The past few years have seen accelerated rates of digital transformation across almost every industry and sector. Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a broad swathe of industries across the globe saw a decade’s worth of transformation in a matter of months. That momentum has continued beyond the pandemic too. But if the benefits of digital transformation are to continue accruing, then carriers and operators must keep evolving.
But, what is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.
They are, after all, enablers of so much of the infrastructure that’s crucial to digital transformation. Aside from connectivity, things like cloud services and the Internet of Things (IoT) would be all but impossible without them. They also help ensure that organisations have better security and data protection, are able to scale flexibly, and can more easily collaborate with various technology providers, businesses, and startups to foster innovation.
Why does digital transformation matter?
A business may take on digital transformation for several reasons. But by far, the most likely reason is that they have to: It’s a survival issue. Here, improving the customer experience is a top priority at most organizations. Digital transformation efforts rely on digital technology to convert customer insight into customer-centric products and services. This helps organizations to better engage customers – and gain even more value for the business.
In a nutshell, digital transformation can help businesses save costs by reducing manual labor, streamlining processes and improving productivity. For example, by adopting cloud storage, businesses can save on hardware costs and reduce the need for physical storage.
Put in another way, it enables businesses to modernize legacy processes, accelerate efficient workflows, strengthen security, and increase profitability.
It changes the way an organization operates. Systems, processes, workflow, and culture are all part of this process. This transformation affects each level of an organization and brings together data across areas to work together more effectively.
By taking advantage of workflow automation and advanced processing, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), companies can connect the dots on the customer journey in a way that wasn’t possible before.
For many companies, the driver for digital transformation is cost-related. Moving data to a public, private, or hybrid cloud environment lowers operational costs. It frees up hardware and software costs while freeing up team members to work on other projects.
As Liu Kang, president of Huawei Global Carrier Marketing & Solution Sales Dept recently explained at MWC Shanghai, “In the telecommunication industry, operators have always been the leaders and enablers of digital transformation.”
“Operators have not only continuously optimised and accumulated their own innovation capabilities during digital transformation,” he added, “but also enabled digital upgrade in thousands of industries, which has accumulated huge innovation potential.”
He backed this up by illustrating how carriers and operators have historically embraced technological shifts and evolved accordingly.
Among consumers, for example, operators have changed from providing simple voice services to providing ubiquitous gigabit and implementing intelligent interaction. For industry, meanwhile, the shift to digital production from office digitalisation to marketing and customer service digitalisation is inseparable from the overflow of capabilities accumulated during carriers’ digital transformation.
Looking forward, Liu added, it will be important for carriers to build three new capabilities of digital transformation.
The first is the infrastructure layer, which transforms ICT collaboration into the ability to elastic integrate strategic resources.
“One of the most intuitive manifestations is that connections are moving from 100 Mbit/s uplink, Gbit/s downlink, and cloud native capabilities to new connections with typical characteristics such as Gbit/s uplink, 10 Gbit/s downlink, and endogenous intelligence,” Liu said. “On this basis, the combination of network + computing, the requirements of cloud-network synergy, cloud-edge collaboration, and cloud-device synergy are emerging.”
The second is the operation layer, which converts massive data into the ability to cope with complex scenarios in an agile manner. From data aggregation, to data aggregation + intelligent support further accelerates data transfer in people’s production and life activities, enables smart operations throughout the entire process and business, and directly doubles experience and efficiency. And the continuous innovation of the model.
The third is the digital service layer, which transforms advantageous services into the ability to quickly stimulate innovation. With digital transformation, operators can fully exploit the advantages of SIM, which is a natural entry point, and provide more innovative digital services.
In order to support this evolution, Huawei has introduced several new product lines aimed at helping carriers transform from Internet service providers to managed service providers and seize new opportunities in digital transformation, thereby driving new growth.
At MWC Shanghai, Steven Zhao, Vice President of Huawei’s Data Communication Product Line, stated that Huawei launched its digital managed network solution and products in February 2023, which received positive feedback from carriers around the world. Many of them carried out digitally managed network services (such as Managed LAN, Managed WAN, Managed Security, and Managed DCN) on top of traditional IP private lines and upgraded their transport networks to improve IP private line quality assurance and automation capabilities. This not only enables the rapid growth of these carriers’ B2B services but also significantly improves enterprise customer experience at lower service costs.
Zhao added that carriers can expand the B2B market by upselling managed services (such as Managed LAN and Managed Security) to existing private line customers, and this will allow carriers to quickly transform from ISPs to MSPs. Huawei’s digital managed network solution enables carriers to achieve rapid revenue growth in the B2B market by providing innovative digital transformation solutions for SMEs, accelerating the digital transformation of numerous industries, and promoting social and economic development.
During MWC Shanghai Huawei also launched several products and solutions aimed at building trustworthy data infrastructure that will help carriers better grow and cope with changing industry trends.
Huawei’s IT Product Line President Peter Zhou noted that these products and solutions are designed to help overcome the many technical challenges facing carriers currently, including a lack of strong multi-cloud ecosystems, the recent explosion of generative AI apps, and the weak resilience of data. As such, he said, “Huawei is focused on helping carriers through these issues by ensuring that they’re equipped to deal with new types of apps, new forms of data, and to build new forms of resilience.”
New Apps: Accelerating valuable data acquisition through data paradigms
Carrier-built data centres are currently turning to multi-cloud deployment models. Similarly, enterprises are operating an increasing number of cloud-native apps in their data centres. These changes are increasing the performance and reliability requirements set for industrial container storage. Zhou explained that Huawei’s solutions are well-positioned to help carriers adapt to these changes. For example, more than 40 carriers have chosen Huawei’s container storage solution.
Generative AI is also being introduced to many parts of carriers’ businesses, including network operations, customer service, and B2B large language model (LLM) training. This is changing the data paradigm and storage architecture. Faced with the exponential increase of LLM parameters and data, time-consuming data preprocessing, and unstable training process, the Huawei AI storage solution uses cutting-edge technologies like efficient backup and recovery of checkpoints, channel-associated data processing, and vectorized indexing to accelerate data preprocessing, powering the LLM training that houses trillions of parameters.
New Data: Resolving problems from data gravity with intelligent data fabric
In addition to having to handle new types of apps, data centres are also facing new challenges thanks to surges in data volume. In the past, cloud data centres mainly used an integrated server architecture that couples apps with local disks. Now, this method is resulting in wasted resources, poor performance, and low reliability. It also limits carriers’ ability to expand flexibly.
The explosive increase in data has also resulted in severe increases in data gravity, which makes data more difficult to access or move from distant systems or locations. Zhou explained that Huawei is tackling this issue by using an intelligent data fabric that provides unified global data views and scheduling functions across multiple systems, regions, and clouds.
New Resilience: Building intrinsic storage resilience capabilities
The final area Zhou said Huawei was trying to tackle was storage resilience. While traditional data security systems focused on preventing disruption from physical threats, like natural disasters, they are struggling to deal with the increase in human threats that are plaguing the digital world, like ransomware and malicious attacks. To tackle this issue, Huawei created the ransomware protection storage solution which ensures multi-layer protection and intrinsic storage resilience, building the last line of defense for data security. Up to now, more than 50 strategic customers have chosen the solution of Huawei.
All of these solutions have applications in East African countries, such as Tanzania and Kenya. While the latter in particular has long been a leader in the African technology space and last year was ranked the second-most digitally mature country on the continent after South Africa.
Its carriers and operators are also relatively mature and therefore well-placed to adapt and evolve to the latest digital transformation requirements of the business sector. Doing so will also be critical when it comes to ensuring growth both among their customers and the broader economy.
As Liu said in anticipation of the future: “A new wave of intelligent digital era is coming and Huawei will continue to work with the industry to continuously promote digital transformation and accelerate the transformation of innovation potential into industry development momentum.”