By this point, you may already be growing tired of the automation hype cycle. That's too bad, because as hype cycles go, this one is just getting started. By this time next year, you'll probably be feeling nostalgic for simpler days, when NFV was the leader of all hype, with 5G running a reasonably close second.
Ever mindful of its role as the telecom industry's most reliable trendspotter, Heavy Reading has just released a report that puts telecom automation in perspective -- or make that perspectives. Telecom Automation: Heavy Reading Perspectives delivers observations and insights from Heavy Reading's analyst team on the coming new automation age and how it will affect telecom industry ecosystems in these areas:
- Emerging technologies and services, such as IoT
- B/OSS transformation
- NFV MANO initiatives
- Wide-area network deployments (SD-WAN)
- Network security
That's a lot of ground to cover. And some of that ground is going to feel painful to tread for one simple reason: The telecom industry's road to automation is nothing but an uphill climb, and that journey is just beginning. And it's a steep, steep hill. Tree lines will be involved. And an encounter with the occasional yeti isn't out of the question.
Reasonable people facing a daunting, seemingly unending, and probably thankless task would ask a simple question: Why bother? As with all daunting, seemingly unending and probably thankless tasks, there are plenty of reasons to forgo the pain and leave the work to somebody else. These five almost immediately come to mind:
- Automation is hard. Really hard. Compared with true automation, virtualizing piece parts of a network is about as difficult as opening a screw-top bottle of Merlot. Automation will require bringing tens of thousands of those virtualized piece-parts together to create a machine that would let go of itself.
- It's going to take a long time to build an autonomous network. To borrow the well-used line from John Maynard Keynes: In the long run we are all dead -- or enjoying the golden years scouting the early-bird specials and complaining about how much better the world used to be. If you remember what things were like before Al Gore invented the Internet, you may be put out to pasture before the job is done. So why do all this work to make things easier for some kids you don't even know?
- The web guys have a huge head start. CSPs may be milling around at the bottom of Mount Automation, but the Web giants have already set up their base camps and are ready for the final climb to the summit. The race to the top may have already been lost.
- Investors are not going to be happy. The people who own shares of your company's stock don't like it when lots of money is spent with little or no immediate return. And automation will require a big up-front investment that's going to put more of a squeeze on margins for the next few years at least.
- You don't want to be a service animal for a machine. Even if you stick around long enough to see the job completed, the reward for spending years to build a self-driving network may likely be a trip to the unemployment -- or at least underemployment -- line. A truly autonomous network will be able to get by with a minimal number of human maintenance engineers.
So maybe CSPs that don't automate will end up in some virtual tar pit sometime in the late 2020s. It's been a good run. Maybe it's time to let somebody else worry about the future.
— Dennis Mendyk, SVP of Research, Heavy Reading