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AT&T sells its cloud soul to Microsoft

US communications group AT&T has thrown in the towel, selling its Network Cloud technology to Microsoft and moving its 5G stuff onto Azure.

‘AT&T will move its 5G mobile network to the Microsoft cloud,’ opens the press release. Nuff said. The big move will start with the 5G core, but there seems to be no limit to the amount of its network AT&T is prepared to entrust to Microsoft. As if to symbolise its total capitulation on this matter AT&T is handing over (there’s no mention of any price) its cloud tech to be chucked into the Azure for Operators mix.

“Our Network Cloud team has proved that running a network in the cloud drives speed, security, cost improvements and innovation,” said AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch. “Microsoft’s decision to acquire these assets is a testament to AT&T’s leadership in network virtualization, culture of innovation, and realization of a telco-grade cloud stack. The next step is making this capability accessible to operators around the world and ensuring it has the resources behind it to continue to evolve and improve. And do it securely. Microsoft’s cloud expertise and global reach make them the perfect fit for this next phase.”

Surely, Andre, an even bigger testament to AT&T’s technology leadership would have been for it to not have to get Microsoft to handle everything. It seems inevitable now that all mobile networks will be run by one of the big three public cloud providers and the most noteworthy aspect of this news is a much needed win for Microsoft in this sector after a quiet few weeks in which AWS and Google have done well.

“With Azure, operators can provide a more flexible and scalable service model, save infrastructure cost, and use AI to automate operations and differentiate customer offerings,” said Jason Zander, EVP of Azure at Microsoft. “Through our collaboration with AT&T, Microsoft will expand its telecom portfolio to support operators with a carrier-grade cloud that provides seamless experiences across Microsoft’s cloud and the operator’s network.”

While Dish went all-in on AWS a couple of months ago, AT&T’s other US competitors are still clinging onto the last vestiges of autonomy. Having said that, Verizon has just announced it’s partnering with Red Hat and its parent IBM to deploy its 5G network as an open hybrid cloud platform. This seems to be more in line with the kind of thing Orange recently started dabbling in and there’s no talk of public cloud at this stage, but surely it’s just a matter of time.

“By working with Red Hat and IBM Global Business Services to build their 5G core network services on Red Hat OpenShift, Verizon is evolving to an open, cloud-native, containerized webscale platform that is ready to harness innovative applications that can support advanced 5G use cases,” blogged  Steve Canepa, Global MD, Communications Sector at IBM.

“This open hybrid cloud foundation is designed to help them draw on the power of the immense up-stream open source community, while retaining the architectural control necessary to speed new features, offerings and services like network slicing and multi-access edge computing to market. And they can retain choice over what cloud (public or private), on-prem or Edge environment is best to deploy these solutions.”

Let’s see what choice Verizon makes. We know where our money is.

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