of an application is packaged in its own container, and is dynamically orchestrated so that each part can be actively scheduled and managed to optimize resource utilization, and is microservices orientated as to increase overall agility and maintainability of each application”
Cloud environments need programming tools that start and stop containers, access and store data, and provide communication capabilities between containers. Just as all applications have runtime code they use to execute their instructions, so do containerized cloud-native applications. Cloud runtime engines are specifically designed for the cloud environment, with cloud runtime tools matching application containers to the cloud compute resources they need to execute their instructions and support their workloads.
Cloud orchestration and management
With hundreds of thousands of application containers running workloads at any given time, cloud orchestration and management are required to keep containers from inadvertently robbing each other of resources and impacting service delivery.
Application containers need cloud orchestration and management to manage container connections, interactions, and containerized workflows and services in public and private clouds. Cloud automation tasks are configured into cohesive workflows, while providing the appropriate permissions oversight and policy enforcement for the customer and the environment. The cloud environment requires real-time cloud services discovery, scheduling, and coordination to operate efficiently and effectively.
In a communications network, cloud automation toolkits shouldn’t be confused with network automation toolkits that include network service orchestration and management. Any Communication Service Provider planning to run end-to-end network service delivery operations in the cloud need all of the above automation tools, with the added requirement that the applications use open and standard APIs so that they can be integrated and work together seamlessly.
Cloud-native application development
At the top of the cloud stack is cloud-native application development. Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, and good old C++ make up the landscape of programming languages for functions and microservices that run in cloud containers. This Fujitsu article defines cloud-native application development as “a method of building and managing responsive, scalable and robust applications in a public, private or hybrid cloud environment.” Cloud-native application development and the supporting infrastructure are more resilient because they don’t rely on a single, critical hard drive or server. Anyone with appropriate privileges can access these applications from anywhere, on any device.
Providers have a mix of traditional applications and cloud-native applications in their central offices and network operations centers. That mix is often reflected in a provider’s business model. Traditional Communication Service Providers have more traditional application development methodologies for their enterprise systems, as well as chassis-based vertically integrated network gear with proprietary management systems. On the other hand, as their name implies, Cloud Communication Service Providers have more cloud-native applications built using cloud-native application development tools. As Communication Service Providers adopt Iaas and Paas, they are adding more and more applications that were designed for cloud deployment from the ground up.
Going cloud-native is just one part of digital transformation in an established multivendor ecosystem. As the pace of technology-led disruption increases, it’s vital to engage partners who understand how the cloud-native landscape can enable businesses to digitize their business operations and reinvent customer interactions. With over 40 years in the communications network business, Fujitsu’s network experts have the experience, credibility, and confidence to be your digital transformation partner with hardware, software, and services.
Discover more about going cloud-native
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