Vodafone is on a quest to pivot from being “just a Telco” to a “TechCo." The strategy includes revamping operations to reduce costs; digitally transforming the customer experience and service development processes; and developing a differentiated value proposition that leverages 5G, IoT, and edge investments and capabilities.
The company recently split the network infrastructure from digital functions with two closely aligned leaders. The reorganization sees Scott Petty step up to the group level to lead digital and IT operations, making him the critical leader in executing the plan to transform Vodafone into a cloud-first, data-driven 'TechCo”.
Before you stop reading and move on to the following article because you are not in the telecommunications business – let me say that the Vodafone challenge is not unique. I would say that this story applies to any company with discerning customers who have a choice. Please read on if you must continuously evolve customer-facing applications and content to retain customer loyalty.
The front-end and back-end – mind the gap!
We know the front-end is what the users can see while the back-end is the infrastructure that supports it - both need to be in perfect harmony. In the Telco world, the back-end is the “crown jewels," namely the operations support system (OSS), which maintains network operations, and the business support system (BSS), which covers order capture, and customer relationship management (CRM) and billing.
Both front-end and back-end functions are strongly intertwined. When consumer applications change every week, and the back-end is updated every quarter, the "gap" will eventually impact the ability to execute.
As Vodafone built more complex e-commerce applications on the front-end, the need increased for the same cloud capability from the core transactional systems (high-transaction BSS/OSS apps). Vodafone considered several options, including upgrading technology in-situ, building a private cloud platform, or using other third-party clouds.
But, moving transactional systems wholesale to the public cloud is costly and complex, with the risk of performance and latency issues associated with maintaining those systems, which need to remain on-premises for legal or compliance reasons.
Oracle was unique because it offered to build a complete public cloud capability in the Vodafone data centers. Vodafone was able to take a more flexible approach to modernize and migrate the mission-critical systems— the most data-intensive/demanding or too costly/risky to move wholesale to the public cloud.
Way too many databases!
How many databases are too many? Vodafone has fifteen thousand (not a typo) and eight thousand associated applications. Vodafone will be deploying Oracle Dedicated Region Cloud@Customer to modernize those thousands of Oracle databases that support its mission-critical transactional OSS and BSS systems—including core functions like order management and CRM. This task could take several years to complete.
Oracle Dedicated Region Cloud@Customer is a complete OCI cloud deployed in the data center, providing a secure cloud platform to modernize existing infrastructure while retaining full control of data governance, meeting demanding data residency and security regulations.
Vodafone envisages a world in which half of the applications run in Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud and the other half run on the Oracle Cloud. The mix is likely to change over time. The work to modernize the “crown jewel” applications onto the Oracle Cloud might cause application ecosystems to move from AWS onto Oracle Cloud because it would be a more natural fit.
Pivot from running technology to building new services
Vodafone has embraced Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) in a big way, consolidating forty data centers that run core services for its entire European operations (13 countries) into three locations (Ireland, Italy, and Germany) running on OCI.
The Oracle implementation is a critical pillar in the pivot from ‘Telco to TechCo,’ providing the foundation for a common platform across the Vodafone Group. It will allow rationalization and consolidation of the IT estate while leveraging the cloud as a more efficient way of delivering and scaling new communications services.
Vodafone expects to significantly cut costs across operations and accelerate the development and time to market for new services. The Oracle platform will also bring automation to IT operations, enabling more IT staff to focus on the digital experience and the use of data to drive better customer experiences.
Ultimately, the end game is to redirect the IT organization away from building, integrating, and running technology to provide customers with new services and a better digital experience.
As an example, Oracle Autonomous Database is now a feature of OCI. Oracle Autonomous Database is a cloud database that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate database tuning, security, backups, updates, and other routine management tasks without human intervention. Database administrators (DBAs) can now focus on more critical tasks, such as data aggregation, modeling, processing, governance strategies, and supporting developers.
One unique, differentiated example is that the Autonomous Database is serverless and elastic. When an application is not running on the Oracle Cloud, there are no CPUs dedicated hence no charges. Additionally, it is instantaneously elastic, increasing or decreasing servers and cores as needed while the database is still running.
Quickly monetizing IoT services
The long-awaited convergence of the network with the cloud, IoT, and MEC will become the foundation for new service offerings. With expertise in IoT, MEC, and 5g, Vodafone is well-positioned to offer new scalable next-generation digital services.
OCI offers integrated applications for Sales, Service, Marketing, Human Resources, Finance, Supply Chain, and Manufacturing, plus Automated and Secure Generation 2 Infrastructure featuring the Oracle Autonomous Database.
Vodafone is already monetizing IoT services using Oracle Communications Billing and Revenue Management (BRM) which runs on OCI. For example, sensors in connected vehicles can enable services such as GPS map updates or infotainment, charged on a subscription or consumption basis. The solution runs on the high-performance OCI Container Engine for Kubernetes and is automated with OCI Resource Manager and Terraform across multiple Oracle Cloud Regions. Today it is no longer about connecting IoT devices but providing complete solutions for customers.
The 5G wireless broadband expansion promises an exciting future.
For example, virtual reality applications will power high-tech glasses that give instructions to workers in complex fields such as airplane maintenance.
As Vodafone takes advantage of 5G, architectural agility will be essential to monetize next-generation services quickly and efficiently. Oracle's Billing and Revenue Management solution is well-positioned to support emerging 5G-enabled use cases with its cloud-native compliant, microservices-based architecture framework.
Regular readers will know I have become impressed with Oracle's Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and have written several articles. That was not always the case. I was critical of Oracle Cloud V1.0, but Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud is an entirely new infrastructure developed from the ground up with no resemblance to its predecessor. The design goals were better performance, pricing, and—above all else—security. Oracle Cloud V2 is a significant improvement and more competitive.
As a long-time Oracle observer, I think it is incredible how the story around OCI is starting to resonate with customers. OCI as a single platform offering IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and data as a service (DaaS) capabilities is not that sexy. But, combined with technologies such as Oracle Autonomous Database, Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse, and Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing, the result is a platform capable of handling large, data-intensive workloads with better security. For organizations like Vodafone transitioning from on-premises data centers to the cloud, OCI is an ideal solution.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.