5G promises to bring the high-speed connectivity and low latency needed to unleash the full potential of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality (VR). But perhaps the biggest transformation 5G will bring is the convergence of cloud computing and telecoms networks enabling the environment for these technologies to thrive.
Forward-thinking cloud firms have long been eyeing the transition to 5G – forging partnerships and inking deals with networking providers to develop a new form of edge cloud architecture. And with two 5G acquisitions in the past three months, Microsoft is ahead of the curve.
The software giant picked up American 5G specialist Affirmed Networks in March, and British cloud-native comms specialist Metaswitch in May – just weeks after reporting a 775 percent spike in cloud services demand amid widespread social distancing in Italy.
These deals appear to be focused on using 5G to unlock edge computing opportunities for Microsoft through Azure’s Edge Zones, which were launched in March. These deliver lower latency to Azure users, and represent an opportunity for Microsoft to build a bridge into the telecoms space through existing partnerships with major industry figures like Nokia and AT&T.
In the Metaswitch acquisition Microsoft has acquired an Evolved Packet Core, which will unpin the future of 5G networks. Microsoft will aim to deliver its newly acquired capabilities to offer communications networks as a platform through its Azure cloud, in addition to offering its increasingly popular Teams collaboration software.
“The convergence of cloud and communication networks presents a unique opportunity for Microsoft to serve operators globally via continued investment in Azure, adding additional depth to our hyperscale cloud infrastructure” wrote Microsoft’s Yousef Khalidi to announce the acquisition of Metaswitch.
The opportunity of 5G has not gone unnoticed by other cloud computing providers, which are also teaming up with telecoms to take advantage of the boost to connectivity. Amazon Web Services announced a collaboration with Verizon Communications in December, and Google Cloud partnered with AT&T in March. In May, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten purchased cloud-based comms service Innoeye with a view to deploying “fully cloud-native telco networks”.
As 5G networks roll out and big tech moves further into telecoms through the cloud, we could expect a raft of similar deals supporting the crossover of these two industries.