Will telcos lodge their business systems on the Amazon cloud?

via Flickr © dvanzuijlekom (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © dvanzuijlekom (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Telco business support system (BSS) specialist, AsiaInfois claiming a telecoms first following a strategic deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS) which will see AsiaInfo’s cloud version of its BSS suite made available on AWS public infrastructure.

The strategic deal, signed in china between AsiaInfo (a leading Chinese telecoms software and services company) and AWS China, commits both companies to work together on market development, training and global support for the service.

AsiaInfo is characterising the cloud facility as a way for operators to accelerate their business transformation projects, claiming that making the applications available on AWS offers an ability to accelerate a two year BSS project to just a few months by using its ‘Veris Cloud Core’, the new cloudy version of its suite.

Like many IT markets, telco business systems (BSS) somewhat oscillates between two classic approaches. Integrated BSS systems where all the elements required for the telco business are ‘pre-integrated’ - so avoiding integration costs and smoothing the upgrade flow - may be a favoured approach for a period. Then, when rapid change hits, there may be a swing to ‘best of breed’ where new modules are added and the whole arrangement remains loosely coupled with ongoing integration problems.  The difficulty with the latter approach is - of course - the integration and operational cost. One problem with the former is lack of flexibility.

There’s probably no ultimate answer to the basic conundrum but other parts of the BSS equation can be finessed to make either approach less costly and (always important) more agile in terms of how quickly and easily changes can be made, new services introduced, and how economically the BSS infrastructure can scale up. So AsiaInfo is going for a pre-integrated approach for its Veris Cloud Core in the interests of removing the integration cost and hassle and because a ‘pay as you use’ model means the module approach is not necessary to keep the up-front costs down. You get the lot available in the cloud but only pay for what you use.

‘Cloudification’ of the BSS can theoretically deliver all the usual cloud benefits that have been extolled for years and BSS is no different. But according to Asiainfo’s VP for product marketing, Andy Tiller, putting the solution onto Amazon Web Services cranks up the total cost of ownership  (TCO) savings for the telco customer to 35 per cent over alternatives, while at the same time deeply cutting into implementation costs (up front costs are important) and heavily reducing time to market.

It’s early days. AsiaInfo points out that public cloud “has never before been available for mission critical Tier 1 core business support systems (only for overlays and bolt-on IT components)”.

So not surprisingly the company has nothing to announce yet in Europe where the ‘Veris Cloud Core’ is slated to be available in the second quarter and Andy doesn’t underestimate the challenges. BSS is as critical a part of the telco estate as the network infrastructure itself and it’s therefore natural that operators will be ultra-careful about committing to radical new approaches, even if they’re part of a classic IT transformation.

For those reasons the offer is likely to find a home (initially) with large operator side projects, tier twos and small scale start-ups where the need is to get into the market quickly and with as low as possible ‘up front’ costs.

Moving to private cloud and commodity hardware is one thing. Moving all the way to public cloud is probably a step too far for most… at the moment.

Eventually though there doesn’t seem to be any reason why some operators won’t move to the public cloud, not just for their BSS but also as a place to distribute their virtualised network functions. Radical? It’s already happening in a minor way. More on this soon.

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