VMware: Providing Digital Foundation for 5G Era


TelecomDrive.com | Spotlight on 5G Era

As telecom operators and communication service providers look to embrace 5G, they must engage in enabling software-driven telco cloud ecosystems.

VMware is focusing a lot of effort towards providing the right digital foundation for businesses and consumers alike as they make the shift to embrace 5G era.

During the recently held ConnecTechAsia 2019 in Singapore – Shekar Ayyar, Executive Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development and General Manager, Telco NFV Group, VMware speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the company’s 5G strategy and the growing importance of telco cloud.

How does VMware look at the emerging opportunities in the 5G space today? What is your business strategy here?

The opportunities afforded by 5G’s ultra-low latency, high network speeds and ability to support a vastly-increased number of connected devices are immense. The future-ready ecosystem that it enables will play an important part in supporting the Asia Pacific region’s development in the new digital economy.

VMware’s focus is on providing the right digital foundation for businesses and consumers alike as they make the shift to 5G, but communications service providers (CSPs) should note that the 5G era demands a new, software-driven ‘telco cloud’ architecture in order for its benefits to be fully realized. In this way, CSPs will be able to develop and deploy new services more rapidly and at lower cost.

By moving away from the inflexible, hardware-defined architectures of the past, and rolling out 5G as a fully-virtualized architecture right out of the gate, telcos will be able to beat competitors to market with new value-added services and improve the performance and operational efficiencies of their networks.

With a ‘telco cloud’ foundation, CSPs can unify their network and IT environments, and connect them with private enterprise clouds, edge clouds, as well as public clouds. The simplified infrastructure will enable them to change the economics of 5G by using a common telco cloud architecture, and also to innovate at scale in a secure environment.

VMware’s strategy is unique in a sense that we are the only company that offers end-to-end value for CSPs by doing this, and we are able to help CSPs quickly develop and roll out services for both consumers and enterprises in the coming 5G era.

How should networks, businesses and consumers tap on the 5G promise with myriad competing standards?

Common standards are required for any technology to function well within the larger tech ecosystem. While we might see competing standards between different device manufacturers and infrastructure providers in the initial launch phase of 5G, we believe the industry will move towards greater standardization as we have seen in past rollouts of new mobile networks.

In fact, 3GPP, the industry body in charge of setting standards and specifications for cellular technology, has just released its latest set of 5G standards and will continue to work with industry partners to ensure standardization of 5G technology.

From VMware’s perspective, we believe in giving our customers the flexibility and choice they desire, by giving them hardware freedom through a software-defined model. In this way, network operators, businesses and consumers alike will be able to adopt a common operating platform and access the 5G network from any device, on any cloud and through any network.

Busting the myths of 5G – are huge investments necessary to partake in the 5G economy? How can operators do more with less – and utilise their existing investments?

While there is a significant investment required for CSPs to overhaul or install 5G-ready network infrastructure, they can and should look at network functions virtualization (NFV) as a way to enable new use cases for their customers and open up new revenue streams in the 5G era while capitalizing on existing investments or infrastructure.

A software-defined ‘telco cloud’ architecture that is optimized for both 4G and 5G networks will enable operators to not only fully unleash the potential of their current 4G network infrastructure, but to immediately upgrade to a 5G-ready one that is able to quickly operationalize and enable next-generation innovation once the 5G network is implemented.

Furthermore, many carriers are looking for new applications that they can deliver using 5G, creating new sources of revenue beyond just increasing consumer average revenue per user (ARPU). Enterprise-focused use cases (IoT, Industrial automation, campus connectivity) as well as B2B use cases (e.g. content and media delivery) are proving to be interesting areas for monetization. These will help offset any major capital expenditures needed to make the jump to a 5G-ready infrastructure.

How will 5G scenario translate on the security landscape? What do businesses and consumers have to be mindful of in terms of cybersecurity threats? 

A new security approach is required to counter the ever-evolving security landscape in the 5G era. CSPs and businesses need to adopt a security approach that focuses on applications more than infrastructure and shrinks the attack surface rather than chasing threats. CSPs need to make security intrinsic to the infrastructure so that they can lock down the known good behavior of applications and significantly reduce the risk to critical applications, sensitive data, and users.

Also, a flexible and highly distributed telco cloud architecture helps us address the 5G security challenge by protecting both the underlying network as well as the workloads that run on top of it. The 5G era calls for a new kind of cloud security architecture – one that is capable of securing critical apps and data spanning multiple types of clouds – including private, public, telco and edge across different devices and interfaces.

How will 5G impact the modus operandi of cyber criminals – what do network operators have to do to counter this? 

With 5G, we will see a big upsurge in the number of machines and devices coming online, creating billions of machine-to-machine communications. This presents an opportunity to cyber criminals, who will be exposed to even more potential targets for them to exploit. In view of this, an intrinsic security approach is needed, where security is embedded into technology infrastructures to shrink the attack surface and to reduce the number of vulnerabilities cyber criminals are able to exploit.

With applications expected to be more distributed, deployed across multiple private and public clouds, using many different types of infrastructure and accessed from different devices in the 5G era, it is important to think about security in a fundamentally different way.

From a network operator perspective, this means they will have to adopt a software-defined approach to the telco network and cloud to address challenges associated with the hyper distribution of virtual network functions, applications and data. Only then can they deliver security that is intrinsic from data center to cloud to edge and doesn’t rely on an outdated method of threat protection.

From e-sports to AR, VR and 5G-driven medical applications – we see a lot of interesting 5G use cases being developed globally. How can operators ensure security for their 5G customers in such rollouts?

The wide array of use cases touted for 5G, including AR, VR, remote surgeries, telemedicine, autonomous vehicles and the like, means that security is more important than ever. Network operators need to ensure security is intrinsic to the network rather than bolted on as an afterthought.

A new software-defined approach that turns the advantage from would-be attackers to defenders is needed. This new security approach will focus on applications more than infrastructure and shrinks the attack surface rather than chasing an endless array of ever-evolving threats.

5G thus requires a new security vision in the context of an agile software-defined architecture, along with an ability to embrace new operating and business models. CSPs need to break out of their comfort zone and move beyond their rigid legacy networks in order to fully embrace the 5G opportunity and enable their customers to thrive in the 5G era.