Vodafone gains scale with a multi-cloud approach to R&D

Scott Petty, chief digital and IT officer at Vodafone Technology

Scott Petty, chief digital and IT officer at Vodafone Technology

  • Vodafone’s Director of Digital & IT Scott Petty uses multiple cloud for his R&D
  • Mix of private and public cloud suits the operator’s development and digital platform needs
  • Developers are working on a common ‘Telco-as-a-Service’ platform

Vodafone has revamped its internal digital development and IT operations to become more efficient, effective and “cloud native,” according to the operator’s Director of Digital & IT, Scott Petty, who has outlined how the operator has adopted a hybrid and multi-cloud approach to its digital development processes.

Talking during a media briefing in London following the announcement that Vodafone is to add 7,000 additional software developers to its pan-European R&D team, Petty talked about an approach dubbed “OneSource,” which is built on open source concepts of open platforms, to which developers contribute capabilities, take capabilities from, and are able to contribute and build software that is used throughout our environment,” said the Vodafone man.

And to help that process, Vodafone has invested in a “common infrastructure platform – internally we call it TaaS, or Telco-as-a-Service – a common cloud-native infrastructure platform that all about developers use to build all of their infrastructure, automate their code, write feature capabilities and contribute that to a set of code repositories that can be used by other developers inside Vodafone,” noted Petty.  

He says those cloud-native capabilities are suitable for both private and public cloud processes, and he says the use of public cloud platforms is critical to achieving scale.

“Why would we want to use public cloud services? iPhone launch day is a great example. This year we had 400% more traffic than we had last year, and for a week of the year, we have more than 15 times the traffic we have for the rest of the year. To be successful during that launch period, leveraging public cloud auto-scaling capabilities for that peak... makes a lot more sense than buying our own infrastructure in our own data centres that would sit idle for large periods of time. So a cloud-native strategy that lets us move traffic from our data centres to public cloud data centres is really important.”

But the hybrid approach to cloud is also important. “Of course, we have regulatory requirements, and there will always be infrastructure, particularly in our core networks or maybe for security-related applications... that we need to run in our own data centres and TaaS manages the interfaces between those, and allows us to choose different cloud providers. You may have seen that we've partnered heavily with AWS for many capabilities – we use AWS for infrastructure scaling – but we use GCP [Google Cloud Platform] for analytics, and we've done a lot of market-leading development around analytics with GCP. And we also use Microsoft Azure for a range of services as well. 

That multi-cloud approach “is really important as we scale our platform – we'll be able to launch services in each one of those environments.” 

In addition, Petty says the operator has “standardised our tooling capabilities and our engineering development capabilities to improve the way our engineers can manage those capabilities and that has started to deliver real benefits both in terms of throughput in implementing our platform – we've seen a 40% increase in developer throughput.”

That’s an unusual measure, but Petty says that can be quantified by taking a “squad of 10 developers and measuring how many ‘story points’ they can develop on each sprint – a sprint usually runs for two weeks – and you can measure how many go in and how many come out the other end. We've seen a 40% improvement in those moving to a common platform,” he noted.  “The quality has also gone up, by 30%, during that period because we've automated more of the main daily tasks related to software development, we’ve automated testing – developers write their own test scripts and validate the capabilities that go into production – and that's given us big increases in availability.” 

And there’s more... Petty says Vodafone is also building a “set of shared and integrated services, or what we call a tenant model, allowing us to build new capabilities and services that sit on top of the common infrastructure layer which share common underlying components, for identity management, for data analytics, for integration. One of those tenants is ‘network-as-a-platform,’ where we take an entire network layer and expose that as a set of microservices and APIs, leveraging that underlying component... we’re doing the same with our IoT platforms and our other applications. So we create an entire software ecosystem with our own engineers, managing both the digital channels that we build, but also the network applications that we build,” explains Petty. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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