Cloud Computing


From Cloud Computing to Telco Clouds

Imagine you are a CEO running a software company in Québec City with dozens of developers who create applications.  You stumble onto a lucrative market prospect with an industry leader and know such opportunity comes along once in a lifetime. That’s it – you are going to pursue it!  There is just one problem.  To seize this opportunity, you must rapidly scale up your team and supporting IT infrastructure – and resources are scarce.  Success will require a creative approach that maximizes existing resources and generates high return on all investments.  Moreover, you are committed to sustainability and aim to ensure every business decision benefits your employees, customers and the environment.

You take a step back, and look at how your business is running today.  You have always maintained your own servers, hardware and software – and the IT team required to manage this technology – right at your office.  But you simply don’t have the funds to purchase a wealth of new IT infrastructure or the time and skilled personnel to manage it.  Opportunity is knocking at your door, but you are struggling to know how to respond.

Like many others, you have heard the buzz about ‘cloud computing’ and how it helps companies expand their IT capabilities without significant capital investment.  Cloud computing essentially moves a majority of onsite IT infrastructure to an offsite location and makes it accessible via the Internet.  It enables business owners to lease or rent specific hardware, software and computing capacity when it is required – as opposed to owning it directly.  It is a highly flexible and cost-effective approach that allows companies to scale up or reduce their IT capabilities and investment as business demands.  It enables businesses to capitalize on economies of scale as costly and secure state-of-the-art infrastructure is shared with many other users.  This means you can do more while spending less money and generating less carbon.

You begin to consider the specific cloud computing services that could help you to achieve your business objectives.  As described by Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management, cloud computing has spawned three key services increasingly used in business today:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): This is the most basic service available through the cloud. It is essentially a server or servers in the cloud that provide a wealth of computing capacity or bandwidth. It provides users with access to computing power without all the responsibility of installation and maintenance.  Customers simply pay for the capacity used.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): This is a cloud-based platform that companies can use to develop custom applications or write software that integrates with existing applications.  It typically comes equipped with software development technologies that enable customers to start writing code quickly.  Once the code is ready, the cloud vendor hosts it and makes it widely available to employees.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): This is the largest and most mature part of the cloud.  It’s an application or suite of applications that resides in the cloud instead of on a user’s hard drive or in a data centre.

You realize cloud computing solutions would accelerate product development without a significant outlay for new IT and computing capacity.  With such a compelling value proposition, you make the decision to integrate cloud computing into your company.

Excited by the prospects of this innovation, you begin to imagine the many ways cloud computing could deliver even greater economic, social and environmental benefits to Québec.  Equation is propelling new R&D projects that explore such opportunities.  This includes the potential to extend the cloud computing concept to telecommunication networks to create telco clouds.  This innovation isn’t simply nice-to-have, it is becoming mission critical.

With the advent of smart phones and other intelligent end-user
devices that generate data and video, the traffic on telecommunications networks has increased by orders of magnitude over the last few years.  In 2012, global mobile data traffic grew more than two-fold over 2011, more than doubling for the fourth year in a row.  This is driven by our unending quest for data, including mobile video which now represents more than half of all traffic.

And this rate of growth shows no sign of slowing down. There are seven billion mobile devices on earth today. By 2017, this number will catapult to more than 10 billion.  You think to yourself, how can existing telecommunications networks support such exponential growth in traffic?  If this growth is sustained as experts predict, traditional telecommunications networks could eventually become unsustainable.  Moreover, if telecommunications operators rely on traditional network infrastructure and approaches, it will demand significant capital investment. This creates new operational challenges and generates more carbon emissions that pollute our environment.  It is not a winning economic or environmental formula.

Telco clouds

Telco clouds offer a viable solution for telecommunications operators, their customers and society more broadly. They move network functions into the cloud, while providing the same robustness and quality of service as traditional telecommunications networks.  This enables telecommunications providers to gain greater leverage on network investments, streamline operations and reduce their overall energy consumption.  This compelling economic argument is driving the telecommunications industry towards telco clouds.  This shift is reinforced by the recent call of 13 major telecommunications providers to establish virtual cloud-based networks.

Companies such as Ericsson are demonstrating global leadership on this front, and developing telco cloud solutions.  As one of six industry leaders participating in the Equation Project, Ericsson recognizes the many environmental benefits cloud-based telecommunications networks offer.  Telco clouds decrease the volume of carbon-emitting hardware in the network, helping to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.  This is the power of virtualization which consolidates much of the physical network equipment.  The environmental benefits are even greater when network management is relocated from a locale where equipment is powered by fossil-based energy to a green data centre that is powered by renewable energy.  This rare convergence of economic and environmental opportunity holds significant promise for any jurisdiction that boasts renewable energy resources – including Québec.

You begin to think about the many ways telco clouds could bring about positive change.  There are just so many possibilities.  For example, by leveraging optical technology that puts light to work, cloud-based networks could support the deployment of broadband access.  This would provide clean, green, high-speed Internet access to citizens in urban and rural regions.  Moreover, the network would underpin the development of smart applications across many sectors, fuelling even greater economic growth.  And if governments proceed to implement cap-and-trade approaches that provide economic incentives to reduce polluting carbon emissions, the economic drivers for telco cloud networks become even stronger.

There is simply no question – telco cloud and green data centres create a powerful economic, social and environmental bottom line. They hold an important key to digital and sustainable societies of the 21st century.

As you begin to plan your own cloud computing strategy, you look forward to learning about the outcomes of the Equation Project funded by the Government of Québec.  It is clear this strategic investment will help to create a more prosperous and sustainable future for you, your family and many generations to come.