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Public clouds for telco – Part I: Amazon Web Services

Wajeeha Hamid

on 6 September 2022

The last few years have brought immense change in telco technology adoption trends, with the introduction of 5G,  artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, and mobile edge computing.

So, finally, telcos are evolving? Yes, 5G has dramatically enhanced the radio access network and core network. The advent of 5G and its network complexities demands transformation in telecommunications. Currently, the telecom sector is facing challenges including service availability with minimum downtimes, higher operational costs, and workload-related security concerns. In this series of blog posts, we will discuss how public clouds, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure (Azure), are helping telecom operators manage their enterprise-grade workloads in this new era.

Major shift: the public cloud era

To address the existing challenges and migrate from legacy networks to modern and reliable infrastructure,  telecom operators are targeting to shift their native workloads to public clouds. They are looking for platforms that not only cope with their demands but also provide compliance with existing telco standards. Because of the growing network complexities of 5G, transformation in existing network architectures, and microservices adoption, public clouds have become an interesting alternative. 

Amazon Web Services and telco

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is empowering the telecommunication sector to fulfill its expanding need, especially with 5G networks because of its wide audience and strong market capture among Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and Network Equipment Providers (NEPs). AWS laid foundations for the leading CSPs, supporting them in innovative ways, enhancing the user experience, and providing next-generation capabilities on the platform.

Model-driven and pay-as-you-go models bring telcos and CSPs to think about monetised plans and their benefits. For example, microservices-based cloud-native implementations, running containerised network functions around Zones and Regions, offer scalability, resilience, agility, efficiency, high availability, fault tolerance, and minimum latency at edge sites. The AWS architecture, shown in the figure below, is designed to complement 5G. It’s also designed to optimise costs and resource utilisation as the network grows. Similarly, the cloud-native 5G components are based on Ubuntu ROCKS container images.

AWS reference architecture for 5G

AWS enables telco operators to leverage its capabilities in services, including networking, storage, compute and fully managed containerised solutions (such as Elastic Kubernetes Service). 

  • Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and Amazon Direct Connect (DC) are best for hybrid environments to deliver scalability and security needs. Telcos are using these services for secure and reliable communication over private networks. 
  • Similarly, Elastic Network Adapter (ENA) or Elastic Network Interface (ENI) is a specialised and custom interface attached to an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance for performance gains, including lower latencies and higher throughputs. Telcos utilise these interfaces on Ubuntu-based EC2 instances, depending upon the nature of the workload. 
  • In addition, the EC2 instance itself comes with different enhancements including compute, memory CPU and storage optimisation. Workloads with microservices architecture utilise the capabilities of Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) for running workloads in containers. It’s a fair choice for telcos because kubernetes manages the life cycle of applications and is responsible for auto healing, auto scaling and rolling deployments. 
  • Telcos also have edge use cases to run workloads near users in regions and zones. They can use the AWS Lambda@Edge service for this purpose. It enables them to achieve speed and lower latencies for improved user experiences. This global service allows edge logic across multiple locations. The edge workloads are modular and require interconnectivity. 
  • Telcos can leverage a transit gateway service to enable secure and fast communication between network components. This makes microservices connectivity and discovery on multiple VPCs easier. 
  • With increasing service complexities, telcos benefit from Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) which distributes the incoming traffic among multiple targets in the same or different availability zones. This service offers telcos load balancing across AWS applications. They can scale networks as required, and proxy the workloads for security purposes.

The following figure represents the preferred AWS services for telco workloads.

AWS services for Telco workloads

Why Ubuntu is the preferred choice for telco workloads 

Canonical in partnership with AWS, offers optimised server images for public clouds. Ubuntu Pro for AWS has gained the trust of millions of customers to completely embrace open source, secure and compatible images. These images are ideal for enterprise grade, mission-critical telco workloads. Cloud innovators including Paypal, Heroku, Netflix and Acquia have chosen Ubuntu on AWS for their workloads. 

Ubuntu Pro for AWS

Ubuntu Pro for AWS is a specialised Amazon Machine Image (AMI) that provides additional features for production environments in public clouds. Ubuntu Pro provides security and compliance services for small, medium and large scale operations running on AWS, with a pay-as-you-go billing model. Telcos can use the AWS platform and Ubuntu Pro to get the maximum benefit while lowering operational costs. 

Security for telco workloads: AWS provides the underlying infrastructure to host network functions and Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro provides secure and compliant server images to run sensitive telco workloads. Telcos are adopting Ubuntu Pro on public clouds  for its added security support, including confidential computing (customised images) for sensitive telco workloads. Ubuntu Pro images have in-built support for Enhanced Platform Awareness (EPA) capabilities, including SR-IOV, DPDK, NUMA and Hugepages. Ubuntu has extended its coverage by offering secure, fully maintained and Open Container Initiative (OCI) compliant container images for Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS).

Ubuntu Pro based EC2 instance(s)

Ubuntu Pro’s rich feature set includes:

  • Reliable Maintenance period: Ubuntu Pro comes with long-term support (LTS) for ten years, with security and upgrades path for Ubuntu infrastructure and apps
  • FIPS and CC2 ELA certificates: support for FIPS 140-2 and Common Criteria EAL2 certified components. 
  • Open source security patches: Patches for hundreds of open source applications securely patched and supported by Canonical including Apache Kafka, MongoDB, RabbitMQ, Charmed OSM (Open source MANO), Redis, and NodeJS. 
  • Multi-version support: Ubuntu Pro images are available with the most popular Ubuntu Server Distros including 16.04 LTS, 18.04 LTS, and 20.04 LTS. 
  • Automated security profiles: Leading profiles such as CIS and DISA STIG to meet industry benchmark standards.  
  • Cloud-pay-as-you-go billing: AWS pricing for EC2 instances is based on hourly compute resource utilisation with no contract requirements.
  • Portability: Canonical ensures built-in security for Ubuntu instances at the time of creation. These instance images are portable and can be used anywhere in the world. Each region has mirrors for server images so that customers can download with the least latency, thus improving the user experience.

Wrapping up

The path to digitisation in telecom has always been challenging. But public clouds are providing much-needed flexibility and agility. Telcos need a trusted platform to build on in order to ensure compliance and security as complexity increases.

AWS with Ubuntu images is a good fit for telecom operators to migrate their workloads to the public cloud, due to its enriched services catalog. Backed by Canonical’s extensive experience in security, telcos can make a confident move to embrace public clouds and run critical workloads on either EC2 instances or containers, supported by Ubuntu Pro. Ubuntu ensures risk management, security updates, and regular patches with industry standards compliance like FIPs and CC2 ELA.  With the provision of a 10-year maintenance period for applications, Canonical is making it much easier to follow upgrade paths. Thus, both AWS and Ubuntu are complementing each other to provide a reliable and secure platform to operators, providing hassle-free services and cost savings as well. The lesser the worries, the higher the profits.

Feel free to reach out if you are facing any of the challenges discussed above.

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