& cplSiteName &

Will Telecom's 'Open' Be Natural or Organic?

Carol Wilson
7/15/2014
50%
50%

I've been sharing thoughts on telecom's most recent fixation on "open" technology for several months, but I admit it isn't entirely clear to me how committed service providers and vendors are to changing their ways when it comes to moving off telecom-specific gear.

At our Big Telecom Event in June, I had a chance to talk with Neela Jacques, executive director of OpenDaylight , and get his opinion on this topic. Jacques was in Chicago for only a day or so. He had spent most of the previous month continent hopping in his role as head of the group creating an open approach to software-defined networking controllers.

He shared with me an analogy he has been generally sharing, so it may sound familiar, but it also struck me as quite apt. The two approaches to adopting "open" technology in telecom can be compared to two different approaches that developed over the last decade or more for selling healthier food. One approach involves products with the word "natural" on the label. The other involves products with "organic" on the label.

"Almost anyone can label their products 'natural,'" Jacques said. "But if you want to label your product 'organic,' you have to be willing to meet a specific set of guidelines that has been adopted by the USDA."

The difference is simple -- "natural" grew up in the commercial world and was used willy-nilly until it became meaningless. "Organic" was a term that food producers who were working without chemicals were willing to sit down and define, even though doing so meant compromising on what might have been the ideal standard, Jacques said.

It is then up to consumers to vote with their dollars on which products they are willing to buy -- pay less, and you likely get "natural" stuff that is not necessarily any healthier than the regular fare. Much of it comes loaded with chemicals. Pay more, and you get something that has earned the right to be called "organic" -- and you know exactly what you are getting for that price.

In the same way, "open" can become diluted if vendors use it as a label but don't adhere to truly open standards. There are many ways to avoid being truly open, even when it comes to application programming interfaces (APIs), one of the most common tools of the open realm, Jacques told me.

In some cases, vendors can open an API to the world but then change it, even subtly, without working with others on the change, calling it an improvement. A so-called open API can be published but remain entirely controlled by a single vendor. Or an API can be only partially open; it is essentially private, even if it is shared among developers that meet some approval criterion.

OpenDaylight is taking a truly open approach. Many companies contributed code to create its open-source controller, and that controller can now be embedded in any participating vendor's product. But any changes made to the code -- i.e., improvements -- must be shared and offered back to the entire OD community. (See OpenDaylight Unveils Open-Source SDN Controller.)

That's what gives vendors pause. A company that has what it perceives as a market advantage is loath to lose that by engaging in a collaborative process that requires sharing of its advantage, especially if they can look "open" by incorporating some elements of openness.

"We have right now a situation where companies are acting slightly open but screaming that they are very open," he said.

If service providers vote with their dollars -- as consumers can at the grocery store -- what they wind up with may look very natural but not very organic.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
7/16/2014 | 7:36:14 PM
Re: Verizon
Karl,

Certainly there has been more lip service paid to being "open" than real openess among the carriers - for many of the same reasons their vendors don't want to be truly open, because they see it messing up their business plans. 
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
7/16/2014 | 7:33:22 PM
Re: Making the Business Case is More Important
brookseven,

Sorry for the delay in response, but you make an excellent point that is actually closer to what I should have said when I said operators vote with their money. They do, in fact, have to embrace a new way of working with suppliers that works to the advantage of both partners. I don't know that we've seen that yet. 

Food for thought, and another article. 
KBode
50%
50%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/16/2014 | 6:51:08 PM
Verizon
Good food for thought, Carol. Verizon is the first to come to mind when it comes to empty rhetoric on this front -- the company breathlessly insisting they love open devices and networks since 2007 if not before, yet they're one of the worst carriers anywhere when it comes to actually letting consumers use the services and software of their choice. Whether it was their war on third party GPS apps or their more-recent attack on Google Wallet....

 

https://www.verizonwireless.com/news/2007/11/pr2007-11-27.html
TomNolle
50%
50%
TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/15/2014 | 2:02:29 PM
Re: Making the Business Case is More Important
Certainly the potential is there, Mitch, but NFV's loftier goals also demand loftier thinking at the implementation level.  In the end, I think NFV could create "service models" that would frame SDN services beyond simple Etherhet and IP, though, and it's hard to see how that could happen without NFV.
brookseven
50%
50%
brookseven,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/15/2014 | 1:21:57 PM
Re: Making the Business Case is More Important
Hi Carol,

Open as opposed to proprietary.  Cisco CLI is proprietary and yet it is highly duplicated and reused.  There is plenty of Open Standards that go nowhere.

Standards become important when they are deployed broadly.  APIs the same.  Open Source the same.

I think the fundamental problem in Telecom is the time to adopt and change.  The IT domain absorbe new technology at a much higher rate.  On top of that, there is a massive number of customers.  This means that even if you don't land one, there are 100s or 1000s more that might.  In the telecom world, there are what 3 carriers in the telco side that matter.  If you add in wireless and cable, that number climbs to 12 maybe?  Globally maybe 50?

This means that the fundamental structure the telecom market has taken is really challenged to fund and execute change.  Let's just use the margin model.  In general, a supplier will NOT have a higher margin than their customers.  If they do, over time competition will come in and drive supplier margin down to at or below the customer margin.

Okay, how does this relate to the topic?  You have to make an assumption as a supplier that you have to relentlessly cut R&D expenses.  This is because you are going after a limited market against many competitors.  The only way you win is to spend less, since ALL markets will commoditize at the start (This is a really bad market structure to enter by the way)  You have to get the Operators to understand that this is the position they have created.  Open Source and Open Standards can help lower the cost of R&D.  So, I think efforts like OpenNFV or anything else need to be positioned to lower the oost of development, integration and deployment.  If they don't then essentially they become yet another burden.

seven

 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/15/2014 | 1:20:09 PM
Furthering the metaphor

You can take the metaphor further: In many cases, organic food is no healthier than factory-farmed. A fresh apple is a fresh apple. And organic growing doesn't scale to feed 7 billion hungry people. 

My point is that open is not automatically better just because it's open. 

On the danger of tricks vendors play with open standards: Microsoft in its prime was famous for "embrace and extend" -- take an open standard and add extensions to make it effectively proprietary. 

Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/15/2014 | 1:19:11 PM
Re: Making the Business Case is More Important
I think that's one reason NFV might be an easier sell than SDN. With NFV, the business value is more straightforward: Get products out to customers faster and with less hassle. 

With SDN, it's all about managing the network, something the CFO doesn't really care about. He's paying network managers to do that. 
TomNolle
50%
50%
TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/15/2014 | 10:09:37 AM
Re: Making the Business Case is More Important
IMHO, software projects have to start with business goals, move to technology models, to architectures, and then to a component/object model set for implementation.  To me, it's clear that operators and enterprises both believe that next-gen networks will have to be justified based on agility and operations efficiency, so I'd start with those goals and then drill down to how to achieve them.  I think that use cases test this approach against real situations.  For the OPN specifically the challenge will be to avoid "implicit vendor lockin" that arises because the main supporters of these open-source communities are the vendors who want to lock you in!
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
7/15/2014 | 9:52:52 AM
Re: Making the Business Case is More Important
Good point, Tom. What do you think the 'open' communities, like the new Open NFV effort, can do differently or better? Should they be developing the business case or new business models?
TomNolle
50%
50%
TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/15/2014 | 9:07:43 AM
Making the Business Case is More Important
Operators tell me that the big problem with "open" approaches is that they're still bogged down in lower layers of technology and so they haven't yet addressed (and maybe never will address) the business case.  Vendors like Cisco have driven their SDN strategy from the top down, so they start with the business/application connection.  If you have to pick between an SDN story that you can get past the CFO but is less open, or a fully open one you'll never get approved, you make the only choice you can.
More Blogs from Rewired
The Senate's vote to cut privacy rules for ISPs just means there's no longer confusion on Internet privacy protection because there isn't any.
Under Ajit Pai, the FCC is doing what major telecom players have wanted by rolling back regulations. Now we'll see if this fuels innovation and consumer benefits.
Sometimes it's not technology issues slowing virtualization, it's the buying and selling process, vendors say, and they'd like an industry solution.
The telecom industry is in a period of rapid change, but then that's been true now for decades. The pace may change but the problems and even some of the solutions seem to repeat themselves.
AT&T pulls back from offering Gigapower customers a chance to protect their privacy for a price, even as FCC considers making it mandatory.
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
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
CommScope – Meeting the Demands of Tomorrow's Networks

3|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


Phil Sorksy, Vice President International at CommScope, discusses addressing the challenges faced by service providers today, and as future trends emerge.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
AMS-IX & Huawei's OSN 902

3|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei shows how its OSN 902 platform helps the Amsterdam Internet exchange to connect the world using multiplexing.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Smart Energy Innovation Center

3|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In Nuremberg, Huawei showcases its latest capabilities in the digitalization of Internet resources, network infrastructure and intelligence at its Smart Energy Innovation Center.
Valley Wonk
OFC & Hyperscale: A Good Mix?

3|24|17   |   01:50   |   (0) comments


Cloud and telecom players want different types of equipment for their networks, as the chatter at OFC reveals.
LRTV Custom TV
Etisalat on NFV Journey

3|24|17   |   10:37   |   (0) comments


Etisalat is a service provider that prides itself on bringing innovative technologies to the markets it serves. It was one of the first operators to implement 3G and leads the pack in fiber penetration. Now, Esmaeel Al Hammadi, Etisalat's SVP of Network Development, explains the operator's journey to virtualization, beginning with the network core, as well as the ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at CeBIT 2017: Day 3

3|22|17   |     |   (1) comment


Light Reading reports from CeBIT 2017 in Germany, where Huawei is exhibiting on the application of technologies and key business verticals such as transportation, smart city, manufacturing, media and finance.
LRTV Documentaries
No Regrets: Cox's Finkelstein on Fiber & More

3|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


At the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event in Denver, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein examines the cable capex conundrum.
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Next-Gen: The 'Mile High' View From Denver

3|22|17   |   11:56   |   (0) comments


Alan Breznick kicks off the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event in Denver, casting his thousand-yard stare over cable's current competitive landscape.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at CeBIT 2017: Day 2

3|21|17   |   2:27   |   (0) comments


Light Reading reports from CeBIT 2017 in Germany, where Huawei is exhibiting digital transformation solutions around IoT, smart data centers, OpenCloud ecosystem and its newly announced storage-as-a-service solution.
LRTV Custom TV
Driving Better Mobile Customer Experience While Transforming the Mobile Network

3|21|17   |   7:47   |   (0) comments


The Citrix NetScaler mobile gateway is an intelligent traffic management solution which can markedly improve the customer experience provided by mobile operators, even when traffic is encrypted. Critical network services can be consolidated and virtualized using NetScaler. Because of the unique architecture, NetScaler can be deployed on any hypervisor, on a ...
LRTV Custom TV
Mastercard: What's Next for Mobile Payments?

3|21|17   |   7:49   |   (0) comments


2017 marks the fifth consecutive year for Mastercard at Mobile World Congress and it was a great time to reflect on the amazing advances the payments industry has made as well as discuss "What's Next' in the digital commerce future. We spoke to James Anderson, executive vice president of digital payments at MasterCard, about digital wallets to tokenization to ...
LRTV Custom TV
Mastercard: 2 Billion Adults 'Trapped' in Cash Economy

3|21|17   |   03:51   |   (1) comment


Despite advances made in the last several years, two billion adults around the world are trapped in a cash economy and lack what we take for granted -- a safe way to receive, save and use money. Shamina Singh, executive vice president of sustainability and president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, chats about how Mastercard is developing new ways to ...
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, 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
High-Band 5G: Let's Address the Range Question, Shall We?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/21/2017
Eurobites: A1, Nokia Turn It Up to 11
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 3/22/2017
FTTH No Slam Dunk for Cable
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/23/2017
Welcome to the Wild West of Privacy
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/24/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
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.
At MWC 2017, Qualcomm's CTO Matt Grob talks to Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders about the progress being made in the development of the technologies and standards that will underpin 5G.
Animals with Phones
Neither Do We Click Here
Is that a prerequisite?
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.