Telefónica Battles Big Data Hype
AMSTERDAM -- Daniel Rodriguez Sierra is on a mission: To ride the Big Data hype wave and come out the other side with a set of processes and technology platforms that can deliver tangible benefits to the various operating businesses and special units that comprise his parent company, Telefónica SA.
Speaking here at TeleManagement Forum (TM Forum)'s Big Data Analytics Summit, Rodriguez Sierra said that the industry hype around the term Big Data was intense, but added that "the opportunity is here too." (See The Big Data Challenge: 10 Tips for Telcos.)
And the opportunity is one for him to grab. As director for Enterprise Architecture and Information & BI Technology at Telefónica's Global Technology group, which manages the Spanish carrier's IT systems and strategy across its entire operations (found in Latin America and Europe), Rodriguez Sierra and his team is developing a new strategy to cope with the volumes and types of data that, historically, have not existed. "The best definition of Big Data I have heard so far is that it's any data we can't process rationally with the existing technology we have," he noted.
But while recognizing that something needs to be done to benefit from the mass of data Telefónica has in its systems, Rodriguez Sierra, who has been engaged in business intelligence activities for years, has been quite cautious in his approach to Big Data. "How much value will a terabyte of data give us? We need to invest according to value -- we can't just continue to expand our existing architecture we have for business intelligence."
Despite those ongoing concerns -- "the entrance cost is high, the TCO [total cost of ownership] uncertain" -- the operator is taking a number of steps towards a set of processes and approaches that can be adopted company-wide (i.e. in the traditional service provider operations and across the various units within the operator's new division, Telefónica Digital).
But that doesn't mean there's only one way to tackle Big Data within Telefónica. While Rodriguez Sierra is working towards having a uniform underlying data warehouse platform across the company and having a cloud-based set of tools that any part of the company can use, he is encouraging different approaches and "embracing change."
Across the group there's a desire to use data from networks to identify ways to enhance customers' data service experience, improve video optimization, better enable bandwidth control techniques and improve policy enforcement.
In addition, he notes there are a number of analytics experiments underway at different operating units, including Vivo in Brazil, which is pushing ahead with projects around location analysis, Web navigation analysis based on deep packet inspection (DPI) data, and call center message analysis.
Meanwhile, the team at Telefónica Digital has created a Big Data business unit called Dynamic Insights that is developing tools and services that can be utilized by the carrier and its customers. The first product, which uses mobile network data to identify the factors that influence people's location at any particular time, is already being promoted to corporate and public sector customers. (See Telefónica Creates 'Big Data' Unit.)
So there's plenty of internal analytics/business intelligence development ongoing across Telefónica, but Rodriguez Sierra is also deploying external expertise and technology to advance Telefónica's Big Data strategy -- "we are technologically promiscuous," he quipped.
As these projects mature, Rodriguez Sierra is keeping his eye on a number of key ongoing challenges, most notably those around data privacy, costs (extracting useful data from network elements, probes and software systems is tough and expensive, in his experience), organizational barriers (internal cultural change does not happen overnight, he admitted) and governance issues.
"We're aware of the risks … and we don't have all the answers to all the problems, but we're working hard not to miss the opportunities," he concluded.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading