Milestones & Awards

Rakuten is the telco edge cloud leader 

Partha Seetala
President, Cloud Business Unit
Rakuten Symphony
June 1, 2023
minute read
Rakuten Mobile is identified as leader in edge cloud deployments

Industry analyst firm STL Partners issued a report on the momentum behind telco cloud and identified Rakuten Mobile as the leader – by a long shot – in edge cloud deployments.  

And with that, Rakuten Mobile is crowned the current telco edge cloud deployment leader with Rakuten Symphony's right technology to extend that leadership – and help other mobile network operators (MNOs) to catch up.

STL Highlights Telco Cloud Momentum

The report, We Are Entering the Next Phase of Telco Edge, written by Matt Bamforth, STL senior consultant, depicts the importance of telco cloud. He notes that “where data lives matters,” referring to the fact that data location impacts the ability to deliver services as well as to recover from faults and to deliver high QoS.

MNOs that don’t embrace this trend will have challenges: “For telcos to compete in the future, they need to adopt cloud-native operations at the edge,” Bamforth writes.

“For telcos to compete in the future, they need to adopt cloud-native operations at the edge.” – Matt Bamforth, Senior Consultant, STL Partners
-Matt Bamforth, Senior Consultant, STL Partners

Telco Cloud or Public Cloud?

Distinguishing between telco cloud and public cloud is important. They are entirely different and built to solve different problems. Whereas public cloud centralizes compute into a few massive data centers, telco cloud distributes compute in thousands of small data centers spread geographically close to where processing is needed at each base station. This telco cloud is what provides the flexibility and scalability needed for future competitiveness.

We spend a lot of time talking with our customers about the value of telco cloud and differentiators from public cloud as we feel that MNOs need to cut costs significantly to compete, and a software-based network built on edge-cloud servers is a critical step.

The report reflects this value by exploring the question: “Is 2023 the year a new phase of telco cloud begins?” Bamforth notes 11 telcos that are telco cloud first movers. These MNOs have embraced telco cloud to support three workloads in:

  • Open RAN
  • Multi-access edge computing (MEC) services  
  • Distributed core network functions.  

As a result of its nationwide Open RAN-based 4G and 5G networks in Japan, Rakuten Mobile is the telco cloud deployment leader with nearly 57,000 edge cloud sites – three times as many sites as the next MNO in the report.  

Managing this network without expanding the network support team to unsupportable levels requires very advanced automation. An advantage of this software approach is that it provides the ability to automate the management of infrastructure at scale, delivering remote zero touch provisioning and life cycle management that minimizes human installation and updating time and reducing total cost of ownership for MNOs.

The technology behind the leading telco edge cloud deployment  

The Rakuten Mobile edge network comprises using the SymcloudTM Platform and Symcloud Orchestrator. For 5G base stations and distributed unit (DU) deployment, Symcloud can run on a single physical core leaving the rest of the server hardware for running demanding DU workload. Symcloud includes end-to-end solution automation, VNF/CNF harmonization and application-aware Kubernetes (K8s) storage.

Full stack e2e automation: Symcloud Multi-Domain Orchestrator manages the lifecycle of any workflow including:

  • Bare-metal provisioning
  • K8s cloud platforms
  • NF lifecycle management
  • Network Services (NS) lifecycle design

The Methods of Procedures (MOPs) scripting engine enables large-scale management of any device or appliance, all 1-clicked automatically triggered via a policy engine.  

The automated workflows support container-based network functions (NFs), VM-based NFs and  party physical NFs, simultaneously. It is fast and easy to use with the custom Service Designer, MOPs Automation Studio and Orchestrator GUIs, where one can mix/match and reuse multiple workflow elements, as well as existing executors and scripts.  

This can all be reduced to one, contextually aware, unified workflow. In a single click or automated event once can prep server configurations, spin up K8s clusters, provision network devices, deploy NFs and bring up a custom service chain, working in a GitOps model.  

VNF and CNF harmonization: Unlike others in the industry, Symcloud runs VMs and containers on the exact same platform, so there are no resource or lifecycle management/operations silos. Therefore, there is no need to have separate teams or operations for the two of them. Not two products, not two sets of rules, but one single completely unified workflow and management layer.

K8s-Application Aware Storage: We have led the way in “application-aware” software defined storage, providing data protection and disaster recovery that automates tasks the entire “applications + metadata + secrets + data” for application, backup, restore, snapshots, clones and more. Users can manipulate data on a per application basis instead of managing numerous disparate storage volumes. We can restore both the K8s application and the data to any point in time with consistency between the two and like the rest of our automation, it is policy-driven and tracks the state of your application and data throughout its entire lifecycle.

Symcloud has enabled Rakuten Mobile to deploy the world's first E2E cloud-native, fully containerized 5G network, where VMs on CNP ran 30% faster than legacy OpenStack. Symcloud saved Rakuten Mobile 50% on capex compared to traditional deployments, including 70% opex savings for infrastructure preparation and reducing tasks to 4 minutes, rather than months.  

The edge cloud is being built right now and 2023 could be the year that it reaches “escape velocity,” according to the report. We believe strongly in the telco cloud as a way for MNOs to reset their cost model and build a network that will deliver next generation services.  

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