The VoIP evolution through the cloud is one of the most impactful technological innovations of the past ten years. The way we build and consume software has changed radically and continues to evolve daily. As the value of cloud infrastructure and cloud software delivery becomes clearer, more vendors are looking for a way to jump on the bandwagon.
In this rush to be seen as a cloud solution, new terms are being defined and old terms are being redefined. Separating true cloud solutions from vendors wanting to appear to have a cloud solution has never been more difficult.
In this post, I attempt to clarify key cloud related terms, address how to determine if a vendor’s solution is truly cloud or is simply being marketed as cloud and explain why cloud sourcing is clearly the future-proof software delivery model for many services, including service provider VoIP.
Cloud Native Software
Cloud native is the latest term being used to describe new software. The term was coined to clearly distinguish next-generation software that was designed for cloud from the ground up from legacy software that was designed for on-premise use but is now being hosted by a vendor and labeled as a cloud solution. These two scenarios are very different and only one is true cloud.
Only cloud native software, which is designed and built to run in the cloud, can fully exploit all the advantages of cloud computing, including:
- Efficient use of computing and storage resources (lower costs).
- Scale on demand with no hardware additions or manual intervention (pay for use).
- Built natively for redundancy and high availability using latest scale and HA technologies (always on).
- Faster release cycles that are easier to release and consume (innovation).
- Agile, micro-service infrastructure, and API architecture with well-defined interfaces and contracts (easy integration).
- Improved security and standards compliance
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation says “cloud native computing empowers organizations to build and run scalable applications with an open source software stack in public, private, and hybrid clouds.”
As the cloud becomes more dominant, it’s easy to assume that all software was designed for and has all the advantages of cloud native software, especially when everyone is calling their software “cloud.” But that isn’t the case—much of the industry is still very much in a hybrid software world.
Much of the software being sold today was originally designed for non-cloud use and is simply being hosted in a data center and delivered over the internet. Standing up dedicated instances (potentially on different software versions) in a data center and hosting that software for customers is not a cloud native approach. To become cloud native, most of these applications need to be fully re-written or rebuilt from scratch.
Virtualization and NFV
Like many legacy industries, most of the traditional telecom players are still trying to migrate their solutions to the cloud. At this point in time most are simply creating a virtualization friendly version of their legacy software. This is a big step forward for the customer, but the telecom software provider is still stuck racking servers, manually applying updates and patches, and trying to manually manage scale and uptime across multiple systems and vendors. All of this results in higher costs and less agility for the customer.
Telecom’s answer to this problem was first IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and, more recently, NFV (Network Functions Virtualization). Neither solution is cloud native, and both utilize complicated virtualized point solutions that are either hosted by the vendor or installed on premise by the customer. See Light Reading’s From NFV to Cloud Native – 4 Key Themes.
Virtualization is a step forward because it allows for more efficient use of compute and storage resources and provides some agility enhancements. But, unfortunately, the customer is still left behind, stuck in a legacy world with an expensive and difficult-to-manage solution.
Managed Services and Hosted Software is Not Cloud
Taking software and hosting it on behalf of other companies isn’t new. Service providers have done that for enterprise and other service providers, via white label solutions, for decades. They usually start by hosting their offering in a data center, wrapping some services around it, and then selling it in a recurring OPEX model.
But the provider doesn’t own the intellectual property and is simply managing the installation and ongoing management of the software. This model can be beneficial for the business using the software because it removes the burden of managing the software, but since this software is generally not cloud native, you lose all the benefits of true cloud native software.
Cloud sourcing, another new term, is defined as the delivery of software or services through the cloud. Cloud sourcing refers only to software delivery, not to the infrastructure and architecture, or customer value. The real value of cloud native software is not just in the delivery, it’s in all the advantages mentioned above. When you cloud source, you’re going directly to the technology provider, not a white label middleman.
For customers looking to purchase software, it’s important to look at the delivery model—is it available via the cloud in a SaaS model? Equally important is to look under the hood of your cloud provider and ensure their software is cloud native. You should be asking questions like: is it built from the ground up for the cloud? Does it take advantage of all modern technology advancements in cloud-based software? Are upgrades continuous and non-impacting? Does it scale? Does it come with a great uptime SLA? Are there any hidden costs or one-time fees for some features, functionality, or growth?
Alianza’s take on cloud sourcing for VoIP and UC for communications service Providers (CSPs) is Alianza’s Cloud Communications Platform (what we called the “cloud voice platform” in the past).
Cloud Communications Platforms for CSP VoIP
In this evolving software world, CSPs have three distinct choices when building or buying a communications platform. They can:
- Buy and build-out a next-gen hardware platform on premise (difficult, costly, and complex) via NFV or cloud native solutions.
- Purchase a managed service which is premise software wrapped and delivered through the Internet (better, but unable to truly leverage the benefits of the cloud).
- Cloud source a cloud native solution.
The cloud sourced, cloud native solution not only leverages all of the benefits of the cloud but also provides CSPs with a simple turn-key solution, a single vendor (instead of many), a predictable pay-per-use cost model, and the benefits of never having to perform another upgrade. CSPs can also have confidence in the cloud native platform’s SLA and their ability to scale quickly and easily.
Software solutions for CSPs have traditionally been expensive, complex, and hard to manage. As CSPs look to upgrade and make a buying decision, the cloud native, cloud sourced solution becomes the obvious choice for most service providers. The world is moving to cloud, and especially, cloud native software because of its clear advantages.
Not only does cloud native make sense for CSPs for all the delivery and technology advantages listed above, it also has the important benefit of making simple what has historically been a very complex and distributed solution. Cloud native, fully integrated SaaS-based communications platforms take the complexity out and bring telecommunications software into the 21st century.
Interested in exploring an cloud native VoIP SaaS solution for your service provider? Let’s start a conversation.