RBOCs to Vendors: More Nines, Please
The other reason: The CTOs say their suppliers need to do a lot better on delivering products that live up to promises -- notably in terms of reliability, interoperability, and performance of next-generation technologies such as IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and IP video.
When asked what vendors could deliver better to make the constructing of next-generation networks more smooth, the execs didn't hold back.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Chris Rice, executive VP of network planning and engineering, says vendors should focus on making sure products are really ready when they purport to be generally available. He also picked a pain with software reliability. Software quality defects "cost me a lot of cycles… it costs me a lot of money."
Rice also admonished vendors to focus on building IP products. "I don't need the next generation of ATM or the next generation of Sonet," he says.
Pieter Poll, Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q)'s CTO, says interoperability is a big deal, especially in IMS networks. (See Video Pushes IMS Decisions, Report.) Poll reminded the panel that he challenged attendees at last year's Supercomm to take him to a booth where an end-to-end IMS solution was being sourced from more than one vendor. No one took him up on the offer.
"There are many, many IMS players that are out there; I don't think that many will survive," Poll said in an interview later with Light Reading. "I don't believe that IMS is something you can consider in a multi-vendor environment today. Very little work has gone on in interworking and if we were to deploy IMS today, I would stick with a single supplier."
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s Mark Wegleitner says it's not just "the interoperability but the operability." In other words, he wants vendors to make equipment that's faster and better, but it also has to be cheaper for a carrier to operate.
Even the hallowed "five nines" standard got a poke by the panel.
"Five nines," the jargon that means a piece of equipment will function reliably 99.999 percent of the time (statistically, about five minutes of downtime per year), may not be good enough in a world of always-on mobile devices and copious video consumption, according to BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) CTO Bill Smith.
"We should be shooting higher," Smith said.
Finally, Smith said that vendor gear has to be more durable and upgradeable over the years. He even hinted that someday maybe today's gear vendors would be providing equipment functions as a service instead of as the sale of a box.
"I think sometimes that the pace of technology is changing so quickly that I worry sometimes that we're out of alignment in this industry," Smith says. "Because guys like us are trying to work depreciation cycles… and a lot of the times it's up to the vendor as to how they build upgradeability into a platform."
That's a dangerous recipe, given how much it will cost to finance next-generation networks and Smith says, more and more, "two to three year depreciation cycles won't cut it."
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading