Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: SmartBear Blog, Jose Diaz, Anders Wallgren, Karyn Jeffery, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Mobile IoT, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Seven Questions (and Answers) About Cloud Billing for the Telecom Sector

The cloud, sophisticated billing, and the future of telecom's back office

For as much buzz as cloud computing is generating in the telecom industry these days, it has created an equal number of questions. Many of these have to do with the complex and demanding application of cloud in relation to business support systems. The following are seven questions regarding cloud billing that my colleague, Fiona Fulton, and I addressed during a webinar (Billing Brightens in the Cloud) and follow up podcast conducted with TM Forum.

1.  Is Cloud really being adopted by operators around the world?

The short answer to this is, absolutely. While cloud may not be seeing the traction of some forms of technology, like 4G, it has outpaced others, like fixed mobile convergence. There has been a lot of attention paid to cloud and many major telecom operators – including Deutsche Telekom, AT&T, Verizon, British Telecom, and France Telecom, to name a few – have  already rolled out cloud-based service offerings. It may have taken a while for this particular cloud to rain down, but it is certainly being adopted.

2. What’s the difference between the existing billing system and billing in private cloud?

This is a question we get asked quite a lot. It might be helpful to first explain the difference between private and public cloud. A private cloud is really a dedicated cloud environment for a single enterprise. They have complete control over that resource, and it’s theirs to do with as they wish. A public cloud is a cloud resource that’s shared between all paying users. Because of the shared nature of the public cloud it is more difficult to demand certain levels of latency and availability and discuss SLAs with your provider. This is why people don’t think that public cloud is going to be used for billing services. While this may be true today, I think we may see that opinion change as we move into the future and cloud technology advances.

As for the difference between existing billing systems and billing in a private cloud, it really comes down to the way you’re deploying the system. In an existing billing system, you deploy on dedicated hardware. In a private cloud environment you’re going to deploy in a virtualized environment. By deploying in the cloud, what you are really doing is maximizing the use of your hardware resources. This virtualization layer allows you to do lots of things with dynamic management and the dynamic allocation of resources, which helps maximize the use of your resource and drives down your costs.

3. Do cloud services really need sophisticated billing models?

Yes. If you look at the consumer business models that we might see for cloud, they seem very simplistic on the surface, and there’s a good reason for that. Consumers don’t like things to be complicated. When they don’t understand what they are paying for, they get frustrated and start to call customer care. But behind the scenes there needs to be a higher degree of sophistication. Certainly at the consumer level billing systems will need to be able to seamlessly facilitate complex service bundles. The SLA and QoS requirements of the wholesale and partnership models will also give way to enhanced sophistication. Basically, you’re going to see the same levels of sophistication that telco’s have built up in their traditional service being applied to cloud.

4. Margins are expected to be tight for cloud. The more flexibility we build into the billing systems, the more operations cost we have and the lower the margins become. Yet, you strongly suggest telcos run out and grab a share of this market. Why?

This is a very, very good question, and one not just specific to this opportunity. Any venture comes with its own set of risks. The only thing that does not have any risk is doing nothing. Most businesses would rather be active and take the risk to build a strong positioning than sit idle.

In cloud, just as in other opportunities such as M2M, the margins are extremely low and the revenue opportunity is limited. However to be a player in the market, you have to have a sound portfolio of offerings for two reasons: 1) to establish and secure your competitive positioning within the market; and 2) to add a level of “stickiness” to your offerings. Specifically for the SMB and enterprise sector, it’s important to have really strong and appealing offerings. Indeed, you will have the challenge of balancing that strategic positioning with tight margins and the need to maintain low costs, but you can combat these issues by finding relevant solutions and infrastructure deployment models that are able to help you achieve a decent margin.

5. How will different systems like mediation, CRM, and billing interact in the cloud environment? Do all systems need to be deployed in the same cloud?

These systems are going to have to continue to interact in the same way they do today. Cloud is not about recreating the application it’s about deploying it in a different way. Whether systems need to be deployed in the same cloud really comes down to factors such as latency, availability and security. If you look at a tightly coupled system like mediation and a rating engine, for example, the latency and the need for communication is very tight. You can’t have a 10 second delay between those two systems. So, it really comes down to your own cloud infrastructure to determine whether or not you can deploy these systems in different clouds. Will your latency be good enough? Will your ability to communicate between systems be good enough? In many cases, the answer may be, no. But, if you look at something like CRM, where the communication isn’t so immediate, it’s much more feasible that this system could be sitting somewhere else. It really comes down to the organization to look at the cloud infrastructure it has in place to see what’s possible within that infrastructure.

6. How can offering cloud services reduce customer churn?

By offering cloud-based services telcos stand a very good chance of improving revenues. However, as I stated before, margins will be small and the revenue benefit is going to be limited. The significant benefit of offering cloud services will be seen in improved brand positioning within the target market, and this will have a considerable impact on reducing churn. Just as triple- or quad-play offerings have a higher rate of customer retention when compared to the individual service offerings, operators who include cloud-based services in their portfolios will have an edge with a new bundling opportunity to provide SaaS access alongside their telecommunications services. The bundling effect would help customer stickiness for the traditional services whilst increasing revenue from the cloud services.

7. Is there any implication of cloud on mergers and acquisitions in the telecom sector?

Actually, I think cloud should actually enable smoother mergers when compared to non-cloud infrastructures. It should be easier to move subscribers of one company to the other’s systems residing in cloud, because these cloud-based systems are not only scalable, but they also provide open interfacing technologies that allow easy access to data enabling migration. On the other hand, non-cloud-based systems force the acquirer to maintain the two subscriber bases separate for a considerable amount of time, which leads to long delays in realizing the benefits of these acquisitions.

More Stories By Mohammed Sha

Mohammed Sha is the Director of Product Marketing at AsiaInfo-Linkage, the supplier of the world's most advanced software solutions and IT services to the telecommunications industry.

@CloudExpo Stories
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
New Relic, Inc. has announced a set of new features across the New Relic Software Analytics Cloud that offer IT operations teams increased visibility, and the ability to diagnose and resolve performance problems quickly. The new features further IT operations teams’ ability to leverage data and analytics, as well as drive collaboration and a common, shared understanding between teams. Software teams are under pressure to resolve performance issues quickly and improve availability, as the comple...
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu, a leading provider of cloud hosting solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to foc...
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, will discuss how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer...
Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
The proper isolation of resources is essential for multi-tenant environments. The traditional approach to isolate resources is, however, rather heavyweight. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Igor Drobiazko, co-founder of elastic.io, will draw upon their own experience with operating a Docker container-based infrastructure on a large scale and present a lightweight solution for resource isolation using microservices. He will also discuss the implementation of microservices in data and applicat...
Based on the open source Cloud Foundry technology, IBM Bluemix is an open-standard, cloud-based platform for building, managing, and running applications of all types such as web, mobile, Big Data, and new smart devices. Bluemix abstracts and hides most of the complexities that are associated with hosting and managing cloud-based applications. As an application developer, you can focus on developing your application without having to manage the infrastructure that is required to host it. For mob...
As you respond to increasing requests for new analytics, you need fast and flexible technology in your arsenal so that you can deploy the right workload to the right platform for the need at hand. Do you need self-service and fast time to value? Do you have data and application control and privacy needs, along with strict SLAs to meet? IBM dashDB™ is data warehouse technology powered by in-memory computing and in-database analytics that are designed for fast results, scalability and more.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
Peak 10, Inc., has announced the implementation of IT service management, a business process alignment initiative based on the widely adopted Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework. The implementation of IT service management enhances Peak 10’s current service-minded approach to IT delivery by propelling the company to deliver higher levels of personalized and prompt service. The majority of Peak 10’s operations employees have been trained and certified in the ITIL frame...
The paradigm has shifted. A Gartner survey shows that 43% of organizations are using or plan to implement the Internet of Things in 2016. However, not just a handful of companies are still using the old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways, unaware of the critical barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can you become a winner? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan will present a methodical approach to guide the holistic adoption and enablement of IoT implementations. This ov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
Redis is not only the fastest database, but it has become the most popular among the new wave of applications running in containers. Redis speeds up just about every data interaction between your users or operational systems. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Dave Nielsen, Developer Relations at Redis Labs, will shares the functions and data structures used to solve everyday use cases that are driving Redis' popularity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Up until last year, enterprises that were looking into cloud services usually undertook a long-term pilot with one of the large cloud providers, running test and dev workloads in the cloud. With cloud’s transition to mainstream adoption in 2015, and with enterprises migrating more and more workloads into the cloud and in between public and private environments, the single-provider approach must be revisited. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yoav Mor, multi-cloud solution evangelist at Cloudy...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.