Joe Weinman: the executive leadership challenge is also
organisational, managerial and behavioural
Cloud is an exciting new technology that is pervasively impacting all aspects of global telecommunications businesses: commercial services, internal IT, and network transformation. This is a mixed blessing, since many carriers are treating these three areas separately, potentially missing out on opportunities for cost synergies and organizational optimization.
Commercial services offer intriguing potential in solving the perennial issue that carriers face: what will be the next driver of revenue growth? The growth of cloud services means that transport volumes are likely to increase, which holds out at least the possibility for monetisation.
While this may be largely unfulfilled today, carriers are in the position of offering a broad range of multi-layer services, including optical transport, that can create hybrid cloud architectures for enterprises at cost-effective price points. Operators can also leverage their strong customer relationships and trusted brand status to offer and monetise applications for SMBs and consumers, in both wireline and wireless domains.
Internal IT can benefit from private cloud solutions, including proven cost reductions arising from virtualisation, consolidation, and optimisation. Moreover, what could be called “seamless cloudbursting” from internal IT systems to third parties provides capacity insurance for both business continuity and disaster recovery as well as to handle peak demands.
Network transformation is yet another area. On the wireless side, emerging technologies are enabling smaller and lighter radios, with some functionality potentially being consolidated via cloud approaches.
On the wireline side, other emerging technologies such as open source WAN acceleration, PBXs and even routers are enabling new cloud fabrics built on industry standard servers to be used for functions traditionally performed by special-purpose appliances and systems that required application specific integrated circuits to meet line-speed requirements.
Today, standard servers can offer multi-gigabit-per-second performance to support real-time services, even including virtualisation layer overhead.
While all of these individual approaches are exciting, it is the rare carrier that considers all three not as independent initiatives but from an integrated perspective. The leadership challenge then — the view from the top — is to coordinate these initiatives to achieve synergies.
Typically, commercial services are the domain of the chief marketing officer, product management, and perhaps corporate strategy and business development. Internal IT is the domain of the CIO. Network infrastructure belongs to the CTO and head of network capacity planning and engineering. While these are the traditional roles, cloud computing can achieve its greatest impact through collaboration and coordination of these three or more organisations.
It is provable mathematically that consolidating two or more varying workloads, such as commercial cloud services and internal IT, can either require less capacity, have less likelihood of an SLA violation, or both. If some work is deferrable, service providers can defer internal work to be able to sell more commercial capacity during peak customer demand, and then run the deferrable internal work during off peak periods.
Another is simplification of vendor partner relationships and cloud design, engineering, and implementation efforts.
Leading carriers are defining a common architecture stack beginning with hardware and continuing through virtualization, OS and middleware, as well as a common physical implementation, where data centres do double-duty as both internal IT sites and commercial services delivery locations.
This approach is not restricted to megalithic data centres, but can be used at the edge via microcell data centres — not to be confused with pico or femtocell wireless. A relatively small configuration, say two to two dozen servers, can be used for content delivery, but also over time, to run edge applications ranging from remote virtual desktops to network traffic analysis.
A set of emerging technologies is enabling this to happen, ranging from real-time capacity management to security in common environments to automated provisioning and automated cloudbursting to partner capacity.
The executive leadership challenge, however, is also organisational, managerial and behavioural: how do three different organisations collaborate effectively? How should they be incented? What are the processes for coordination that achieve synergies without delaying business-critical initiatives?
The challenge to traditional operators is not so much other traditional operators, but the over-the-top players which are already using elements of this approach as they increasingly pursue communications services.
From desktop/server software companies acquiring hundreds of millions of VoIP subscribers to search/advertising firms offering voice chat and acquiring mobility assets, this new architecture is evident: using large, scale-out cloud infrastructure to offer communications services, offer IT services, run internal IT, and handle network tasks.
What’s your strategy? GTB
Joe Weinman is worldwide lead in Hewlett Packard’s communications, media, and entertainment business solutions unit