SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Light Reading's Women in Telecom Breakfast -- As the worlds of IT and telecom continue to merge, Ixia's new CEO, Bethany Mayer, has some words of advice to those who have been in the telecom industry for a long time: read up on the cloud.
"If you've been in telecom for a very long time, think about the skill sets of those in the cloud environment," Mayer said here Tuesday morning. "Cloud and telecom infrastructure are merging."
Before she even located her office, Mayer's first act as CEO of test system vendor Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) was to attend Light Reading's Women in Telecom Breakfast, where she talked to more than 75 women about how virtualization is driving change in the industry and what it means for those with traditional telecom pedigrees. Mayer would know -- she has been in the industry for more than 25 years, most recently pioneering NFV at HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ). (See Ixia Hands Reins to NFV Star Mayer and Ixia Names NFV Pioneer Mayer CEO.)
Mayer's joining Ixia at a time when telcos are grappling with how to architect cloud services and implement NFV and SDN, as well as figure out how to change their business models for both, and boost their bottom line. At HP, NFV was actually part of the cloud group, so Mayer sees the two as inextricably linked. (See HP Looks to Conquer Carriers With NFV.)
But she noted that while CTOs get really excited about virtualization, the operations people are having a very different conversation. They are concerned with the return on investment and if the technology will actually work, because they are under tremendous opex pressure. The job of the vendors is to convince them it does work with the same consistency they've had in the past. (See Introducing 'The New IP' .)
Speaking from the operator's point of view, Anne-Louise Kardas, manager of product and business development at Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), agreed with Mayer's assertion on the cultural challenges in the organization. Her work at Sprint mainly involves finding innovative startups in the Valley with which to work, but she said the operator is working to understand what functions to virtualize first and which can wait a few years, and that involves a big shift in how they work with their vendor partners. (See NFV Not a Panacea, Carrier Execs Admit.)
"One of the changes I've been seeing on a day-to-day basis is the shift from 'Intel, Juniper, Cisco are just vendors' to 'What can we do to be more strategic partners together?'," Kardas said. "Figuring out the collaboration aspect internally and with external partners seems to be much more emphasized."
That said, all the panelists agreed that it needs to start internally -- changing company culture is as big a challenge as the technology itself, if not bigger. The "people problem" also persists in that the networks and IT teams haven't traditionally worked together well and still struggle to do so. (See SDN's Progress Is Worth Debating and Intel ARMs Itself for IoT, SDN Opportunities.)
"We have to represent ourselves as one Intel," noted Monique Hayward, director of outbound marketing for Intel's Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group. "But a lot of people who have been in that telecom space haven't always embraced the IT space. We have to break down walls even internally with our own groups to present a unified story."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading