A couple of years ago, AT&T announced that it would run its 5G core network in Microsoft’s public cloud. At that same time, it announced that it had sold its homegrown core network software to Microsoft. 

In the interim, Microsoft has been re-working and enhancing that software to make it available to other operators around the world. Today, Microsoft said it’s named the software Azure Operator Nexus.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president at Microsoft, told Fierce Wireless that in the last two years Microsoft has been busy building Azure Operator Nexus, which had its roots running at AT&T.

“What we have built is a product available for everybody else,” said Khalidi. Rather than offering a product that would be customized for each operator, Microsoft took a platform approach. So, all customers who buy Azure Operator Nexus will receive the same product. Khalidi said, “That is important because that’s how we get reduction in cost of ownership.”

He said Microsoft replaced quite a bit of third-party software that came with the code it purchased from AT&T, and now Nexus is composed of software that all comes from Microsoft.

Asked if Microsoft does special cloud software for other verticals, Khalidi said the telco space is quite unique. For Nexus it took software elements it had built for other verticals — including container management, OSS, monitoring, machine learning and AI — and made them domain specific for telcos. “We needed to solve specific scenarios for operators… and also had to build break-glass scenarios if the cloud is not responding.”

The architecture of Nexus is distributed and can be deployed in a hybrid cloud model with instances deployed in the public cloud, at an operator’s own premises, or a combination of both. Khalidi made it sound easy for operators to deploy. He said, “The customer buys a bunch of hardware; they literally drop it at their edge locations and plug it in and ensure their larger network is configured between us and them. They turn the power on; log onto the Azure portal, hit a button, and that’s it.”

Microsoft is offering Nexus as a service, and it can be consumed by customers in a Capex model or an Opex model. “Many Tier 1s insist on Capex for accounting, but many others want Opex,” said Khalidi.

Igal Elbaz SVP and Network CTO with AT&T stated, “As a pioneer in network virtualization and SDN, AT&T is confident in our decision to run our multivendor 5G Standalone Mobile Core on Azure Operator Nexus platform while we continue to deploy and operate the platform in AT&T data centers.”

Of its work with AT&T, Microsoft’s Khalidi said, “We chose to work first with a Tier 1 large operator, running brownfield real networks. “This is about running in production at one of the biggest networks on the face of the earth.”

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