Spotify, Netflix, IoT connectivity and cloud storage are a few examples of the digital services providing new options for fun and function to consumers and businesses alike, while representing a growing boon for communications service providers (CSPs).
Gartner predicts by 2020, nearly one quarter (23%) of CSPs’ large enterprise business communication revenues will be driven by digital services—up a staggering 10 percentage points from 13% of revenues in 2017. This gain should come as no shock to developers who favor building in the cloud or using tools such as Microsoft Teams to collaborate, or who stream video from HBO Go or skim stories in Apple News during their commutes. Today’s customers (consumers or businesses) expect value-driven, digitally enabled services that inspire personalized and meaningful experiences with their brands of choice.
The good news is companies are eager to meet demand: CSPs want to deploy services in the cloud to address the challenges of web-scale companies. In fact, 85% of companies surveyed say launching new digital services is critical to their business strategy.
What’s the catch? To do it, they’ll need to be agile. Although telecom is not an industry known for its agility, and is often thought of as the opposite, it has been transforming—like many industries—through adopting more agile approaches in business strategy. CSPs are striving to maximize resources and reduce inefficiencies, while at the same time sparking innovation. Nothing has been more of a stimulus for agility than the cloud, especially for the web-scale companies whose services pose the greatest threat to the telco industry.
A key requirement will be cloud-native applications that improve the agility of network functions. However, being cloud-native involves a lot more than just shoehorning code into a container previously ported from an appliance to a virtual machine.
Rather, at Oracle, cloud-native means faster development and deployment through DevOps and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. CSPs can only achieve an agile cloud with an environment enabling developers to innovate true cloud-native solutions if they implement an operational framework that embraces a key set of principles. Specifically, we at Oracle have identified the principles for successful cloud-native operations.
Everything, including software and configuration, is code. All changes are made through CI/CD, where they are deployed as immutable artifacts. No manual configurations or customizations are allowed. This makes it easier to implement the principle of least privilege as there is no need to run scripts in the production environment. Also, any changes not coming though the delivery pipeline can be considered malicious.
All aspects of build, test, verification and deployment are automated. This includes activities such as backup, recovery, password/key rotation, etc. Fully automating the DevOps pipeline, including verification and testing, removes much of the potential for human error. This automation also allows changes to be applied to the environment with confidence and provides for rapid repair.
All services are transient and treated as short-lived. Instead of focusing on never failing, services are designed to go up and down quickly without service interruption. Regular repaving (re-deployment) of the environment ensures failed or failing services are removed and new ones deployed.
Configuration (including passwords, credentials, location of backing stores, etc.) is decoupled from the software image, and like software, can be treated as a build artifact in a controlled and versioned manner. Versioned configuration enables development and production parity as an artifact and can eliminate costly operational errors.
Logs as Event Streams and Constant Telemetry
Everything needed to debug or diagnose any functional, operational or security issue is found in logs, traces or metrics data. These are treated as a stream of time-ordered events and stored in a centralized collector outside the system, enabling better threat monitoring, forensics and diagnostics through event correlation or analyzing the aggregated and holistic view. Constant telemetry is fundamentally enabled through logs as event streams and, thus, the two should always be considered together.
Some shared aspects of the environment are centrally managed like networking, identity management or infrastructure, but in a true DevOps fashion, teams delivering a service are responsible for operating the service. This is allowed only with strict governance, enforced through checks in the continuous delivery pipelines, giving greater control over rate of change. Business agility is improved as applications have better visibility into the operations of their service with tighter feedback loops that ultimately improve quality.
Independently upgrading, scaling and deploying each microservice is paramount for supporting other cloud-native principles as well as minimizing the amount of change in the system at a given time. Furthermore, such decoupling makes other principles, such as repaving, easier and promotes easier isolation of issues.
As 5G introduces increased connectivity and speed, along with the need for more security and reliability, service providers will need the agility, flexibility and security of the cloud and cloud-native principles. These principles are enablers for better cloud operations. Together, they provide the ideal context in which to implement a broader view of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) landscape, giving developers a robust Platform-as-a-Service of backing services beyond just containers.
As 5G moves from a fabled future to a reality, the market for digital services that reap its benefits is likely to continue to grow. By leveraging these principles, along with DevOps and the CI/CD pipeline, organizations will be able to evolve and prepare for 5G’s promise for innovative business models and new revenue streams—be they digital services or beyond.