I came across something from a favorite tech writer over the holiday and thought it was worth sharing:
- Competition is having a profound impact on network management -- in terms of the novel challenges it poses, the fresh perspective it requires and the new financial pressures it applies.
The most critical change is the shift by carriers from viewing their networks from the bottom up, with an eye toward seeking technology to make their operations more efficient, to viewing them from the top down and making customer needs the priority.
This is hardly earth-shaking stuff until you realize it was written by me… in 1999.
The article, appearing in [email protected] Week, where I was executive editor at the time, addressed how the need to knit together multiple networks -- including those of competitors -- into a service that could be guaranteed was pushing network operators to consider such radical things as using CORBA -- common object request broker architecture -- to tie multiple operating systems together and enable flexibility and scalability.
The argument can be made that today's network operators are still trying to figure out how to make customer needs the priority. The big difference now is that other companies have already cracked that nut and given the consumers what they want when they want it, leaving the telecom sector to catch up. And there is still a lot of work to be done before consumers and businesses alike view their telecom services in the way they view cloud services or mobile phone applications today.
This isn't news to network operators. In recent discussions about both SD-WAN services and what's called software-defined access, network operators and vendors alike have touted the ability to put new tools in their customers' hands and new flexibility in their own networks to enable application-driven customization of services. Imagine a consumer able to turn up additional bandwidth when company is coming, for instance, using an online portal. Or a business able to spin up security specific to a given application, along with that application?
The desire to offer this kind of flexibility is clearly there because the competitive imperative has changed. But some of the same systems that were in place 18 years ago are still humming along in the network operators' back offices.
And that is the value of taking an historical perspective, to remind everyone that if this was simple stuff, it would have happened more than a decade ago.
There is definite progress on making services more app-centric and consumer-focused but is it enough?
Remember, back in 1999, Amazon was still just a retailer with 13 million customers that hadn't posted a profit yet, MCI Worldcom had a network outage that lasted NINE DAYS, and Steve Jobs had resurrected Apple Computer with the iMac and iBook, both redesigned PCs that came in multiple colors.
Will this urge to put the customer first still be a work-in-progress in another 18 years?
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
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