Microsoft to Add More 5G-Centric Services to its Azure-for-Telcos Lineup

AT&T is changing its existing 5G mobile core network to Microsoft Azure’s hybrid cloud as hyper-scaler digs into intellectual property and engineering expertise to strengthen its telco offering — Azure for Operators. 

Microsoft unveiled plans to create a “telco-grade cloud” with its September 2020 announcement of its Azure for Operators initiative.  

The company had acquired two other 5G-centric companies, Metaswitch Networks and Affirmed Networks, earlier that same year, which both became part of its Azure for Operators strategy.  

The giant officials said they had no intentions for Microsoft to become a telco. Instead, they wanted to make Azure the best place for telcos and telecommunications-focused partners to operate.  

Microsoft’s main reason to take over AT&T’s cloud network deployment is to be responsible for operations as it exists today to have the capabilities to transform it with a combination of hybrid cloud assets.   

Then, it will incorporate learning and IP the carrier has built into its commercial Azure offering for operators, according to Shawn Hakl, Microsoft’s VP of 5G Strategy, in an interview with FierceWireless.  

In addition, a pivotal part of the multi-year deal is that Microsoft is acquiring AT&T’s Network Cloud platform technology that runs AT&T’s 5G core. It also involves buying AT&T’s engineering and lifecycle management software that runs containerized or virtualized network services.  

The tech giant’s VP Hakl said the company is extending its offers to several AT&T employees involved with the cloud network implementation and engineering team to join Microsoft as the company brings real-world production 5G workloads to Azure for Operators.  

In parallel, officials said Azure Operator Distributed Services will combine Azure security, Azure Arc management, monitoring, analytics, AI, machine learning, and other Azure services. 

Meanwhile, customers can move this platform on the Azure public cloud or at AT&T on-premises.  

Azure Operator Distributed Services was designed to support the AT&T mobile core network, which includes more than 60 cloud-native network functions (CNFs) and virtual network functions (VNFs) from 15 different currently deployed vendors running on the A&T Network Cloud platform.  

It is worth mentioning that AT&T and Microsoft are working together on Azure Operator Distributed Services with initial testing stages planned for later this year, according to Microsoft officials.  

As part of the announcements, Microsoft said a private preview of the Azure Operator 5G Core, which deploys on the Azure Operator Distributed Services platform, is now available.