Spotlight on Tech

Overcoming cloud terminology confusion to get to the ‘why’ of cloud-native deployments

Partha Seetala
President, Cloud Business Unit
Rakuten Symphony
August 17, 2023
minute read

We love a good buzzword in telecom, don’t we? Better yet if it’s buried in an acronym we can slip into as many conversations as possible. 

It’s easy to downplay the disservice we do in the process. 

Take AI, the hot term on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It’s become so watered down, we’ve come to accept it to describe something as simple as performing math in columns on a spreadsheet. Of course, we’re selling this quite promising advancement short if we don’t standardize on discussing it in the context of analyzing vast amounts of network data, powering cost reduction, increasing agility and boosting security.

“cloud” ≠ “cloud-native”

I come from the enterprise cloud world and one of the consistent confusion points I see is the conflation of “cloud” and “cloud-native.” Using them interchangeably presents a major challenge as we attempt to get the whole industry on the same page regarding the benefits. 

After all, if we don’t understand what we are talking about, it is impossible to help people understand the why

Let’s set the record straight. 

When we talk about cloud, we should be thinking in terms of the public cloud – hyperscalers like Google, Azure and AWS. Typically when we reference cloud, we are describing the consumption of compute power with the ability to instantaneously scale resources up and down based on load and only pay for what we use. 

On the other hand, cloud-native refers to a philosophy around building applications. It’s worth spending time ensuring we collectively understand what is meant when we use this term. Essentially it comes down to:

  • How applications are packaged. Cloud-native solves the challenge of onboarding applications into a network by introducing a packaging approach using containers. This makes it possible to bundle all dependencies together, simplifying the process and reducing the time it takes to onboard applications. This approach also streamlines the application deployment process.
  • Application availability and resiliency: Before the emergence of cloud-native, organizations had to handle application availability and resiliency on a per-application basis, often relying on third-party tools. This approach required significant resources and effort spent managing various toolkits for each application. Cloud-native provides a consistent methodology for building applications, ensuring that resilience is built into the platform itself. It offers a standardized way of addressing application availability across various application types, reducing complexity and resource requirements.
  • Application lifecycle management: Upgrading applications in traditional networks can be challenging and cloud-native addresses this with a streamlined application lifecycle management process. Specifically, it brings consistency to application upgrades, regardless of whether they are performed in the telco or core domain. Cloud-native facilitates application upgrades and brings uniformity and simplicity to this process, minimizing the difficulties typically associated with application upgrades.

With the ‘what’ out of the way, let’s explore the ‘why’

In short, cloud-native is about speed and simplicity. 

Rakuten Mobile is demonstrating exactly what this means in a nationwide deployment proven at scale. 

Cloud-native has fast-tracked vendor application onboarding via new approaches to application packaging, fast-tracking and adoption of Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. This streamlines vendor build, testing in staging and advancement to production, contributing to agility. 

Rakuten Mobile is also taking advantage of agile monitoring and actioning based on real-time insights. With software-driven monitoring and policy-based actions, scaling services and making adjustments has become faster and more efficient.

Another important area of benefit is automation for lifecycle management: The standardization across different application classes in cloud-native supports the development of an automation framework that enables efficient lifecycle management for workloads, further increasing network agility.

From a bottom line standpoint, this translates into benefits that span cost reduction, mitigation of errors when accepting new builds from vendors, and the ability to spin up new services rapidly, in days or even hours versus months.

Extracting value from cloud-native

A big part of getting to the ‘why’ is understanding how value can be extracted from cloud-native deployments. 

Standardization efforts are underway but even in pursuing standards, it’s important to understand the ‘why.’ Adhering to standards alone in cloud-native doesn’t help operators address all the challenges at hand. They have to launch a network and do it in the most profitable way possible. There’s a line that must be drawn when it comes to being a standards purist versus making a decision to leverage non-standardized innovations from vendors that can expedite results. 

To this end, operators must remain laser focused on delivering a high-quality network at an affordable price, both for themselves and customers. 

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