Becoming cloud-native is one of many objectives that service providers often have in mind as they confront the daunting task of digital transformation. Service providers have already started migrating systems and business processes to the cloud, often with the primary goal of bringing current network functions and applications–including BSS and OSS–into a cloud-based environment. But simply porting functions to run in virtualized environments does not make anything cloud-native.
What makes something cloud-native is the fact that it's designed specifically for cloud environments. Being cloud-native goes beyond cloud-enabled or cloud-ready, which are—terms that describe applications that operate from the cloud, but were not originally designed for it. Being cloud-native cuts right to the heart of what it means to be a digital service provider (DSP).
Here are four guiding principles for service providers on their path to becoming cloud-native:
In today’s on-demand world, microservices are hallmarks of cloud-native application development. Microservices should not require heavy development, configurations or replacement of existing BSS. Service providers need to leverage microservices that can integrate seamlessly with the application environment without disrupting current business processes. Deploying microservices can help service providers bring new service monetization efforts forward quickly while becoming more flexible for the future.
Another critical step on the road to becoming cloud-native is adopting a DevOps approach for software delivery. With DevOps, service providers can make their development processes leaner and more productive. DevOps brings agility to the development process and allows for continuous application delivery, integration and testing. It also delivers distinct advantages such as build automation, an automated deployment pipeline, code quality assurance, monitoring and transparency and—most importantly—the ability to release frequent upgrades.
Being cloud-native means having the ability to offer software in different forms to suit a variety of customer and pricing scenarios. This can include software-as-a-service (SaaS), hybrid models and applications based in public clouds. Business model flexibility enables service providers to enter new markets that they may not have been able to pursue in the past.
A defining requirement for cloud-native architecture is that it must have elasticity: the ability to scale up and down dynamically in response to demand. This capability can be delivered using a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model. Elasticity is a central concept in cloud computing which aims to provision resources in immediate response to demand and optimize how resources are allocated and consumed.
Moving processes and functions to the cloud is the ultimate end goal for most service providers, but it's not the end of the process. Shifting to a cloud-native approach can then enable a service provider to take advantage of what cloud computing environments offer, in terms of performance, scalability, cost efficiency and on-demand responsiveness.
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