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More lasagne, please
01 July 2004
The move to open standards in the telecommunications industry means networks and services will be developed in layers, like lasagne, suggests HP's Sebastiano Tevarotto. Don't worry, that's the only food metaphor he uses in this interview
He's Italian, with a clearly Italian name and, despite his many
years with Hewlett-Packard in California, an Italian accent. So
Sebastiano Tevarotto is allowed to use this metaphor for a
significant change he sees in the telecommunications market.
?The telecommunications world is moving from spaghetti to
lasagne,? he says. Er, sorry? What is that again?
Lasagne, he says. The architecture in telecommunications is
being horizontalized, because of a move to open standards. This
is allowing operators to pick and choose between competing
suppliers, instead of being locked into one that uses
He likens the proprietary approach, where one company supplied
everything throughout the system, to spaghetti. ?And spaghetti
architecture has an opex that is unbearable,? he says.
Well, maybe this metaphor isn't as meaningful as it might be,
so let's leave the pasta alone and get back to talking about
the industry as it is, and as it is changing. Tevarotto is the
vice president and general manager of the division of
Hewlett-Packard that sells systems to telecoms companies ?
network and service provider solutions, HP calls it ? and from
there he can take what he calls ?the 30,000 feet view?.
From this high viewpoint, he can see that ?there is a pretty
significant change in the marketplace ? which is convergence?,
says Tevarotto. There is also a new dimension, covering
content, including entertainment, application and services, he
adds. ?They take advantage of the new infrastructure.?
But let's take a step back for a moment. What does Tevarotto
see as HP's main offering to the industry, and what is this
about industry standards versus proprietary standards?
Capex and opex pressures
?We are in a position to best understand the telecom providers
on their journey,? he says. ?It's a concentration on the
journey and the understanding of today's issues ? the capex
pressure, the opex issue, the future challenges, the ability to
design a plan to get from where they are today to where they
will be tomorrow.?
And where will they be tomorrow? They are trying to evolve
from a reliance on proprietary architectures to open standards,
he says. This will ?really make them flexible, scalable and
with modular solutions that are interoperable?.
HP's main relationship in its search for industry standards is
Intel, the chip maker, which is helping HP ?in its quest to
evolve from the proprietary nature of networks to the open
standards that the networks need to implement in the future?.
It is, says Tevarotto, ?an IT-like concept, allied to the
network environment, implementing architectures that do not
lock in any form to any of the suppliers, including
Intel processors with Linux
The idea is that HP will base its products on Intel's Itanium
processors, running under a carrier-grade version of the Linux
operating system, and they will ?displace all of the more
traditional platforms? that are found around the
telecommunications industry ? including some that Tevarotto
describes as ?home-grown developments?, created within
operators for their own purposes.
?We want to replace the leaders of the past with a true open
platform,? declares Tevarotto. In the past ?there was always a
lock-in proprietary feature?, he adds. ?In the proprietary
world there is some element of complacency. In the open
standards world you can't be complacent. Speed and agility
become critical success factors. We are deeply committed to
And what can operators expect as a result? Services will be
delivered in a layered approach, he says ? hence the lasagne
metaphor. ?The objective is reducing the cost.?
That will have considerable impact on the industry and its
customers, he points out. ?In this industry prices have usually
been firm or increased, but now prices are going down,? he
says, suggesting that cuts in the range of 30-50% are possible
because of competition. ?Some companies are leaner than
others,? he says. ?This will be a significant cost advantage.?
Competition has benefited the industry already, he adds.
?Think about the incumbents and the world they came from. We
were at the mercy of incumbents, right down to getting a line.
Competition has helped to move this market along at an
FastWeb taps into market demand
As an example of what's possible he cites FastWeb in Italy,
which uses industry-standard technology to deliver advanced
services to businesses and consumers. ?FastWeb tapped into a
market demand that existed. The company has shown a great
combination of market intelligence, a consistent plan in the
infrastructure, and courage.?
As open standards become more accepted in the industry, does
that mean HP will start to displace some of the traditional
suppliers. Is it competing against some of the familiar names
in the industry?
?I don't see them as competitors,? says Tevarotto. ?We have
more areas of cooperation than of competition.?
He agrees that the competitive framework used to have ?enemies
and allies? across the industry, ?black and white?. Now, he
says, ?there are a lot of greys? ? reflecting the normal IT
environment, where companies can collaborate over some
contracts and compete over others. ?There is a huge amount of
complementarity. The traditional telecom equipment providers
need to learn to operate in a world that is truly open
standard, where competition is the name of the game.?
Now ?it is an increasingly competitive world,? he says. ?But
no one can do everything.?
HP itself works with many of the traditional names in the
industry: he lists Ericsson, Nokia and Alcatel. ?In the
Americas Nortel is a good partner, Motorola is definitely so,
and so is Cisco.? Asian partners include ?NEC, Huawei and
Samsung?, and back in Europe there are ?interesting discussions
On the whole 50% of HP's business with the telecommunications
operators comes via equipment providers as a direct channel, he
?In the area of new services and new content and service
delivery platforms ? the higher end of the market ? HP will be
a natural partner for service providers and a channel for
equipment providers,? he says. ?There is still a huge amount of
work to do in the network. Equipment providers will take the
lead there.? GTB
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