Microsoft adds another 5G component to Azure with Affirmed Networks purchase

  • Affirmed specializes in virtualized, cloud-native mobile network solutions
  • Microsoft has ambitions play a leading role in cloudifying telco networks
  • Says Affirmed acquisition will allow it to extend its cloud offering to operators everywhere

Microsoft has announced that it has an agreement to acquire Affirmed Networks bolstering its claims to be well-placed to help telcos through their transition to 5G. According to Microsoft, Affirmed provides fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network solutions – a portfolio of 5G apps and services designed to do all the good things, such as simplify network operations and create and launch new services. Affirmed is already serving multiple big telcos, including Softbank, Vodafone and Orange.

Clearly, Microsoft has strategic designs on the telco infrastructure ecosystem, but whether that’s to provide products and services to assist telcos to up their 5G game, or to help new competitors into the market on the back of Microsoft’s Azure cloud environment we don’t really know. It’s almost certainly a bit of both.

But with Microsoft there’s another calculation at play.  Does it harbour a long term ambition to build or acquire a global  next generation, virtualized telecom network? One perhaps that specialises in binding data centre to telco edge and access networks, but on a global basis? Such a capability, if it could be pulled off, would make Microsoft a strong player in end-to-end cloud services for corporates.

Certainly Microsoft has been knocking on the telecom door for over a decade, (with a couple of spectacular failures, it has to be said). Plus it defied conventional wisdom by buying Skype – it clearly doesn’t respect traditional ITC industry boundaries.

Microsoft says the Affirmed acquisition will allow it to extend its cloud offering to operators everywhere as they increasingly look to run their networks in a hybrid environment.

That is  already reasonably crowded territory, with Amazon Web Services having been in the business of hosting telecom functions on its cloud for some time with its AWS Wavelength compute and storage for 5G.

Google has been busy with Anthos for Telecom which extends  the Anthos cloud platform to the edge and offers tools to help telcos develop, secure, and operate hybrid cloud and cloud-native environments. HPE this month launched its 5G Core Stack of software building blocks.

Meanwhile compute giant IBM has acquired Linux open source cloud native specialist (with a special interest in telecom), Red Hat; while Dell has taken on VMware with Dell providing the hardware and VMware providing cloud computing and virtualization software and services.

The truth is that the hybrid cloud, telco edge and 5G together are clearly the decade’s strategic hotspots where there’s all to play for. Microsoft has just made another acquisition and that’s helped position it nicely.

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