Are operators ready to deploy cloud-based BSS?

A recent survey from Chinese BSS provider AsiaInfo, in collaboration with, found that 71% of operators are ready to deploy cloud-based business support systems (BSS), but 62% have concerns about data privacy and security issues as a barrier to moving BSS to the public cloud.

The report analyzes results from 300 qualified operator respondents, and of the 71% of respondents who claim they are ready to deploy cloud-based BSS, 18% said they have already deployed it, 13% are in the process of implementing, 14% will deploy by the end of 2016, and 26% by the end of 2017. These impressively high figures show that public cloud operators and telcos are moving closer together after having traditionally kept their distance – as telcos increasingly search for cost saving methods as part of their digital transformations.

AsiaInfo says it is surprising that most respondents claim they already have cloud-based BSS or plan to deploy it very soon, but state that this does not suggest these operators are shifting the entire IT stack to the public cloud. This is because most operators are only adopting public cloud-based BSS for certain actions, and are mainly sticking to the trend of deploying overlay projects in their own private cloud infrastructure to support new services.

Concerning the apprehensions shown by respondents surrounding the security of the public cloud, AsiaInfo said it is working on improving data privacy through its recent partnership with AWS – in which it said it is getting to grips with supporting security with the assistance of AWS’ experience in the field. Andy Tiller, VP of Marketing at AsiaInfo, said that in fact, Amazon’s data centers are more secure than those of many operators.

North America came out as the region that is least confident in moving to the public cloud, followed by Europe. This is strange considering the US has a very mature cloud market, but Tiller cited that this could be down to the over-heightened sensitivity of North Americans due to recent high profile data breaches and the public reactions which followed.

Most notably, a cyberattack on US health care giant Anthem in 2015 led to a breach of 80m patient and employee records, and also last year, dating site Ashley Maddison had 33m user accounts hacked and published in what was one of the most publicized attacks ever. In the UK last year, telecoms company TalkTalk suffered a data breach which resulted in 157,000 customer details being hacked – including bank account numbers and sort codes.

However, none of the data breaches mentioned were in the cloud, so the results are more reflective of a general public distrust of large companies and their lackadaisical approach to data security, rather than a wariness of data privacy in the cloud. The cloud is thought to be pretty robust, but considering that only around 1% of data and applications are currently in the cloud, it hasn’t yet been fully hacker-tested – but the bottom line is security should not be an afterthought.

Results from the survey found that Africa is the region with the highest “cloud readiness score”, as most operators in the continent plan to deploy cloud-based BSS by the end of 2016 or 2017. Tiller said there is lots of innovation happening in Africa, but results may not be entirely accurate due to the general positive outlook of African people – which was suggested could be slightly unrealistic.

Further results found that 60% of respondents do not believe that existing BSS platforms are capable of supporting future telco business models – which clearly highlights the need for IT transformation in the field.

The partnership with AWS involves the cloud version of AsiaInfo’s Veris Cloud Core BSS product being made available on AWS public infrastructure. This aims to help operators accelerate their digital transformations, claiming that the AWS option can reduce the time to deploy a new BSS from two years to a few months. Tiller also says the AWS platform can deliver total cost of ownership savings of 35% while slashing upfront deployment costs too. The firm said public cloud “has never before been available for mission critical Tier 1 core BSS (only for overlays and bolt-on IT components)”.

The report concludes, “In future, flexible cloud-based BSS systems will be a key enabler for operators to achieve competitive differentiation and deliver the best experience to their customers.”

AsiaInfo supports operators across Asia in building and integrating BSS for mobile networks and broadband offerings, including the world’s largest operator China Mobile, and the third largest China Unicom – with over one billion mobile customers and 130m broadband customers between them.

Comcast in the US and Vodafone in Italy and Australia are the only major operators that are currently (publicly) customers of AWS – it says Comcast turned to AWS because its on-premises data centers could not handle the demand for its X1 platform. AWS says Vodafone Italy uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), and Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), to power its top up without login service to enable mobile customers to more easily use a debit or credit card to top up mobile phones and other broadband devices.

In terms of security, Stefano Harak, Online Senior Product Manager for Vodafone Italy, has said, “AWS was the clear choice in terms of security and Payment Card Industry (PCI) and Data Security Standard (DSS) Level 1 compliance compared to an on-premises or co-location datacenter solution. From a technical perspective, when we evaluated the ease of implementation and management, we believed that AWS would dramatically reduce the time to market as well as the cost of infrastructure.”

AWS also says Netflix is “planning to use AWS Lambda to build rule-based self-managing infrastructure and replace inefficient processes to reduce the rate of errors and save valuable time.”

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