Our in-depth analysis of Microsoft’s play in the telecoms market, why it acquired Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch, and what telcos should do about it.
What is Microsoft doing, and should telcos be worried?
Over the past two years, Microsoft and its cloud business unit Azure have intensified and deepened their involvement in the telecoms vertical. In 2020, this included the acquisition of two leading independent vendors of cloud-native network software, Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch. This move surprised many industry observers, as it represented an intensification of Microsoft’s involvement in telco networking.
In addition, in September 2020, Microsoft announced its ‘Azure for Operators’ strategy. This packages up all the elements of Microsoft’s and Azure’s infrastructure and service offerings for the telecoms industry – including those provided by Affirmed and Metaswitch – into a more comprehensive, end-to-end portfolio organised around Microsoft’s concept of a ‘carrier-grade cloud’: a cloud that is truly capable of supporting and delivering the distinct performance and reliability that telcos require from their network functions, as opposed to the mainstream cloud devoted to enterprise IT.
In this report, our discussion of Microsoft’s strategy and partnership offer to telcos is our own interpretation based on our research, including conversations with executives from Microsoft, Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch.
We examine Microsoft’s activities in the telecoms vertical in the light of three central questions:
- What is Microsoft doing in telecoms, and what are its intentions?
- How should telcos respond to Microsoft’s moves and those of comparable hyperscale cloud providers? Should they consume the hyperscalers’ telco cloud products, compete against the hyperscalers, or collaborate with them?
- And what would count as success for telcos in relationship to Microsoft and the other hyperscalers? Are there any lessons to be learned from what is happening already?