Microsoft has confirmed a deal to buy telecommunications virtualisation specialist Affirmed Networks for an undisclosed sum — snatching a company that runs an AWS-hosted virtualised telco core from under Amazon’s nose — and announcing plans to create a “global 5G ecosystem”.
Affirmed Networks offers fully virtualised services to let mobile network operators run 4G and 5G networks from the cloud, with automated service provisioning, real-time analytics and network slicing.
Many telcos have only recently adopted virtualised platforms and are held down by legacy tech stacks. They are typically still shifting from an environment of network functions running on specialist dedicated hardware, to one in which virtualisation has rendered physical functions as software – which can be run as VMs over general-purpose servers, including in the cloud.
The move comes hot on the heels of rival AWS’s “Wavelength” launch: a project launched with Verizon, Vodafone, South Korea’s SK Telecom, and Japan’s KDDI, to bring AWS’s compute and storage services “to the edge of 5G networks”.
Microsoft’s Yousef Khalidi, VP, Azure Networking, said: “Affirmed Networks’ fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network solutions enable operators to simplify network operations, reduce costs and rapidly create and launch new revenue-generating services.
See also: See also: What is AWS Wavelength?
He added: “With Affirmed Networks, we will be able to offer… solutions tailored to the unique needs of operators, including managing their network workloads in the cloud.”
Affirmed Networks, based in the Greater Boston area, was founded in 2010. It offers, among other services, a “mobile network as a service” based on AWS. It also provides 4G and 5G services over scalable cloud infrastructure, along with tools for telcos network slicing, analytics and security services, virtualised Wi-Fi, and service automation platforms
Microsoft added that it sees “a significant opportunity for both incumbents and new players across the industry to innovate, collaborate and create new markets, serving the networking and edge computing needs of our mutual customers.”
Nick McQuire, VP of enterprise research, CCS Insight, described the acquisition as “the biggest statement yet by a hyperscaler into 5G and telco transformation opportunities.”
He added: “Both areas are heavily being shaped by cloud computing and the acquisition gives Microsoft some much needed telco DNA to help telcos build cloud capabilities. This is especially important as well as the markets for low latency edge computing driven by 5G unfold over the next few years. With the move, Microsoft is ensuring not only that Azure is the best cloud to help telcos transform, but that it is also a front runner against AWS and Google Cloud in the race to the edge as well.”
What we are seeing now is the convergence of the cloud, the network edge and 5G all happening in real time and the hyperscalers are jockeying for position”
Anand Krishnamurthy,President & CEO, Affirmed Networks, said: “Upon the close of this transaction, Affirmed Networks… will become part of Microsoft.
“Our customers have been our best champions, betting on us, and thereby showing a remarkable commitment to innovation and disruption. Working together, we have created a model for mobile networks of the future that is open, cloud-native and capable of being web-scale, all at 70 percent of the cost of traditional networks.”