Telecommunications companies provide some of the most critical services in the world. From emergency 911 services to air traffic control to buy-sell signals that move billions of dollars worth of bonds, telecommunications networks impact our safety, social stability, and economic prosperity. Because the stakes are so high, telecommunications infrastructure has been designed, maintained, and upgraded to minimize risks and maximize reliability and uptime. While this has created reliable underpinnings for society, it has also slowed the rate at which the telecommunications industry adopts new technologies.
Enterprises and IT organizations, on the other hand, are rapidly adopting cloud native technologies to build infrastructure and run workloads that are more resilient, have higher performance, and are more economical. As cloud native is becoming the de facto choice for enterprise and IT, the telecommunications industry will also benefit from deploying cloud native architectures to its platforms, networks, and telephony applications.
Technological transitions in large industries, like telecommunications, are not simple to make and require people, processes, and tools to make it successful. CNCF has a number of initiatives aimed at each of these areas to help telco companies make the transition to cloud native ways of thinking, working, and operating. These initiatives cover a variety of areas including a space for people to share new ideas and work together, have discussions about industry best practices, and tooling to help guide this transition. Next, we will dive into the Telecom User Group, Cloud Native Network Function Working Group, and CNF Test Suite to understand how they help achieve these goals.
The Telecom User Group (TUG) is an open forum where people from across the industry, both vendors and service providers, can come together to discuss topics and challenges facing the industry. It is a space for people to come together, share ideas, voices needs, and air concerns. These can be collected into requirement documents, gap analysis, and other documentation like the white paper about Cloud Native Thinking in Telecommunications. Finally, it is an area to review and discuss new cloud native telecommunications technologies like Orkestra, ENO, and KubeEdge. The TUG allows people to connect to one another on the latest technologies. It meets on the first Monday of each month, switching between 11.00 UTC and 15.00 UTC.
The Cloud Native Network Function Working Group (CNF WG) has the goal of making it easier to produce and consume Cloud native Network Functions (CNFs) through its recommendation of cloud native best practices. It is a collaboration between Service Providers, CNF Developers and the Kubernetes community to understand the practices and processes that each needs to follow to achieve the best outcome for everyone. Its work is grounded in real world use cases that inform the best practices. It meets every Monday at 16:00 UTC.
For practitioners looking to test their CNF and understand if it follows the best practices from the CNF WG, there is the CNF Test Suite. It is an open source test suite for CNF developers and network operators to evaluate how well a network application follows cloud native principles and best practices. The CNF Test Suite leverages upstream tools such as OPA Gatekeeper, Helm linter, and Promtool for testing CNFs, packaging them to make the installation, configuration, and versioning repeatable. It tests across a wide range of categories including compatibility, state, security, microservices, scalability, configuration and lifecycle, observability, installation and upgrade, hardware resources and scheduling, and resilience. Anyone can use it to evaluate CNFs and the group meets weekly on Thursday at 15:15 UTC during standard time (14:15 UTC during daylight savings time).
The great promise of cloud native for telecommunications is to turbocharge the development and improvement of telecommunications applications. CNCF hopes that the TUG, CNF WG, and CNF Testsuite will help the industry overcome hurdles in people, processes, and tools as the industry seeks to modernize its stack. As a result, telcos will be able to freely test, design, deploy, provision, revise, and ultimately innovate at a far faster pace. With process and organization adaptations to cloud native thinking and design, telcos will be able to leverage this new freedom to build more resilient infrastructure and applications and to accelerate the roll out of new features and capabilities more quickly, with less risk and less fear of disrupting critical regulated systems and functions. Please join us on this journey and get involved in our efforts.