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App Economy Means Software Telcos

By Erik Linask October 10, 2013

There’s no denying the pace of technology change has increased to a point where it has become a daily expectation.  We don’t always know what the next change will be, but we can be fairly certain the rising of the sun tomorrow will bring with it a new application, service, device, architecture, delivery method, or something else. That’s the world in which we live – nothing is constant but change.

Whether we can credit (or blame) Microsoft for putting it all in motion with its original OCS release back in 2007 – and the corresponding decree that it would bring us to a new world of communication, independent of location, network, or device – or not, can be debated.  What is certain, however, is that announcement accelerated the emergence of an endless development cycle built upon the concept of truly unified communications.

That concept, along with the unheralded mobilization of our economy – in fact, mobile devices will soon outnumber people on a global scale. Because of this, we have moved beyond a web-centric economy to an app-centric economy.  We don’t ask, “Is there an app for that” – rather, we simply assume there is (unless you are a BlackBerry or Windows phone user, in which case there probably isn’t).

Cisco CEO John Chambers, discussing the evolution of the tech world at Interop recently, added that, “You haven’t seen anything yet – applications, intelligent networks, security, and scalability will power our industry for decades.”

In addition to new applications and services, built on a foundation of mobility and user data, this new economy will require new operating principles, with success being built on parallel pillars of agility, simplicity, programmability/automation, scalability and performance, security, and openness.

The only way this will work, from a service delivery perspective, is by a parallel move from traditional network designs to software-based networks and virtualized network components to enable these pillars of success, which is specifically what the upcoming Software Telco Congress is designed to address.

The move to a software-based and virtualized provider infrastructure will enable the flexibility, scalability, and agility that will be required in an app-centric world, where delay to market means revenue loss, and time to market is measured in incrementally shorter segments.

“Software telcos should see a higher rate of service velocity,” explained Dialogic’s vice president of product management Jim Machi. “That is, they should be able to roll out new services more quickly and, additionally, let’s say there is a known spike coming, like a large tradeshow or a large sporting event such as the Olympics or the World Cup – resources can be added on an as-needed basis to cover the spike. This is huge.”

One of the significant shortcomings of traditional appliance-centric provider models has been their inability to both roll-out new services as quickly as their OTT competitors, and their ability to adapt to spikes in usage beyond their hardware capabilities. Either way, OTT providers will be running across the same pipes – a software telco, will however, be able to compete more effectively with its flexible infrastructure.

How quickly will this change take place?  First, it has already begun, when you consider nearly every SBC vendor has announced a software version of what were traditionally purpose-built appliances.  But, the very concept of a true software telco is built upon the premise of an all-IP world, which won’t be a global reality for at least a decade.  So, while limitations of the PSTN will continue to be an issue, as new generations of processors and chips are developed by the Intels and TIs and Samsungs of the world, and as we continue to move towards and all-IP community, software running on standard, open servers will continue to overtake single-use appliances, increasing the delivery capabilities of service providers and enhancing the end user experience.

As Chambers noted, all of these concepts (programmability, automation, scalability, etc.) have to be designed into products, software, and new architectures.  While we’ve started to see this from the vendor community – Chambers says has Cisco has been working under this principle for a few years, as has HP (which recently launched its Open SDN Ecosystem) – and others as well, given how profoundly these changes will impact the tech community, there are many questions surrounding implementation, interoperability, existing infrastructure, timing and other deployment challenges, and more.  These issues and others will all be part of the discussion at Software Telco Congress in November in Santa Clara.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Group Editorial Director

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