In what the company says starts a new chapter in its engagement with the telecommunications industry to address the requirements of rolling out 5G, unlocking the power of such networks and bringing cloud and edge closer than ever, Microsoft has launched the Azure for Operators initiative.
Explaining the rationale for the new initiative, Microsoft says that in developing next-generation networks and services operators will face strong challenges, including high capital expenditure (CapEx) investments, an increased need for scale, automation, and secure management of the massive volume of data it will generate.
Furthermore, it sees the increasing demand for always-on connectivity, immersive experiences, secure collaboration and remote human relationships pushing networks to their limits, while the market is driving down price.
This means network infrastructures must ensure operators are able to optimise costs and gain efficiencies while enabling the development of personalised and differentiated services.
Microsoft describes the initiative as a stake in the ground to deliver a carrier-grade platform for communications services providers (CSPs) to create unique network slices to support enterprise IoT use cases, to offer true low-latency connectivity and bring edge computing close enough to customers to react in near real time.
With Azure for Operators, Microsoft says that it will help support network demands of always-on connectivity, immersive experiences, secure collaboration and remote human relationships that have reached unprecedented heights in today’s market.
The programme is designed to enable the company to partner with network operators to create new opportunities and provide core infrastructure, combining cloud, cellular and edge resources to provide what the IT giant says is the lowest latency and largest reach at low cost.
Microsoft assures that through the programme it can enable communication service providers to harness the power of the intelligent edge, connected by high-bandwidth fibre or 5G, to the intelligent cloud to create three key outcomes: advanced industry solutions based on ultra-reliable, low latency connections to AI and machine intelligence; signature consumer experiences with new forms of mixed reality content; and an ecosystem of developers that can rapidly innovate on top of the capabilities unlocked by the 5G network.
“We’re building a carrier-grade cloud and bringing more Microsoft technology to the operator’s edge,” said Jason Zander, executive vice-president at Microsoft Azure. “This, in combination with our developer ecosystem, will help operators to future-proof their networks, drive down costs, and create new services and business models.”
“In Microsoft, operators get a trusted partner who will empower them to unlock the potential of 5G. Enabling them to offer a range of new services, such as ultra-reliable low-latency connectivity, mixed reality communications services, network slicing, and highly scalable IoT applications to transform entire industries and communities.”
Indeed, Microsoft noted that by harnessing Azure on their edge or in the cloud, operators can transition to a more flexible and scalable model, drive down infrastructure cost, use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate operations and create service differentiation.
As it said that a hybrid and hyper-scale infrastructure could provide operators with the agility they need to rapidly innovate and experiment with new 5G services on a programmable network, it assured that it would further support operators as they evolve their infrastructure and operations using software-defined networking, network function virtualisation, and service-based architectures.
“We are bringing to market a carrier-grade platform for edge and cloud to support the operator’s goals to future-proof their infrastructure with disaggregated and containerised network architectures,” said Zander. “Recognising that not everything will move to the public cloud, we will meet operators where they are – whether at the enterprise edge, the network edge, or in the cloud.”