Network Control has been the very essence of Telco Network Management since the early years of the Telecom industry. In the last decades all telco operators have introduced sophisticated processes to measure network quality and service levels, often with vast organizations, long and complex sub-processes, and a large number of partners to strictly control, top-down, all their network activities.
In the next years Virtualization, or what we may call infrastructure “Softwarization”, will change this Telecommunication paradigm. A large variety of inter-related trends are pointing in this converging direction, every day documented in many network vendors presentations, analysts white-papers, telco experts blogs and tweets, as well as in extensive sets of consulting PowerPoints, including ours! 😉
Every network vendor is nowadays excited about their “unique value proposition”, or piece of the big picture, when it comes to Virtualization/Softwarization. Meanwhile, Telco Operators are seeking in the “cloud” the huge savings and increased flexibility required to remain financially competitive (towards the stock market) and operationally competitive (towards the threatening OTTs).
As we saw at the last Mobile World Congress, most keynotes on Network Infrastructures were dominated by technologies meant to lead the ecosystem towards this vast transformation. Software Defined Networks (SDN, for data centers), Network Function Virtualisations (NFV, for key network functions), and Self Organized Networks (SON, for Network Access Networks), all share the same new paradigm, although applied in different ways and on different network domains.
In our daily work with clients, as well as in our discussions with vendors and partners, we witness the expectations that a more virtualized and software-defined environment may provide programmability at all levels, which enables “network as a service and cloud network-independent services. Still, we think most actors are missing the main challenge, i.e. the profound changes outside technologies itself. The new world will need a transformed Telco ecosystem, redefined processes, and a completely new “culture” and “way of working”. All of this for a Telecom industry that will require Change Management skills even more than new technologies or new platforms.
In the new “Softwarized” Network infrastructure, with extremely advanced and intelligent components, complex relationships, and adaptive configurations, the standard “top-down” control-all approach of Telco operators may no longer be applicable. This clearly doesn’t mean having a non-working network, as control and order are two very different concepts. Control implies “top-down” and hierarchical relationships, as in the past Telco world. Order implies, on the other end, an effective distributed and self-organized structure.
Looking into the near future, we will unlikely see the same telecom world of today, with its consolidated relationships with Network vendors, long-term outsourcing deals, and internal processes often dominated by long product development and testing. The Telco operator of some years to come might as well look like a virtualized, self-ordered, and SW-orchestrated set of Telco sub-networks, non-telco software components, and integrated apps for machines to machines or for smart-devices.
In short, expect a future for the Telco industry where Ordered sets of Networks will take the lead over Centralized Top-down Networks, and where disruptive approaches will be implemented in network organizations, for keeping in order the orchestration of intelligent, self-organized, and virtualized network components.