Today’s telecoms consumers are calling for more personalized and omnichannel experience. They prefer to be in control and have a service always at hand when they need it. So telecoms need to cater for this new consumer who has shifted to an always-on, multi-channel journey. But how do they do that?
Telecoms are revising their IT and architectural capabilities to ensure scalability, innovation, security, and flexibility. They want to provide customers with smooth experience. Some of the large providers including AT&T, BT, CenturyLink, Lebara, and Telefonica have already embraced microservices in telecoms.
How to adopt microservices in telecoms
In the era of globalization, telecoms require scalable solutions that can process millions of requests and transactions. They need to continuously extend their products with new business and operational capabilities. They want to use big data analytics for preventive maintenance, fraud prevention, and operations optimization. Thus, they are adopting microservices in telecoms to make all of the above possible.
The microservices architecture is based on the principle of breaking down complex IT systems into multiple easily manageable and autonomous constituents, each of which addresses a particular task. Thanks to this, a microservices application is easier to understand, scale, and manage in contrast to the solution with a monolithic architecture. It is easier to move a stone than a rock. The same is true of microservices. Among the key benefits of microservices architecture in telecoms are:
It's easier now for telecoms to move to microservices because the Linux Foundation helps promote the use of microservices in the telecom industry. It has two groups: the Open Container Initiative and the Cloud Native Computing. The members of these groups: Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, Google, Oracle, Verizon, and VMware support the move to a container-based microservices architecture and help make cloud-native computing universal and sustainable.
Microservices architecture is applied in telecoms in three main areas: Business Support Systems (BSS), Operations Support Systems (OSS), and network management. BSS primarily consists of Order Capture, Customer Relationship Management, and Telecommunications Billing. OSS covers Order Management, Network Inventory Management, and Network Operations. New network solutions such as Software-Defined Network (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) help telecoms achieve agility, speed, and scalability. They are recognized as two of the key technology enablers for realizing 5G networks. SDN and NFV are the key cloud-centric technologies in the market today. They have enabled telecoms to free themselves from expensive proprietary hardware and use cost-effective open-source software running over Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) hardware. The NFV Market share is forecast to surpass $70B by 2024, according to a report by Global Market Insights, Inc. And the SDN Market share is predicted to reach over $88B by 2024.
Virtual network functions (VNFs) are today moving from virtualized on-premise commodity hardware to the cloud. And cloud-native VNFs can be efficiently implemented as microservices. Microservices can be also used in SDNs to create dynamic and on-demand services that are easy to scale and integrate with third-party applications.
Adoption of microservices in Business Support Systems (BSS) allows implementing missing capabilities as microservices on the platform-as-a-service.
Some of the areas where microservices in Operations Support Systems (OSS) can be applied are network event monitoring, network fault alarms, technical order decomposition, inventory provisioning, and resource activation.
Expertise you need to move to microservices in telecoms
Microservices are typically deployed with the help of platforms like Docker that packages applications in isolated containers, which communicate with each other through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). You can also deploy multiple, isolated services with the help of virtual machines. For instance, that's how Netflix does it. However, that's typically slower and more time-consuming. That's why most businesses go for container-based microservices. Each container is a service that has its own database and can be updated, deployed, and scaled independently. Containers are very fast to build and start. Such tools as Kubernetes, Service Fabric, and others are used for their orchestration.
Though microservices can be used without the cloud, it's still much more efficient to use them together. Moreover, It's better for telecoms to store data in the cloud due to a number of reasons: agility, lightness, speed, and security. And it's also recommended to make telecom solutions cloud-agnostic to be able to change cloud providers or use multiple cloud providers at once. That's why to successfully adopt microservices in telecom, you will need a vendor with strong expertise in cloud computing and cloud migration (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
Also, microservices architecture in telecoms can not be successful without DevOps. In contrast to monolithic applications, which are a single unit, microservices apps are complex distributed systems with multiple moving parts and independent tech stacks. So it is impossible to effectively implement microservices in telecom without effective CI/CD processes in place. Other critical expertise include API development, data modeling, asynchronous and event-driven programming, and more.
Moving from monolith to microservices is no easy feat. It is a gradual and iterative process that involves a lot of challenges:
- monitoring and identifying problems automatically;
- maintaining configurations for hundreds of components across environments;
- performance overhead due to complex communication between services;
- talent shortage.
To overcome these and other issues, telecoms should look for reliable technology partners. N-iX works with market-leading telecoms including MVNO enterprises to turn these challenges into business opportunities. With over 18 years of experience on the market, N-iX provides quality software development services and offers broad experience in microservices architecture design, mobile and web development, cloud-enabled solutions, API integration, Big Data, BI, and more. We help businesses find talent with relevant expertise faster under the rates that fit their budget. Our engineers deliver the discovery phase to identify client’s needs and create a robust roadmap for migrating to microservices architecture in telecoms.
N-iX has partnered with MASMOVIL Group, a leading Spanish telecom provider. We collaborated on developing new microservices. Our engineers deployed applications to Kubernetes with the help of Helm and monitored the system with Sentry. N-iX developers reactivated back-end microservices with Java Spring WebFlux and vert.x.
Also, we have provided software development services to Lebara, the fastest-growing mobile company in Europe with over 5,000 active customers. The scope of our cooperation covers a full range of Lebara services. We are working with the client’s team on a number of products: Lebara Money, MyLebara, Lebara Mobile, Community, 4G, a Campaign Management Tool, and others. To ensure scalability, high performance, and maintainability, we have helped Lebara move several of its products to microservices. For products whose microservices were decided to store on Azure, we have designed a two-stage migration process. First of all, we have redesigned the logic without disrupting databases. During this process, technical documentation has been created which makes it easy to keep track of important data and changes. The next step consists in restructuring the very services and reducing the number of steps in each business flow. This also includes microservices orchestration, monitoring, and setting up automatic alarms.
For other products, we build microservices architecture on AWS, with the help of Lambda and ESC clusters. Each service has its own table of data. Services are connected with the help of RESTful APIs. In more complex cases, Amazon SQS or SNS are applied. For monitoring and timely detection of issues, Grafana and CloudWatch are used. As a result, by implementing the microservices architecture, Lebara can effectively communicate with its customers through all existing channels and devices.
Bringing it all together
Microservices architecture transforms the telecommunications industry, giving it on-demand scalability and agility. Yet, to effectively implement microservices in telecoms, businesses need to map out a robust strategy that will guide them along the way.
The experienced technology provider will help you thoroughly plan, execute, and measure your migration to microservices. By partnering with a reliable vendor, you will be able to innovate faster with lower risks. If you have any questions on how to adopt microservices in telecoms, please drop us a line. We'll be happy to help you.