Serverless Saves—Why the Future of the Telecom Industry Lies in the Cloud

Cellular and data volumes have surged during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Comscore, in-home data usage increased by 18 percent in mid-March 2020 compared to March 2019. There was also a 34 percent increase in data usage on mobile phones.

That is because consumers are relying on digital and mobile connections more than ever to do work and stay connected with loved ones. The challenge is each digital data transmission requires physical resources, servers, data centers and compute power to make it work at scale.

Servers, at Your Service

Every call a consumer makes or a video a consumer watches requires a server processing and transmitting data between other servers, data centers and devices. These digital interactions passing through servers have real-world consequences.

Servers are built from plastics and metals and need energy to run, operate and cool the machines. For data centers in the U.S., servers used 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014 and the consumption is steadily increasing. That is the same amount of energy used by 6.4 million homes in a single year.

And data use shows no sign of slowing down. Technologies like 5G, and IoT will be able to support more connections and power new use cases needing intense application processing for massive volumes of data—think driverless cars, e-health applications, and teleconferencing. But the more complex the function, the more compute power (and servers) needed.

Technology leaders like Amazon, Microsoft and Google have massive data centers to provide compute power, but often find themselves planning for capacity peaks to meet service level agreements and avoid processing failure. A lucrative approach for them, but not the most optimal approach for telecom companies who are trying to move to the cloud, and certainly an impact to our global environment.

By continuing to rely on traditional server management, telecom companies are paying for capacity they don’t need—a toll that’s taken out on the environment. Servers waste 90 percent of the energy they use because they run at full capacity. Servers are also placing strain on resources like electricity and cooling, consuming more energy than is necessary.

Instead of relying on physical servers, telecom companies could instead be leveraging cloud-native architecture to save money—and help the environment.

Clearing Up Cloud Claims

Cloud can make a positive impact to the environment—but only when software providers take advantage of the full scope of cloud capabilities. Many telecom software providers are only “lifting and shifting” (moving existing legacy systems to new cloud infrastructure).

If a solution runs in environments like Amazon EC2 or Google ComputeEngine, then it is likely traditional software running in the cloud, but not leveraging the full power of cloud virtualization. This means there are defined hardware requirements, so telecom companies face the traditional headaches of sizing capacity to peaks and managing bursts based on demand. Further, processes, and people, are required to monitor throughput and provision additional servers when capacity increases are needed.

The answer is leveraging truly cloud-native practices when developing software. This is particularly important for real-time transactions where volumes spike and may vary considerably. These types of transactions cannot be easily offloaded for later processing when peaks ease off (i.e., batch processing).

By using cloud-native capabilities like elastic scalability, hardware does not need to be procured to be on hand for every peak demand. Rather, capacity can be managed from a common pool used across multiple applications, where additional capacity is called upon when those peaks are reached. The result is a more environmentally friendly and operationally sound solution environment for both the cloud host and the organizations using those facilities.

Many telecom companies are already making the switch to serverless architectures. By 2025, ACG Research predicts that 60 percent of BSS systems will be cloud-native based.

For the good of the environment—and for the future of the telecom industry—let’s start making the switch to serverless.

Want to learn more about the power of serverless cloud solutions for the telecom industry? Learn what to look for in a cloud-native OCS.