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Microsoft lays out its plans for the telco cloud

Tech giant Microsoft has created a special bit of its cloud platform called Azure for Operators, on the back of recent strategic acquisitions.

Historically it would be fair to say that Microsoft’s forays into the telecoms space have not been an unqualified success. The Ballmer administration was especially reckless in its insistence that it could get smartphone makers to pay for Microsoft’s OS when Android was available for free. But the current CEO is all about the cloud and his company’s fortunes have improved accordingly.

While everyone else was panicking about coronavirus, Microsoft boss Nadella went shopping for telecoms software companies, specifically Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch. Precisely what he intended to do with his new shiny things wasn’t immediately clear, but it is now. In a blog post Jason Zander, Azure EVP, said “We’re building a carrier-grade cloud and bringing more Microsoft technology to the operator’s edge.”

There’s the usually corporate guff about empowerment, agility and transformation, but the long and short of it is that Microsoft reckons it has the pieces in place to be a top public cloud partner for operators looking to make the most of the 5G era. Its main competitor for their business is AWS and Microsoft is positioning itself as a superior software development option for virtual network functions and that sort of thing.

We are bringing to market a carrier-grade platform for edge and cloud to support the operator’s goals to future proof their infrastructure with disaggregated, and containerized network architectures,” said Zander. “Recognizing that not everything will move to the public cloud, we will meet operators where they are—whether at the enterprise edge, the network edge, or in the cloud.”

“Azure’s support for 5G core and edge infrastructure is great news for the telecoms industry, and is a move that has been on the horizon since Microsoft’s acquisitions of telco companies, Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch,” said Telecoms Industry Consultant Danielle Royston. “It’s clear that Microsoft is trying to carve a cutting edge over AWS and Google in the race to be the ‘carrier-grade cloud’ for the telecoms industry.

“With this news, telcos will now be able to tap into the huge investment towards cloud innovation in areas like AI and machine learning, along with the security and scalability that Azure’s environment naturally delivers. It’s critical that if telcos want to remain competitive, they shift to the public cloud as quickly as possible. This is the news they will need to get on their bikes.”

It’s definitely great news for telcos that three of the biggest tech companies in the world are all competing for their cloud business, as this should ensure both innovation and value for money. Microsoft is the only one of the three to found the 5G Open Innovation Lab, which seems designed to highlight its closeness with the datacentre world, and it has been getting telecoms top tips from Telstra and Etisalat

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