Cloud-based services at the heart of mobile infrastructure

There's lots of talk about sexy mobile apps but the cloud also provides a mechanism for the dirty machinery at the heart of mobile networks

Macroeconomic industry-wide initiatives and vendor technology sets are aligning to take advantage of a new strain of mobile cloud applications usage. This new strain (perhaps even a new era) centres on the GSMA-defined Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard.

In terms of use, RCS aims to help make new mobile communication methods more accessible i.e. technologies including instant messaging and chat plus video and file sharing. These ‘new methods’ are not new per se, but their widespread usage across the mobile landscape is comparatively less prevalent than, say, straightforward voice calls and SMS texting. RCS is also branded as Joyn and today supports the aforementioned ‘rich’ mobile services.

The theory then is as follows: first we will see high speed 4G LTE become more widespread, then ever-more powerful smartphones are developed and so ultimately we will see richer cloud-based RCS-compliant apps developed to serve mobile devices from a virtualised backend.

The GSMA is convinced that consumers are hungry for access to the entertainment and interaction offered by RCS-based apps; and then there is the multiplying effect brought about by so-called Over The Top (OTT) providers such as Skype or Viber. Earning their OTT label as they seek to provide new communication services "over the top" of the operator’s network layer for free, these companies are keen exploit the opportunity to push broadband audio and video without an operator in control of the content itself and its distribution.

If this is the way the market is moving, then there is a technology tipping point that must also now be addressed says SAP’s Diarmuid Mallon. He points out that our smartphones have rich camera and video display functions, the 4G networks are capable of handling the file sizes, but a management layer (or something at least) is needed in order for these applications to be transmitted and function properly.

SAP has recently launched its cloud-based Rich Communication Services 365 (SAP RCS 365) mobile service. This seeks to enable "pay-as-you-go/grow" model so that mobile operators can avoid the capital expenditure and complexity of deploying RCS within their networks. Removing the need for investment and resource-intensive change to core networks helps reduce time to market and this (in theory) enables an operator to create “innovative” new cloud based mobile app services.

President of SAP mobile services John Sims has said that in today's evolving mobile environment, new competitors offering innovative IP-based services threaten the operator’s position. “They must respond by rethinking their business models and innovating new service offerings. SAP RCS 365 allows mobile operators to quickly and cost-effectively launch such services while the SAP IPX 365 mobile service allows them to be interconnected to our ecosystem of mobile operators around the world."

One suspects that SAP is also engineering its HANA in-memory platform to underpin the firm’s efforts in its mobile services division. The operator can focus on selling and marketing new mobile cloud services, while SAP’s back room engines help shoulder the data engineering and analytics burden as well as maintenance and scaling.

It’s not exactly a rebirth of mobile cloud, more of an enrichment if you like. If we expected the next big thing in mobile cloud to come from amazing apps, it may rather more likely come from the ‘grease and gears’ end of operator interconnection services in this way.

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