Earlier this year Microsoft’s acquisition of Metaswitch and Affirmed Networks were a statement of intent concerning the software giant’s ambitions in the telecoms market.
Now it has launched Azure for Operators in an attempt to close the gap between it and telcos’ current preferred hyperscale cloud provider, AWS. Google Cloud is a not distant third.
Microsoft described Azure for Operators as, “a strategy to partner with network operators to create new opportunities and provide core infrastructure, combining the power of cloud, cellular and edge for the lowest latency and largest reach at low cost."
Friend and partner
This is how it sees things panning out, according to a blog by Jason Zander, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure (which is well worth a read): “To address the requirements of rolling out 5G, operators will face strong challenges, including high capital expenditure (CapEx) investments, an increased need for scale, automation, and secure management of the massive volume of data it will generate.
“Today starts a new chapter in our close collaboration with the telecommunications industry to unlock the power of 5G and bring cloud and edge closer than ever. We're building a carrier-grade cloud and bringing more Microsoft technology to the operator’s edge.
“This, in combination with our developer ecosystem, will help operators to future proof their networks, drive down costs, and create new services and business models.”
Control and visibility
Or if you prefer it in tabular form, with this commentary by Zander, “As we build out Azure for Operators, we recognize the importance of ensuring operators have the control and visibility they require to manage their unique industry requirements. To that end, here is how our assets come together to provide operators with the platform they need.”
As we discussed in this recent article, the relationship between the cloud hyperscalers and telcos is complex, and both cooperative and collaborative. Also the cloud hyperscalers are gunning for the edge opportunity somewhat faster than expected. Worse, according to Bearingpoint//Beyond and more recent research by Analysy Mason (outlined in that article) enterprises don’t consider telcos as leading edge partners or put another way, operators are failing to cash in on the opportunity.
It will be interesting to see how Google and AWS react, as well, of course as operators. Already Telstra and Etisalat are working with Azure, which describes them as “early partners”. Who will be next?