“The real benefit to virtualization is that we no longer have to think about networks in the “fixed” sense. Virtualization is more about being able to dynamically change and scale the network based on the ebbs and flows of traffic on the network. So instead of experiencing a lack of capacity during specific times of the day in certain locations, you can ramp up the capacity when and where you need it to meet demand and quickly scale it back when it’s not needed. The building blocks for this architecture are IP and Cloud technology — both of which can be delivered “virtually” in a datacenter.”
If there is anything that everyone can agree about — it is that Cloud is here to stay. [Network operators] want to accelerate investment at both the heart of the network IP to Ultra-Broadband Access, either fixed or mobile […] we just announced at this show a new wireline offering called micro-nodes. These are similar to a mobile ‘small cells’ in that they bring fixed ultra-broadband closer to users to massively add capacity where it is needed. That is the truly surprising aspect of this industry. Innovation is happening everywhere — in the applications, in the cloud and certainly still in the network whether it is virtualized or not.”
We are gearing up for BBWF. Alcatel-Lucent’s booth will feature seven simultaneous demonstrations. I will be there at Area 3 Demo 1 to discuss VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) in the context of NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) and the Carrier Cloud.
Long story short, our industry is fulfilling expectations on the so-called “the network is the platform” paradigm. This is now possible by adopting cloud computing technologies and opening what effectively become shared resource pools consumed on demand via API (Application Programmable Interfaces).
This model advances by taking down silos as vendors such as us (Alcatel-Lucent) and our partners can now rapidly deploy applications leveraging the same infrastructure and platforms.
Not amused yet? Compare that to lengthier and far complex conventional deployments where more expensive, tightly integrated software stacks and black boxes have come to depend on dedicated hardware and fragmented management, not to mention issues arising from redundant functions, overhead, mind boggling trouble shooting and poorly utilized systems negating ROA (Return on Assets).
Here is a quick teaser, these are some of the concepts I will address at BBWF:
- SOFTWARE CENTRIC – having decoupled control and data planes, application logic from service data, we are now immersed in a more dynamic an agile software defined service environment.
- OPEN & EXTENSIBLE – the network becomes an abstraction that is transparent to the developer, enabling the application to consume resources and leverage processes via API.
- MULTI-TENANT – the underlying fabric and resulting cloud communications platform allow for application multi-tenancy and achieve so under a multi-vendor’s best of bread model.
- AUTOMATED – a catalog presents applications which can be automatically onboarded via templates / recipes, then provisioned and deployed in no time.
- SCALABLE – applications, whether VNFs (Virtual Network Functions) or end user facing online services benefit from dynamic service chaining, meeting demand curves by growing and degrowing as needed.
- PROGRAMMABLE – programmability and context awareness drive the orchestration of events and resources involved in end to end lifecycle management, which then become subject to automation and iterative improvements.
- PLACEMENT – the efficient placement of loads entails analytics and algorithms understanding when is best to centralize and consolidate or to leverage distributed systems, all based on capacity management rules and SLA (Service Level Agreements).
- ECONOMICS – feature and performance parity are achieved under leaner and cost efficient operations, a smaller physical footprint, and significantly lower opportunity costs and, therefore, risks.
As Michel pointed out in the above interview, the telecommunications industry is no longer at a cross-road pondering what the future might entail. After having been involved in cloud projects for the past five years, it is clear that we are facing a point of no return, which is forcing a path forward. The industry’s cloud journey has already begun.
This is not about “drinking the Kool-Aid” and marketing spin. Most would agree that legacy systems that served the industry well can now lead to network bloatware and a patchwork, unable to gracefully scale as demand shifts. Many would also nod their heads when acknowledging that the above concepts are not really new to the telecommunications industry: them all have been broadly discussed in the past twenty years or so. But, this time around, current attempts benefit from dramatically different economics, a new ecosystem, lessons learned and proven IT models that are leading the way.
Given the fact that we are discussing emerging technologies and disruptive rather than incremental innovation, this is not without the usual challenges involving next generation systems. So, in our discussion we will also look at maturity levels, technology readiness, pivoting in the midst of market changes, talent, organizational behaviors and lessons learned, and I will be happy to discuss NFV economics.
AREA 3 DEMO 1 – VoLTE Innovation and Growth – What Services to Launch.
“Alcatel-Lucent’s market-leading Cloud Communications Platform combines proven, robust VoLTE performance together with open innovation based on the emergence of new technologies such as WebRTC and IMS APIs. Complementing the solution, Alcatel-Lucent also brings a dynamic ecosystem of developers who use our Web Developer Portal and Sandbox to develop and test new compelling applications and services.”
“For this Broadband World Forum edition we have especially selected some of those apps for you. Come see Alcatel-Lucent’s “VoLTE Innovation and Growth” demonstration and embark on a new communications journey of competitive, innovative apps that enrich the subscribers’ broadband experience (fixed & mobile), thereby helping you to deliver new services to the market faster and make the shift to today’s data-dominant revenues. Through this demonstration you will see with our Cloud Communications Platform how you can:
- Use Network APIs to enrich VoLTE service with added features
- Use WebRTC client APIs to extend VoLTE service to the web (second screen such as a tablet, PC, TV, etc.)
- Mix Client and Network-side APIs to integrate Communications into Business Process (Communications as a Feature) and deliver an integrated CRM experience across Fixed and Mobile (Saleforce.com integration).”
AREA 3 DEMO 2 – Dynamic Services with NFV and SDN.
“To gain competitive advantage, service providers are continually looking for creative services and enhanced service options. NFV provides the opportunity to dynamically deploy new functionality without causing service disruption or CPE change. The demo will show how services can be rapidly composed, deployed and modified (service chaining) and how they are automatically scaled up to meet surges in demand. It will demonstrate how the network adapts automatically in tune with the changing service requests highlighting the value of integrated NFV and SDN.”
See you in Amsterdam : )
“[Leaders] use cloud-based communication tools to connect, coordinate, and collaborate with customers, suppliers, and employees everywhere […] ‘Technology lets me reach my consumers in real time’ says Melissa Shin, founder and CEO of Dagne Dover; a U.S. custom-handbag company. ‘Consumers want to have a dialogue with each other and the brand. They expect it. Technology lets us be unique, personal.’
“Moreover, cloud-based collaboration technologies allow SME leaders to more easily and effectively manage a dispersed and mobile workforce […] Leaders use technology creatively to operate more efficiently […] invest for impact and grow faster. But they do not necessarily spend more as they grown.”
– “Ahead of the Curve” by David Michael, Neeraj Aggarwal, Derek Kennedy, John Wenstrup, Michael Rubmann, Ruba Borno, Julia Chen, Julio Bezerra at The Boston Consulting Group.
Daymond John, President and CEO of FUBU (For Us By Us), is definitely engaging. Yesterday’s keynote presentation at The Exchange 2014 was dynamic, creative and insightful. His delivery was mostly about grit and the entrepreneurial spirit behind his success. His journey was packed with difficult situations where turning duress into defining moments propelled his business. Among his many interesting remarks, I would like to selectively highlight this one: “the reason we are all here today is because we don’t need to get stuck in the office… we have the technology (…) you have to use it or you will be dead.”
Derek Kennedy, Partner at Boston Consulting Group, discussed research findings showing a “strong correlation between the adoption of advanced information technologies on the one hand and growth in revenue and jobs on the other” in a report commissioned by Microsoft. This study surveyed 4,000+ SME (Small and Medium Size Enterprises) in the U.S., Germany, China, India and Brazil. Note that SMEs account for more than 50% of China’s and Germany’s GPD and job creation, 40%+ in the U.S.’ and Brazil’s cases, and 20%+ in India’s.
Enterprises qualified as “technology leaders” by BCG’s research happen to be heavy users of cloud based services, which the study’s taxonomy portrays as the most salient differentiator: “the extent to which these leaders outpace other SMEs is both remarkable and remarkably consistent across all the countries.”
These companies’ revenue experienced 17% 2010-12 CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) in the U.S. and Germany and 28% in China, India and Brazil. This is not just about double digit growth rates on average, but also about increasing revenues 15 percentage points above the other companies and creating about twice as many jobs in the process.
Back in February I was in Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress with Dan Johnson. We discussed and conducted live demonstrations on our innovative Cloud Communications Platform for service providers. Some questions had to do with the underlying economics, opportunity costs, trade-offs, behaviors and cultures.
Cloud economics happens to be about business model innovation, entrepreneurship and lean operations. BCG’s research helps make the point about crossing the chasm as leaders are clearly outperforming with cloud already. But some remain concerned about any operational efficiencies being offset by hidden costs, lower performance, loss of control, security or, simply, missing key features.
Barcelona’s discussions addressed these anxieties because service levels matter. SLA (Service Level Agreements) are of the essence and make all the difference. These are contracts between enterprises and service providers, which specify what’s available and what performance level applies for each package. Enterprises can take advantage of the following:
- User friendly self-service coupled modular a la carte packages, pay as you grow plans and customer care.
- Custom data visualization for reporting, analytics and account data such as billing.
- VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) with multi layered security and management policies to access cloud services, instead of just having employees use any browser over the public Internet.
- Secure and high performance in-network clouds, also known as carrier clouds.
- VPCs (Virtual Private Clouds) providing enterprise grade security while isolating a company’s resources, so that infrastructure is not shared with other cloud customers.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity with backups and built-in geographic redundancy.
Regarding cloud communications, IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) supporte Real Time Communications (voice, video, data) and is engineered to meet “5 nines” reliability, this means high availability with just 5.26 minutes of downtime in an entire year. This is 25.9 seconds a month to make it more tangible. Our team has successfully delivered vIMS (virtual IMS) deployment for a leading service provider’s “production environment / live network” for the past two years with “zero” downtime. IMS is integral to new mobile services such as VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which entails simultaneous voice and data services (integrated multimedia communications) for mobile users.
Technology is a game changer, but cannot solely account for what’s going on. This new paradigm shift also involves a different mindset. Companies embracing what cloud has to offer are also setting the stage for new business models and organizational behaviors. This is an expanding virtuous spiral (rather than just a flat virtuous circle) where behaviors, business models and technologies interact and fuel one another’s growth and innovation.
“Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) aims to transform the way that network operators architect networks by evolving standard IT virtualization technologies to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage, which could be located in a a variety of NFVI-PoPs including datacenters, network nodes and in end user premises.”
“Rapid service innovation through software-based deployment and operationalization of network functions and end to end services.”
“Improved operational efficiencies resulting from common automation and operating procedures.
Reduced power usage achieved by migrating workloads and powering down unused hardware.”
“Standardized and open interfaces between network functions and their management entities so that such decoupled network elements can be provided by different players.”
“Greater flexibility in assigning VNFs to hardware.”
“Improved capital efficiencies compared with dedicated hardware implementation.”
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV): Use Cases by ETSI GS NFV.
Mobile World Congress, VIP Networking Lounge. La Fira Gran Via. Barcelona.
#MWC 2014 Day –3
Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress is under construction and will formally open this coming Monday, February 24. We’ll be wearing hard hats for the next couple of days. In the meantime, our team is installing the live Cloud Communications Platform demo, which Dan Johnson and myself will be discussing with network operators, analysts, media and public officials. This demonstration showcases IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) under the VNF (Virtual Network Functions) model.
NFV is a hot topic with many suppliers joining the fray in the eleventh hour. 2014 is a defining year given the fact that we are readying solutions that shift the conversation from the art of the possible to what’s actually tested and available for deployment. Our team’s journey got a head start, which has become a source of competitive advantages.
Mobile World Congress 2011
#MWC11 is where Cindy Bergevin and I first talked about cloud computing in the context of LTE. That early demonstration focused on illustrating a nascent mobile cloud computing environment where end users would benefit from what mobile broadband had to offer.
As an example, we easily tapped into the live LTE network that Alcatel-Lucent made available on the show floor. We then demonstrated a use case where field engineers equipped with rogued tablets were able to work with sophisticated 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) running in the cloud. This also included communicating over video conferencing with other members of an engineering team (whether they were on the road or based at other locations) as well as virtual desktop infrastructure.
Note that we purposely had tablets that did not have the processing power to run a 3D CAD system requiring dedicated workstation. That statement alone made the cloud’s and mobile broadband’s relevance quite obvious by getting us to access anything we needed, anytime and from anywhere.
While other vendors were just issuing nicely written press releases, we were engaging our customers to experience this new reality first hand right there at #MWC11. This was one of the most visible outcomes of an in-house consulting project that I started a year earlier for ALU’s Wireless Unit President, which I had titled “why ubiquitous net computing is set to become LTE’s killer app.” As far as the choice of words, there was a need for signaling that “net computing” wasn’t just about adopting “cloud computing,” but about a new breed of integrated technologies where the network is the platform and, most importantly, enabling engaging and productive experiences at end user and operational levels.
Mobile World Congress 2012
#MWC12 was very rewarding too. We unveiled CloudBand’s Management System, which pioneered a concept now known as MANO, Management & Orchestration, under ETSI NFV.
Lazar Obradovic, Asaf Peled and I kept extremely busy with non-stop demonstrations throughout the show. We had designed a schedule with our morning and afternoon shifts, which was rendered useless as the three of us ended up engaged in parallel customer discussions most of the time. CloudBand 1.0 became commercially available just a couple of months later and proof of concept projects with global leading service providers were kicked off soon after. DT’s and NTT’s to begin with.
A fair amount of those early MWC discussions focused on introducing cloud computing fundamentals such why cloud economics based on (1) the software defined aspect of virtualization (control and data plane decoupling), (2) shared assets and resource pools for application multi-tenancy, (3) data center environments equipped with COTS (Commercial off the Shelf) hardware and (4) automated on demand delivery systems (5) bridging cloud and network systems were game changers in the telecommunications industry.
This was coupled with Bell Lab’s “Networked Cloud’ demonstration on the need for addressing distributed architectures. Generally speaking, cloud computing delivers opportunities to consolidate infrastructure and to centralize management, optimizing for cost (CAPEX and OPEX) in the process. Optimizing for performance involves distributed systems with loads placed geographically closer to end users’ locations, as well as for any other reasons such as regulations and intelligent capacity management.
CloudBand’s launch was comprised of two key modular elements, an open and automated management system and also fully automated cloud nodes, a cloud-in-a-box solution. Just to share a quick metric reflecting interest levels in the industry, by year end I had conducted in excess of 300 live demonstrations and my contribution to the overall conversation was just a fraction of what our team delivered.
Mobile World Congress 2013
#MWC2013 gave us another good opportunity to take things further by delivering a first public demonstration: an early NFV Proof of Concept system that helped better understand how something as sophisticated and mission critical as IMS was very well suited for a carrier’s own cloud environment. And we did that meeting service levels with performance and control requirements required in the telecommunications industry.
We presented CloudBand’s cPaaS (“carrier” Platform as a Service) engineered to meet the needs of network operators with streamlined workflows and lifecycle automation. That starts with ease of application onboarding and service provisioning and deployment. Then including scalability (on demand growth and degrowth), zero touch upgrades, self-healing and virtual machine termination. A compelling demonstration where cloud speed and operational agility were clearly visualized. We run it on a nimble CloudBand Cloud Node and #MWC2013 became another instant success story.
Analyst reviews such as TBR’s stated that “the company provided strong evidence that its multiyear development of a cloud portfolio is bearing fruit in two areas: a cloud management system that can encompass management of service provider NFV elements, and a distributed cloud node that can be deployed as a “cloud in a box” close to the source of user demand. These developments were far ahead of service provider focused cloud solutions by other suppliers.” I was also happy to see that my article on “Cloudband, NFV and the game changing Carrier Cloud” was well ranked and generated quite a bit of traffic for Alcatel-Lucent’s blog.
Mobile World Congress 2014
#MWC2014 is set as a defining moment. We aim to impress again and are back with a Cloud Communications Platform where IMS, NFV, and SDN (Software Defined Networking) come together as part of a leading edge solution ready for customer trials. This live demonstration system also features SDM (Subscriber Data Management) in the carrier cloud.
NFV is now fast moving from concept to reality and the Cloud Communications Platform is ready for primetime in 2014. In my next post I will discuss ETSI NFV Use Case #5 on the virtualization of IMS, which is the underlying topic that Dan and I will be covering at MWC. Sue White and Lazar Obradovic will also be with the expert team on the show floor conducting deep dives.
Looking forward to seeing you in Barcelona at MWC’s Hall 3, Booth 3K10, or at any of these other venues.