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Over the last few years, software vendors have been increasingly releasing cloud-native versions of their telecoms IT offerings to address communications service providers (CSP) need for scalability, flexibility, and the ability to roll out system upgrades and add new services, functions, and capabilities much more quickly.

Over the coming year we expect to see more of the same, with vendors embracing more frequent release updates of their products. For example, vendors such as Amdocs, Netcracker, Nokia, and Oracle have been transitioning to continuous release updates for products, as well as adopting the frameworks to make this possible.

However, despite the increased industry adoption of cloud-native architecture, most CSPs are still not yet ready to embrace Agile operating principles. In Omdia's ICT Enterprise Insights 2019/20 survey, only 31% considered the migration of IT systems to microservice-based architectures an important 2020 project; and only 28% of CSPs stated that moving to DevOps and Agile operations would be an important IT project for 2020.

These two project categories received some of the lowest rankings of any of the IT projects covered in the global survey of over 400 CSP decision makers. But even these relatively low percentages may present an overly optimistic picture, as what constitutes a project could be an initiative looking to explore and trial capabilities rather than a large-scale adoption in a full production environment.

Other research conducted by Omdia confirms that CSP adoption of cloud-native capabilities is still at a relatively nascent stage. Service providers may claim that they will make progress over the coming year around the adoption of continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), microservices-based telecoms IT systems, and DevOps tools and practices, but when you start to ask CSPs about specific activities – such as the implementation of containerized environments like Kubernetes and Docker – they often provide fewer positive responses which suggests that on the ground things are moving slower than industry rhetoric would suggest.

Also, a gap appears to have opened between some tier 0/tier 1 players, and much of the rest of the market. In 2020 we expect large CSPs to increasingly trial the adoption of cloud-native architectures and DevOps, but the rest of the industry looks like it will largely stick with current operating models.

This means that vendors will have to do more to lead the discussion and guide CSPs toward not just implementing cloud-native architectures, but also adopting DevOps and agile methodologies. It's clear that the majority of CSPs need this kind of support, not just to help them implement new management tools and processes and decide which applications to put in the cloud-native fast lane. But also, how to embrace the fundamental cultural shift and necessary organizational and governance changes required to enable CSPs to function in a cloud-native environment.