& cplSiteName &

Time for a Telecom Reboot

Steve Saunders
4/19/2017
92%
8%

May you live in interesting times.

That apocryphal Chinese curse provides a fitting label for the 2017 telecom market, as we find ourselves mired in an unprecedented mess -- one that's bad for business for everyone in the entire supply chain of next-gen communications.

The root cause? Virtualization! (In both its NFV and SDN flavors.) For years, the industry has been "bigging up" virtualization as the next great telecom revolution, a way to build cost-effective software-based networks to support the emerging digital global economy. But so far the only CSPs that have been brave -- or foolish -- enough to deploy virtualization have found it to be an expensive and time-consuming exercise in frustration, one that has yet to deliver on either cost savings and or new revenues.

To fix this situation we first need to understand what's gone wrong: For 150 years, the telecom industry has owed its success to a clearly defined and proven process for standardizing new network technologies. Then along came virtualization and for some reason we got it into our heads that it would be a great idea to just up and abandon our standards-based best practices altogether, instead developing virtualization by punting it over the fence into a baffling array of open source groups and industry consortia (each loaded with a full boat of personal, corporate, and political agendas, incidentally).

This was a particularly inauspicious start -- and here we are, after four years of intensive work on NFV, and we're really no closer to figuring this thing out than when we started -- with no strong industry standard defining it. (ETSI's efforts don't count; being akin to the "Code" in Pirates of the Caribbean… more of a guideline really.)

Why is this a problem? Because without standards there can be no certification testing; without certification testing there can be no interoperability; and without interoperability service providers are in the same place they were in the 1990s: locked in to buying overpriced proprietary solutions from incumbent equipment vendors.

Further, without the competitive kick in the pants created by a competitive, heterogeneous, interoperable environment, vendors have failed to deliver solutions that are fit for service providers' purpose. Today, it takes an average of six months for Tier 1 service providers just to get the NFVi code from the industry's leading infrastructure vendors to work -- not really what anyone would call "out of the box" software. And typically service providers have to pay the systems integration division of the NFVi vendor to do that work… talk about jobs for the boys.

So that's half a year of expensive integration work just to get the NFV plumbing to work.

But wait -- there's worse! The value of virtualized networks is supposed to lie in the magnificent variety of new services that run over them. But the fact is that NFVi vendors have been paying lip service to a vague concept of "openness" while simultaneously maintaining the proprietary software and hardware hooks that have kept them profitably in business for the last two decades. Which means that at the end of that six-month installation period, carriers are finding that the only services they can run over that infrastructure are the VNFs that are sold by -- correct! -- the same company that sold them the infrastructure.

This is:

1. Not good enough!

2. The exact opposite of what service providers were told to expect from NFV.

Making things worse, issues within the virtualization sector are having a corrosive effect on the commercial prospects for the wider telecom industry. Growing frustration on the part of CSPs with the shoddy state of the technology has prompted them to push their virtualization plans back -- or postpone them altogether. That's left mega-corporations like Nokia, Cisco, and Ericsson with a big fat hole in their bookings ledgers where those sales of virtualization technology and services were supposed to sit. And that, in turn, has sent an icy chill through the rest of the telecom ecosystem, derailing the growth and sending the industry into what is starting to feel more like a death spiral than a market correction.

So who's to blame for this situation?

Let's start with the open source community. With its insanely complicated, quasi-anarchic, happy-clappy, "we don't like standards" approach, open source's approach to developing code works fine if you're crowd-coding an Internet browser (or a spot of freeware Donkey Kong) but the effect of the open source process on the telecom market has been toxic. What we need to do is take the innovation and the ideas from open source and then superimpose telecom's unique brand of discipline and standards over them -- something which simply has not happened yet.

Let's take a moment to wag the giant foam finger of admonishment at enterprise vendors, also. They leapt -- like a salmon! -- on virtualization as an opportunity to compete with their telco vendor counterparts to start building carrier networks, arguing that what we're really talking about here is building virtualized cloud networks. "Nobody builds cloud networks like we do," they Trumped. The problem with that line is that enterprise cloud and telco cloud have totally different requirements, and it turns out that enterprise vendors are actually a bit shit at building telco nets (see Telefónica Ditches HPE as Virtualization Lead). (This should not, perhaps, come as a huge surprise. HPE has been a bit shit at doing anything other than being a bit shit for as long as most of us can remember. The idea that it could suddenly and overnight -- hey presto! -- become not shit at building the largest and most demanding telecom networks in the world was always questionable.)

Trade publishers (ahem), analyst firms (sorry) and so-called experts in general also should be called out for hyping the possibilities without paying more attention to the realities.

But the demographic that must take most of the blame for the current very real virtualization cataclysm is, of course, the telecom community as a whole -- for allowing ourselves to be wooed by the promise of virtualization and abandoning the first principles that have successfully guided us, as an industry, since the 19th century. How do we get back on track from here? As an industry, we need to stop the crazy train and get back to basics.

That process starts with defining realistic goals. I've heard a lot of hoo-hah over the last few years about how the end point for service providers is a DevOps environment like the one found in enterprise networks. This is, to use a technical term, complete bollocks! Excepting OTTs, the vast majority of service providers and CSPs have neither the culture nor the skill set to implement DevOps -- even if they wanted to. And they don't. One of the supposed benefits of a DevOps environment is that it allows constant changes to be made to network services. That's fine in an enterprise world, if you like that kind of thing (and enterprise IT departments seem to live for it) but on a telecom network it's just about the last thing CSPs want to deal with.

What service providers actually want is what they were promised when NFV first emerged: specifically, to be able to implement the best and most popular (and most profitable) mix of services by picking and choosing from an online marketplace chock full of "best in class" services and applications, developed by specialist third parties, in the sure and certain knowledge that these VNFs are absolutely guaranteed to run over the NFV infrastructure they have in place. Creating this virtualization free market technology economy is not as hard as we've made it look. But it will require us, as an industry, to pick one API (one, yes? As in, less than two, FFS!) between the NFVi layer and the VNFs that run over it, and standardize on it.

FYI, for the last six months, working alongside the not for profit New IP Agency (NIA), I've been reaching out behind scenes of the telecom industry to gather the support required to standardize on just such an API specification, and launch an independent certification program based on it.

I'll be sharing more information about the NIA's plan in my column here in a couple of weeks' time but I can promise you that it will be very good news for the industry -- probably the best news we've had in this very challenging year, inshallah.

— Stephen Saunders, Founder and CEO, Light Reading

(61)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 7   >   >>
forskolinfuel
50%
50%
forskolinfuel,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/30/2017 | 4:38:58 AM
Re: -Time for Telecom Reboot phen qforskolin reviewphen 375great article
At this point, for instance, Verizon is succeeding in spite of some pretty strange management decisions, none of which have anything to do with virtualization. 
forskolinfuel
50%
50%
forskolinfuel,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/30/2017 | 4:35:27 AM
Re: -Woefulphenq reviewsforskolin reviewsphen375 reviewsgreat article
The telecom industry is at the heart of the 21st-century global economy. There's no Google, no Amazon, no nothin' without CSPs enabling all this digital transformation stuff. It requires work, and commitment, and patience, and money. Those are all factors that CSPs can do something about. Whining accomplishes nothing positive.
Coenal
50%
50%
Coenal,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/30/2017 | 1:53:12 AM
Woeful
The telecom industry is at the heart of the 21st-century global economy. There's no Google, no Amazon, no nothin' without CSPs enabling all this digital transformation stuff. It requires work, and commitment, and patience, and money. Those are all factors that CSPs can do something about. Whining accomplishes nothing positive.
Coenal
50%
50%
Coenal,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/29/2017 | 1:23:28 AM
Virtualisation and vendor lock-in at BSS level
Virtualisation is supposed to deliver a more open ecosystem that allows operators to use best of breed solutions and steer clear of vendor lock in. At the OSS and BSS level many vendors are adopting virtualisation to enable this – while some are trying to maintain lock-in and supply everything to operators. On the BSS side there's more than one way to get away from vendor lock in. What we've seen is the use of adjunct systems, e.g. real-time OCS implemented in front of legacy billing systems, work well. Most specialist vendors want open and easily interoperable systems – any industry advances against vendor lock in closed shops are to be welcomed
Coenal
50%
50%
Coenal,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/28/2017 | 12:21:11 PM
Time for Telecom Reboot
At this point, for instance, Verizon is succeeding in spite of some pretty strange management decisions, none of which have anything to do with virtualization. 
brooks7
50%
50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/28/2017 | 12:17:34 PM
Re: Its Not Virtualization -- but the Foundation
@Duh!,

Good one. 

seven
Duh!
50%
50%
Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/27/2017 | 6:57:21 PM
Re: Its Not Virtualization -- but the Foundation
"Lets go back to 1993, and reimagine how IP routing could and should work."

We did.  It was called ATM. The Betamax of networking technologies.
Coenal
50%
50%
Coenal,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/27/2017 | 3:08:08 PM
Agree with you
Agree with you, the telecom industry is at the heart of the 21st-century global economy...
forskolinfuel
50%
50%
forskolinfuel,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/26/2017 | 10:40:00 PM
Re: Virtualize or Automate?forskolin reviewsphen qphen 375
Hmm... thanks for valuable info
Kevin Mitchell
100%
0%
Kevin Mitchell,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/26/2017 | 9:21:54 PM
Focus on Business Outcomes in Choosing Your Virtualization Path
If the goal is more revenue and lower cost by implementing "the best and most popular (and most profitable) mix of services by picking and choosing from an online marketplace chock full of 'best in class' services and applications", then buying NFVI this and integrating VNF that isn't necessarily the way to do it. 

We've been saying for years that operators need to look at business outcomes and evaluate the various paths to virtualization. Cloud building or cloud sourcing are the choices; look at the application in question and which path best maximizes the chance at realizing those outcomes. In many cases it will make sense to build a new virtualized network to support multiple applications.

Given the state and future direction of voice and UC we believe that, for the vast majority of operators, that cloud sourcing is the best way forward (yes, the global top 100 will build an NFV IMS network and complete that in 2023 or thereabouts). Why cloud source virtualized VoIP? It's lower cost (and no CAPEX) with a success-based business model, operationally simple, and it's tremendously most agile than software on premises. Oh, and CSPs get to spend dollars and people focus on other initiatives while still owning and delivering a modern communications services for its customers.

Yes, this CSP VoIP cloud sourcing is what we do (and first to do it). But the traditional VoIP players are getting into this game too (BroadSoft BroadCloud is the fastest growing part of its business, GENBAND is a KANDY junkie and Metaswitch has joined the club).

A Heavy Reading study confirmed this too: 83% of CSP respondents said that it was somewhat or very likely that they'd use a XaaS option for replacing or augmenting network infrastructure. And, along with building VoIP, cloud voice platforms was a top voice network evolution path. Read more here -> Heavy Reading: Cloud Defines a New Voice Strategy.

 

 
Page 1 / 7   >   >>
More Blogs from From the Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
The more things change, the more they stay the same for Juniper's next-gen comms solutions, and that's a good thing.
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
Download our complete guide to de-risking NFV deployment in 2016, including:
  • An eight-step strategy to deploying NFV safely, based on input from the companies that have already started virtualizing their production networks.
  • Interviews with leading executives at Colt, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Cisco, Nokia, ZTE, Ericsson and Heavy Reading.
  • From The Founder
    Either we perform a complete 'factory reset' on the way the telecom industry creates and deploys virtualization, or we face the consequences.
    Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    Charting the CSP's Future
    Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
    LRTV Custom TV
    The Urgency of Commercial 5G Services

    4|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


    The progress of 5G has been closely monitored in the industry. At the 2017 Brooklyn 5G Summit, the sense of urgency for a commercial 5G launch had started to surface among operators.
    Women in Comms Introduction Videos
    How Diversity Helps Comcast Mirror Its Customer Base

    4|26|17   |   2:55   |   (0) comments


    Diversity brings innovation, creative ideas and a way to reflect the broad spectrum of your customer base, Comcast Director of Customer Experience Jenelle Champlin says.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Mobile Operators & Video

    4|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Ovum's Ed Barton discusses the latest mobile operator strategies for mobile video.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Infinera Introduces Instant Network

    4|20|17   |     |   (1) comment


    Mike Capuano, vice president of marketing at Infinera, discusses the advancement from Instant Bandwidth to new Instant Network capabilities, which include Bandwidth License Pools, Moveable Licenses and Automated Capacity Engineering (ACE).
    Women in Comms Introduction Videos
    Vodafone's Eubank on Sponsors, Mentors & Moving On Up

    4|19|17   |   4:25   |   (0) comments


    Vodafone America's Head of Operations Kimberly Eubank breaks down the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and shares why both made a big difference in her career.
    LRTV Custom TV
    NYC Auto Show: Are We Smart Yet?

    4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


    The auto industry is facing some big transformations as electric vehicles, autonomous technology and connected cars are seen as the future of the industry. During the much-anticipated NY international auto show, there was an emergence of new technology and mobility service on the show floor. Aside from performance, brands like Lincoln, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes and ...
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    The Impact of Video

    4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


    David Mercer from Strategy Analytics discusses the impact of video on current strategies.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Pardeep Kohli Discusses Network Transformation & the Market Opportunity for the 'New' Mavenir Systems

    4|13|17   |     |   (0) comments


    In a brief discussion at MWC 2017, Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore talks to Pardeep Kohli, CEO, Mavenir Systems about the creation of the 'new Mavenir' and some of the key challenges facing operators in today's market. A key theme of the discussion centers around operator need for software-only, virtualized solutions and how they will need to adapt to ...
    Women in Comms Introduction Videos
    Tech Maverick Shares Her Tips for Gender Inclusivity

    4|12|17   |   7:28   |   (0) comments


    Wendy Hall Bohling, a corporate escapee, author and gender exclusivity consultant, tells her story of sexism, bias and progress along the road to gender equality in the workforce.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Huawei at MWC 2017

    4|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


    At Mobile World Congress 2017, the biggest mobile industry gathering of the year, Huawei showcased its new innovations and solutions with the theme "Open Road," which focuses on cloud, 5G, operation transformation, videos and consumer-oriented products. Its campaign has been recognized by three awards given by GSMA.
    LRTV Custom TV
    China Telecom NFV Infrastructure on RSD

    4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Lynn Comp, senior director of market development of Intel, is joined by Chong Zhang, storage engineer at Inspur and Ou Li Yan, architect for technology strategies of China Telecom, for a discussion of what NFV brings.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Nokia's IMPACT Software Demo

    4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Khamis Abulgubein of IoT market development at Nokia demonstrates IMPACT (intelligent management platform for all connected things), a software solution with a horizontal approach to managing any device on any application.
    Upcoming Live Events
    May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    May 15, 2017, Brazos Hall - Austin, TX
    May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
    June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
    Hot Topics
    Surprise! AT&T Markets 4G Advances as '5G Evolution'
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
    Did Verizon Outbid AT&T for Straight Path?
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
    Netflix Set to Enter China
    Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/25/2017
    First Year TIPs the Scale Toward Success
    Denise Culver, 4/24/2017
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
    TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
    Live Digital Audio

    Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.