Nokia’s cloud business expands with T-Mobile 5G win

BARCELONA, Spain—When Nokia announced it will supply 5G solutions as part of T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G rollout, it made a point to say that Nokia's cloud-based offerings, including the CloudBand Management and Orchestration software suite, are part of its deliverables.

But winning the contract to supply the cloud component nationwide did not come overnight.

Nokia’s CloudBand unit came from the acquisition a couple of years ago of Alcatel-Lucent, where the cloud business unit was built from scratch. Knowing this was a whole new ball game, it started bringing in new talent and building the core team in 2011 with personnel in Israel.

When Nokia acquired Alcatel-Lucent two years ago, they took advantage of the situation to do a reset of the portfolio. Then in 2017, Nokia started seeing the first deployments as a result of that strategy, and according to Guy Shemesh, vice president of CloudBand within Nokia’s software unit, it’s already off to a strong start in 2018. Shemesh was co-founder of Alcatel’s Cloud Business Unit based in Israel that became the core strategy at Alcatel-Lucent.

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And open source? It’s very much a part of Nokia’s overall strategy. “We’ve taken the concept of openness into the next level,” he said. It’s not just exposing the APIs; it’s about enabling the customer to run different vendors and to create "mix and match" in each of the layers—the customer chooses the best server, the best cloud infrastructure or the application and so on—just as operators set out to do when they launched their SDN and NFV efforts. 

“We are strategically using a lot of open source,” he said. “Using it—it’s not complicated.” The key is in the way you use it and not having to build something new every six months when a new software release comes out. That was something they had to figure out.

Nokia is a big contributor to OpenStack in particular, he noted, adding that Nokia wants to be able to work with its competitors’ equipment. Gone are the days of vendor lock-in.

In fact, Nokia beat other cloud providers by winning the T-Mobile 5G cloud business, but at the end of the day, it wants to work with competitors. “I don’t think we can bring credibility to the discussion if we say yes, we’re open but we don’t have any proof points," he said.

Some carriers are not ready to make the jump to the cloud, and even though he’s the cloud evangelist, he’s not pushing them to do so until they’re ready. “Cloud is a transformation that is a journey,” he said.

One of the big questions he hears from customers is who are they supposed to call when something goes wrong: Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, someone else? And each situation is different, he said.

Part of the transformation within Alcatel-Lucent/Nokia was understanding that hardware is going to fail and building upon that. In traditional telecom, building to fail was not an option. That’s changed, and they're still able to meet the five 9s mandate and provide resiliency—just not like it was done in the old days.

“It’s a different mindset,” he said. “Disruption is happening. Either we be part of it and lead it, or we’ll be out.” Nokia, he said, decided to be part of it and aims to lead.