If SDN and NFV are undermining the companies that used to thrive by slinging iron, that raises a question: Who is out there preparing to capitalize from the body blow served to the likes of Cisco, Juniper, Ericsson (and many more) before those vendors can regain their footing?
Like a championship boxer eying a weakened mixed martial arts field, Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) is training itself in new competitive disciplines so it can beat the snot out of a bunch of other companies at their own game while they're still vulnerable.
Accenture is making similar preparations.
The multidisciplinary arena is systems integration (SI), and that's the function AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is now relying on Amdocs to perform for its customers (telcos and cloud developers) that want to use AT&T's ECOMP platform as the foundation for their next-generation, virtualized functions and services. AT&T recently committed to releasing ECOMP code into open source and Amdocs will help companies deploy that software in their own networks. (See AT&T Taps Amdocs as ECOMP Integration Partner and Orange First to Test AT&T's ECOMP.)
The relationship with AT&T is opening up doors Amdocs never even got a chance to glimpse before: For example, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is drawing Amdocs into its orbit. Amdocs's Drew McLean said he was recently invited by Intel's CEO, Brian Kzranich, to a sit-down after Intel granted AT&T +1 status* in its Super 7 customer group. McLean is the recently hired president and general manager of the company's systems integration business, with specific responsibilities for new ventures/practices, thought leadership advisory and marketing.
(*Last year, Intel formed a group of its most important customers. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent comprised Intel's Super 7. Over the summer, Intel invited AT&T to join the group, now dubbed the Super 7+1.)
The telcos, McLean said, are tired of dealing with the old set of system integrators. They're looking for companies that can provide advice on virtualization without obliging them to adopt any particular technologies -- their own or that of their partners.
Amdocs's partnership with companies such as AT&T, and its budding relationships with innovators like Intel, show that Amdocs is making progress establishing itself as an alternative to the ironmongers, McLean told Light Reading.
That Amdocs formed its systems integration operation a little over a year ago and hired McLean to oversee it earlier this year speaks to Amdocs's ambitions in the area. He boasts about extensive contacts with the telco industry from a stint as VP at Ameritech (bought by SBC in 1999, in turn bought by AT&T in 2006) and then at Tellabs. He also touts his experience with the Internet of Things, having been VP in charge of EMEA at Emerson, and most recently as VP of business transformation at Tyco.
At the recent Amdocs Digital Executive Summit, Amdocs VP of product management Shannon Bell acknowledged that Amdocs might not be the first company anyone thinks of when the subject of SDN comes up, but the company's been working on SDN since before the term was coined, she explained. Amdocs just didn't jump on the buzzword bandwagon.
The company is still widely categorized as an OSS/BSS company, but recently it's been calling itself a provider of customer care solutions. That's a carefully modulated phrase designed to be capacious enough to encompass both its provenance in OSS/BSS and what many companies -- not just Amdocs -- see as the future of networking.
When every service provider is roughly equal at providing quality of service (QoS), then the next area where companies will have to compete is quality of experience. QoE is about nothing if not customer care, and moving forward, customer care is going to require knowing not only how well any given network is performing -- which is to say, QoS -- but also how it's performing given the requirements of each specific user.
That's why Amdocs has spent the past few years accumulating expertise in network virtualization and network optimization, a process that included acquisitions such as Bridgewater Systems (virtual network control, policy control), Actix (test analysis for network optimization), Celcite (managing self-organizing networks, or SON), and cVidya (big data analytics).
The company is investing in the area, and it is prepared to keep investing heavily in becoming a leading SI, McLean told Light Reading.
That doesn't mean Amdocs isn't investing further in its areas of traditional strength: Just this week it splashed $260 million to acquire three companies that give its BSS portfolio a much more distinct cloud flavor. (See Amdocs Acquires Trio of Digital Disruptors for $260M.)
The other company to keep an eye on, McLean said, is Accenture.
Accenture has been beefing up its technology consulting business this year, having bought Formicary, a company that provides SI services specifically for companies in the finance field, and Structure, which provides similar services specifically for utilities and energy companies. The company has been hiring people around the world with SI expertise.
— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading