It's Bright, New and Shiny... But What Should I Do With It?
You regularly hear telecoms operators asking vendors for new technology.
“If only we had this capability we could:
… expand our business
… reduce our costs
… improve our customer satisfaction
However, when the vendors develop the first iteration of the technology, it often turns out that that the time is not right to deploy it.
I was reminded of this when I bought my new road bike just before the winter. During the summer I realized by old bike was no longer fit for purpose and also it would require some expensive maintenance if it was not to break. So I spent time researching the market to see what was available at what cost and determining what requirements were essential and which could be traded-off against cost. Then came the buying process, I shopped around looking from vendor to vendor for the best value for money and eventually I bought a brand new shiny bike. You would have thought I would have wasted no time in starting to use it, and you would be right. I immediately took it out for a quick trial to ensure it worked correctly and met my expectations. However, since then I have been using my old bike and the new one is hanging on the wall of my garage, because winter is precisely the wrong time of year to be using a new bike.
We often see operator and vendor communities deciding that there is an urgent need for a new technology to solve their current and most pressing issues, as the old technology just isn’t capable of solving these problems anymore. Vendors and operators urgently go away in huddles to define and develop the new technology. This is closely followed by extensive promotional campaigns explaining how good the new technology will be for the industry. And of course then we are at the peak of the hype cycle. At this point the technology is developed and vendors compete with each other to get operators to select them and endorse their new tech.
And then the new technology is deployed and all the problems are solved? – Well in most cases, no.
Like my bicycle, for a variety of reasons, the time is not quite right to switch to the new technology. Often this is because the new technology requires more fundamental changes than was initially anticipated. This can be fundamental changes to the OSS/BSS infrastructure as is the case with SDN and flexible photonics. Or fundamental changes to way the operations is run as is the case with IP-Optical integration. Or fundamental changes to the whole way of buying and selling services, as is the case with Services on Demand.
So we continue to make the old technology work for us until the time is right to introduce the new technology. Then, in many cases, we notice that our whole premise for the new technology has changed and that there are even more compelling reasons for the new technology – so we again take “our new bike off the rack”.
So for example; NFV was initially proposed as a solution for reducing CAPEX, then OPEX, we now realize that it really exceptional at improving customer satisfaction by massively increasing service velocity and service agility, with the CAPEX discussions fading away.
Then finally the technology hits wide scale deployment and we are all off to find the new hill to cycle up.often turns out that that the time is not right to deploy it.
The point is that this is the normal process, new ideas take a while to ruminate, and the whole discovery and rush for technology phase is key to understanding the actual problem we are trying to solve. As Douglas Adams neatly captures in his book “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” understanding what the actual question we are trying to solve is often harder than the answer, and in the end far more rewarding and thought provoking.
Fortunately most vendors and operators understand this process and understand that working together in partnership is the only way that we can really move the industry forwards. As we get more technologically advanced, we are able to embrace this reality, we build platforms which are flexible, and agile enough to adapt and morph as the actual needs of the new technology emerge. This is not because of indecision, it is because we know that merely by introducing the new technology we change the dynamic of the system and new things emerge.