Having recently fulfilled his dream of crossing the Alps on a mountain bike, Telekom Austria Group CTO Günther Ottendorfer is now preparing to take his technology teams on another grueling journey -- a three-to-five-year journey to NFV.
Interestingly, Ottendorfer's approach to tackling the challenges of virtualization appear to be as much about educating and retraining his staff as it is about technology. (See SDN & NFV: No Going Back.)
"I see an important need to take the technology teams that have been living in the digital world of telecom over the last 30 or 40 years and take them on a journey," he says.
Since taking up his post in September 2013, Ottendorfer has mapped out an NFV strategy for the European operator, which has about 23 million customers across eight countries. In addition to technology trials, a key part of his plan is a new training program designed to get all employees up to speed on virtualization at an early stage. That training is due to start in the first or second quarter next year.
"NFV is a big change for the mindset of the people," he explains. "It means real convergence between network and IT skills because a lot of those skills are already present in the IT world and less present in the network world. It means that we have to get familiar with many concepts of virtualization that are, again, much more present in the IT world. It means a completely new world of troubleshooting, incident management, even of monitoring our systems."
Inside the Telekom Austria Group , the convergence of telecom networks and IT starts at the top with Ottendorfer, because his role as CTO has responsibility for IT as well as network technology.
To help Telekom Austria's employees adapt to the new world of virtualization, the operator's NFV trial project teams have been developing a basic training course that will be open to employees at all levels within the company starting in the first half of next year. Following this initial program, more advanced courses will be made available for specific technology groups within the operator, such as planning and operations.
"We want to get people ready for this new world of NFV in several phases -- teaching them really what is virtualization, what is orchestration, how do functions work in this world, what do you have to look for in the planning and operating of this world," he says.
The idea is to take Telekom Austria's existing people on the journey to NFV. "We believe we have very qualified people working on our systems and platforms and we want to offer them the opportunity to get ready for this new world in a timely fashion," he says. "That's why we want to start the basic training early on."
Also, with this training program, Ottendorfer hopes to avoid ending up in a situation where the operator has just a few specialized people involved in NFV that could get isolated within the company.
Surf's up for virtualization
But as paradigm shifts go, Ottendorfer believes NFV is not unusual because new technologies inevitably require changes in culture, mindset and skills to be truly embraced. And he has experienced quite a few technology changes during his more than 20-year career. Prior to joining Telekom Austria in 2013, he was managing director of networks at Australian operator SingTel Optus Pty. Ltd. and oversaw the launch of LTE services. While there, the Austrian-born exec also discovered a passion for surfing.
Before that, he held senior technology positions at European mobile operators, including the roles of COO and CTO of T-Mobile Austria , CTO of T-Mobile Deutschland GmbH and European Technology Director at Group level for T-Mobile International AG .
Since returning to Austria, where surfing on the weekends is sadly no longer an option, Ottendorfer has swapped his surf board for a mountain bike. Over the summer, he cycled across the Alps on a five-day, 400-kilometer trek from Mittenwald, Germany, to Lake Como, Italy, a trip he had long dreamed of making.
So is that the kind of journey he expects the transition to NFV to be like? Not necessarily. But he explains that with technology shifts, as with surfing or mountain biking, "you always have to look ahead. You can plan your trip, but you have to adjust to the circumstances along the way."
He explains that every technology phase has its unique set of challenges, such as starting 3G, getting into the world of data, managing data growth, then managing LTE, to name just a few examples. "You have to look over the wide ocean of technology, find the right path for the company and get the team ready for that in multiple ways,” he says.
Next page: To NFV and Beyond, plus Back to Broadband Basics