Orange advances cloud, edge, AI strategy with Google

  • Orange forges strategic partnership with Google Cloud
  • Collaboration focused on edge, AI, data analytics
  • Part of Orange’s Engage 2025 plan
  • Major telcos increasingly adopting hyperscaler models

Telco edge services are at the heart of a new strategic relationship between Orange and Google Cloud, which will see the telco benefit from its partner’s cloud-based, data-oriented applications and the hyperscaler build new business opportunities in Europe.

Orange wants to make the most of the 5G networks it is rolling out and additional IT assets that will be deployed as a result. It will work with Google Cloud to develop future edge computing services as 5G networks are rolled out across Europe and cloud computing increasingly benefits from integration into the network.”

The operator sees new business opportunities in multiple customer segments: “The cooperation will combine the strengths of Google Cloud and Orange to provide flexible, secure and cutting-edge solutions for the B2B, Wholesale and B2C markets.”

They key to this, though, is identifying those “cutting-edge solutions” – Orange namechecked gaming and retail as two key areas of focus. In addition, the operator needs to figure out how it can best use Google’s platform, AI tools and data processing capabilities to maximize its business opportunities, because very clear models about how to make money from telco edge services are still thin on the ground (which is why a key focus of TelecomTV’s edge coverage is going to be on what we call Edgenomics).  

To that end, Orange plans to “build a next-generation data analytics and machine-learning platform with Google technologies.” Innovating through the use of AI and data analytics is one of the key ambitions of Orange’s Engage 2025 strategy

The new partners obviously believe they can find the answers by pooling their talents and sharing their skills. They are to jointly create

  • An Innovation Lab: focused on “new industry solution development based on data and AI within the broader framework of the evolving 5G / edge computing ecosystem.”
  • A Center of Excellence: Google Cloud will support Orange France and other Orange affiliates “as they engage in their cloud transformation. The center will provide training in data, AI and cloud services for several thousand Orange employees.”

In the enterprise sector, Orange Business Services aims to develop “value-added analytics and additional cloud services based on Google Cloud solutions,” and strengthen its Orange Cyberdefense capabilities. 

The move is interesting but hardly surprising: Telcos and hyperscalers are getting into bed with each other at a prodigious rate, and while the relationships are not exclusive it’s clear there each company has particular capabilities that attract appropriate partners. Google Cloud is known for its data processing and AI prowess, while its Anthos cloud application platform has been developed to fit in with telco edge needs, as well as offering a bridge into the other main public cloud platforms.

Such capabilities have enabled Google Cloud to build its telco fan club in the past year, having brokered new or updated relationships with TelefónicaTIM (Telecom Italia), DT’s T-Systems, and Vodafone.

While there are existential questions to be asked about the role of telcos in a cloud-oriented world, it’s arguable that the operators able to strike symbiotic relationships with the hyperscalers are the ones that stand the greatest chance of independent survival.  

And for the telcos, it’s not just about working with the public cloud giants – it’s about being more like them. Orange’s CIO Thierry Souche noted this recently when urging the telecoms community to adopt a cloud native approach: “We all have to enter into a platform game – if we don't, we will be out of business,” was his stark appraisal.

For Orange that means working with the cloud giants and adopting cloud-oriented ways of working – the partnership with Google Cloud is an example of that approach, and it won’t be the last. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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