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Telus: Let's Push to Cloud Native Now

Carol Wilson
9/27/2018
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DENVER -- NFV & Carrier SDN -- Telecom carriers need to push both themselves and their vendors harder to drive automation and cloud-native approaches to NFV, in order to achieve the original goals of doing virtualization at scale, a senior executive from Canadian operator Telus said here Wednesday.

Bryce Mitchell, the director of NFV, Cloud, Innovation Labs and Support Networks at Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), admitted upfront that network functions virtualization has not achieved its original promise nor is it where most thought it would be by now, but Mitchell did not paint a gloomy picture of the future.

Instead, he said he was encouraged by open source work, particularly by the Linux Foundation , to drive cloud-native approaches that stand a better chance of getting operators to the automation and web-scale they need.

Bryce Mitchell's slide showing the cloud-native work undertaken by the Linux Foundation, that he believes is taking NFV in the right direction.
Bryce Mitchell's slide showing the cloud-native work undertaken by the Linux Foundation, that he believes is taking NFV in the right direction.

"We have to drive to cloud-native applications because the current solutions are not amenable to the automation we need to scale and to get to cost curves we need as an industry," Mitchell said. "We need to rally as an industry -- let's push vendors and ourselves toward this design paradigm."

Mitchell also referred to two familiar challenges to early versions of NFV: the "lift and shift" approach to creating early virtual network functions and the need for internal culture change to embrace a software-driven universe.

Telus has "been fairly aggressive" in deploying NFV, he claimed, having put ten NFV pods based on OpenStack in place across Canada over the last two years. In the process, the company has greatly reduced the time it takes to turn up and test software through automation.

"When we first started deploying the pods two years ago it was taking us close to nine months to getting a pod up into production and a good chunk of that was the tail-end set-up of software configuration, software deployment, testing and validation," Mitchell said. "We actually have managed to get that down to 2.5 days now, which is really impressive. So once our physical infrastructure build is complete, the software is completely automated, the testing is completely automated and it even goes into the continuous testing and validation after it's been deployed."

As for the cultural challenges, he said telecom operators are not used to dealing with software at scale and particularly open source, and cited his team's discovery of a software bug that it took them nine months to work through with the open source community. Where Telus has been successful, it's been in areas where the carrier started from scratch with a new team of software-savvy folks that had the right skill set, he added.

"When we expand that out to the actual network functions and the teams within the carrier that deal with them, they don't have that skill set," he said. "But we can't simply go out and grab people off the street that know software design because the folks we have today are deeply knowledgeable about those network functions, how they work and how they are integrated into our organizations and into our systems. So there is monumental cultural change we are going through internally within the carriers to make better use of this technology."

Mitchell is greatly encouraged by all the activity around cloud-native architectures and the evolution of cloud-native virtual network functions.

"I think that will be absolutely will be key to coping with the cultural aspects to driving forward to getting to the value NFV has promised," he commented. "I see us moving toward a proper microservices and API-driven, built-for-cloud-from-the-ground-up type of NFV solutions and I see that trend as absolutely critical for us to achieve success and the value of NFV."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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