Microsoft to acquire Affirmed Networks to get onto AWS’ wavelength

Microsoft has announced it is to Affirmed Networks, a provider of network functions virtualisation (NFV) software – as the telecoms space heats up for the biggest cloud players.

As 5G is becoming more of a reality, cloud vendors see their role as enabling telecom operators to deploy and maintain next-generation more efficiently.

“At Microsoft, we intend to empower the telecommunications industry as it continues its move to 5G and support both network equipment manufacturers and operators in their efforts to find solutions that are faster, easier and cost effective,” wrote Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure networking in a blog post. “This acquisition will allow us to evolve our work with the telecommunications industry, building on our secure and trusted cloud platform for operators.

“With Affirmed Networks, we will be able to offer new and innovative solutions tailored to the unique needs of operators, including managing their network workloads in the cloud,” Khalidi added.

Anand Krishnamurthy, president and CEO of Affirmed Networks – who only became CEO earlier this month – said the company had delivered on its vision. “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% of the cost of traditional networks,” wrote Krishnamurthy. “We have been their partner of choice as they prepare for fifth generation (5G) networks and infrastructure.

“Now, the combined technologies of Microsoft and Affirmed will further accelerate this momentous shift.”

This move makes for an interesting comparison with what Amazon Web Services (AWS) is doing with its Wavelength project. The initiative is an edge play which embeds AWS’ compute and storage services on the edge of operators’ 5G networks, enabling the delivery of ultra-low latency applications.

At re:Invent back in December, in what was seen as the biggest item of the main keynotes – or in other words, the last item – Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg joined AWS chief Andy Jassy on stage to discuss the collaboration between the two companies. Jassy noted the most exciting applications to be ushered in, such as autonomous industrial equipment, or applications for smart cities, can’t wait that long.

“If you want to have the types of applications that have that last mile connectivity, but actually do something meaningful, those applications need a certain amount of compute and a certain amount of storage,” he said. “What [developers] really want is AWS to be embedded somehow in these 5G edge locations.”

For Microsoft’s part, the company said it was looking at extending ‘deep, strong partnerships’ and ensuring interoperability to ensure cloud-based software-defined networking (SDN) fits into the 5G landscape. The company’s partnership with AT&T, beefed up in November, is seen by many in the industry to be a particularly interesting one in the space.

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