Originally posted on VMware Blogs by Karina Dahlke and Michelle Ploof

When it comes to telecom transformation, communication service providers (CSPs) have a long list of business priorities: lowering costs, improving efficiency, accelerating time to market, and more. But one of the most important enablers of those benefits—and many others—seems to get less attention: simplicity.

When network operations get simpler, they take less time and effort, which of course translates to lower costs. But simplicity also minimizes risk. It reduces downtime. It helps your business move faster and accomplish more, without having to lean on highly skilled (and hard-to-find) technical specialists to help you do it.

VMware has long believed that simplicity is the foundation of speed, efficiency, and business agility. It’s the guiding principle behind our Telco Cloud offerings—as our customers can confirm, especially when comparing us with other solutions. Why is simplicity so important for CSPs navigating an evolving network and business landscape? And what does VMware do to deliver it? Let’s take a closer look.

The High Costs of Complexity

Ask CSPs in any business cycle if they’d prefer simpler operations, and you won’t find many answering, “no thanks.” But under more difficult economic conditions, complexity isn’t just an annoying operational challenge, it can be downright deadly for your business.

Right now, mobile operators face significant headwinds. A saturated market for mobile services, consistently flat average revenues per user (ARPU), and high costs for 5G investments all leave little wiggle room for improving profitability. CSPs can’t cut corners on quality—with fierce competition for every subscriber, delivering reliably great experiences is more important than ever. So, they’re trying to reduce operating costs. But how does that work exactly when every trend hitting CSP networks—5G architectures, virtualized and disaggregated multivendor infrastructure, DevOps software models, and more—make things more complex than ever?

In modern telco environments, many day-to-day network tasks now take more time and effort. For example, many 5G network functions are now containerized, running in Kubernetes clusters. Which means that, in addition to navigating more frequent network software updates from more vendors, CSPs also have to manage ongoing maintenance of Kubernetes itself. According to the Cloud Native Computing Forum, Kubernetes issues three major releases per year and each release is only supported for 14 months. Somehow, CSPs need to perform much more frequent software upgrades and lifecycle management in the same limited maintenance windows. It’s a paradigm shift from yesterday’s “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mindset.

An even bigger challenge: finding people who know how to work with these new architectures and software models. Hiring people with the needed expertise in cloud-native software and Kubernetes is incredibly difficult and expensive, if you can find them at all. But bringing in professional services isn’t cheap either. Most professional services providers for Kubernetes deployments also rely on extensive manual coding, increasing the risk of errors, downtime, and delays.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your network could do everything you needed it to, but was simple enough for your existing staff to do it?   

Delivering Simplicity

VMware’s Telco Cloud Platform (TCP) is designed from the ground up to make state-of-the-art telco networks simpler—and provide all the advantages that come with simplicity. We do that through:

  • Built-in automation: VMware’s Telco Cloud Automation capabilities eliminate the need for manual coding when managing Kubernetes environments at scale. They also eliminate the need for manual Kubernetes software updates—a process that can take days using other solutions, dominating scarce maintenance windows.
  • Separation of Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) management: In bare-metal implementations where Kubernetes is deployed directly on servers, the CaaS layer is inextricably tied to the underlying infrastructure. This means every time you upgrade Kubernetes, you have to dismantle and rebuild the entire stack—a huge, time-consuming manual effort with high risk of errors. With VMware Kubernetes (Tanzu™), CaaS management is handled independently. You can perform maintenance on the Kubernetes distribution without touching the infrastructure layer itself—and perform upgrades much more easily, in a fraction of the time.
  • Guardrails and automated checks: VMware’s approach to cloud-native infrastructure allows for customization, but with guardrails to help make sure that simple coding errors don’t take down your whole deployment. Additionally, whenever you deploy a new network function or activate a new service, VMware TCA automatically checks the underlying infrastructure to verify that compute, memory, and network settings are configured to support the application that is being deployed. With bare-metal solutions, you either perform those checks manually (which takes significant time and resources), or more often, not at all—and just hope for the best.

Add it up, and VMware delivers impressive results. You save significant time through faster, automated upgrades and lifecycle management tasks, while dramatically reducing the personnel hours needed for maintenance and deployments. You reduce the delays and downtime associated with complex Kubernetes maintenance by driving down manual errors and the costly outages they can cause. Just as important, you get a huge boost to your overall operational agility. By letting VMware automation handle most of the heavy lifting in your telco Kubernetes environment, you can:

  • Improve productivity, since operations staff can focus on their primary roles, instead of trying to take on huge new Kubernetes maintenance responsibilities
  • Reduce time-to-market with the ability to launch new products and move into new markets more quickly, with less risk
  • Stick to project timelines, instead of suffering the inevitable delays that accompany manual tasks and coding (even when a professional services partner is doing the coding for you)
  • Perform launches and maintenance on your timeline, instead of having critical business operations dictated by the availability of professional services experts
  • Do more with your current staff, without having to compete with the rest of the high-tech marketplace to hire scarce Kubernetes specialists

VMware Automation vs. Manual Frustration

Here at VMware, we believe we can offer major advantages through our automated Telco Cloud solutions. But don’t take our word for it. Recently, EANTC conducted independent testing of the VMware Telco Cloud Radio Access Network (RAN) solution versus a popular bare-metal solution in their virtualized open RAN lab, and saw the same results.

The EANTC testing revealed little difference in performance—both solutions met demanding requirements for low-latency 5G RAN services. But in deployment and day-to-day operations? The differences were night and day. According to EANTC:

  • The VMware RAN platform was easier to set up, operate, and maintain.
  • The VMware RAN stack simplified deployment and management of virtualized and containerized network functions.
  • The automation and built-in checks of VMware Telco Cloud Platform RAN set it apart from the bare-metal solution.

Bottom line: complexity has a cost, often a large one. But as we see again and again with VMware customers—and as we’ve now demonstrated in independent testing—simplicity can be a powerful business accelerator.

Jens Koegler

Jens Koegler is VMware's Healthcare Industry Director in EMEA. He is helping our healthcare customers develop and run modern applications to drive innovation and ensure better patient care through a digital foundation that includes data center, hybrid cloud, mobile, networking and security technologies. VMware plays a strategic role in the healthcare industry. Its leading innovations in enterprise software help ensure consistent patient care and reduce IT access time for healthcare professionals so they can spend more time with their patients. Jens plays a key role in helping customers understand how new applications, devices, the latest IT technologies and digital transformation are driving innovation in healthcare.