It is Friday afternoon and I take a look at the different sessions that make up the agenda for the Mobile World Congress 2016. One session in particular jumps out at me -- believe you me, the fact that it is in the evening from 6 to 8 PM at the Ocana, Placa Reial in Barcelona has nothing to do with it. Looking ahead to the topic for this televised debate, I look forward to three unique perspectives coming out on the merits and challenges of deploying Open Source across Telco Service Provider (SP) networks. AT&T, Telefonica and Red Hat will be on the panel of speakers on this debate moderated by HP Enterprise and Intel. I look at the topic and pause to think about the inherent complexities of SP networks and reach out to my colleague, Ian Hood, Global Chief Architect for our service provider partners at Red Hat. Ian and I have a virtual close-to-happy hour conversation on a balmy Friday afternoon across the pond. Join us as we elaborate three unique perspectives on Telco Service Providers going Open Source.
There are two key factors that drive Open Source adoption across the landscape of Service Providers:
- Prevailing mindset of the Communications Service Providers
- Complexities of making this transition on each architectural plane
3 Prevailing Mindsets
Culture has a lot to do with driving change across enterprise businesses in general and this is true for the service provider community as well. The prevailing mindset of telecommunications service providers can be broadly profiled as outlined below:
- Conservative. This mindset represents those that are taking comfort from the stability of their traditional, proprietary, hardware-centric environment. As the rapidly evolving market forces mandate faster agility with increased network traffic volumes, these service providers are going to be severely challenged to keep up with the rising demand.
- Assertive. The assertive service provider of today was conservative yesterday. This group appreciate that they are late to the game but tread new ground driven by the cautious adoption of Open Source across their Service Provider network infrastructures.
- Aggressive. Say hello to the avant garde mindset representing those service providers who take pride in being the torch bearers of adopting the next “cool” technology.
“That’s great, Ian!”, I say. “We just profiled the landscape of Service providers. But, what about the architectural planes that characterize the Service Provider network?”
3 Architectural Planes
Architecturally, the Service Provider Network infrastructure spans three planes as defined below:
- Management. Setup ,provision and configure network elements and services
- Control. Signal state of calls and network connections while automating recovery from faults.
- Data. Actual end-user data or traffic that flows through the networks regardless of how end customers connect.
Ian asserts that the transition to Open Source is really triggered by a slow but steady shift from hardware to software. “Hardware can be Open Sourced too!”, says Ian. This market force of steadily graduating to a more software defined world is easier to apply to the Management Control Planes than the Data plane but much work is in progress to solve some of those ongoing technology and business challenges. There is also an overriding concern about rocking the foundation of these massive and rapidly growing networks when you start thinking about changing the Data plane.
There you have it. A 3x3 combination of forces between the prevailing enterprise mindset and technological feasibility that drives Open Source adoption in the Telco industry.
3 speakers on the panel in Barcelona. 3 prevailing mindsets. 3 architectural planes.
I ask Ian about the key drivers for the Service Providers in the highly competitive marketplace. Guess how many he identifies:
1. Make Money , 2. Save Money, 3. Go Faster while ensuring these delivery characteristics to their customers.
1. Reliability, 2. Availability, and 3. Serviceability.
But, wait a minute. Between Ian and myself, there are only two of us. To be consistent with the theme of this article, we need a third perspective. Who could that be?
Well! You guessed it. It’s you. What say you? Are there other prevailing forces that impact the adoption of Open Source across the Service Providers? Or, for that matter is there a fourth mindset that better characterizes some of the other Service Providers.
Please let us know.
Both Ian and I value the third perspective -- yours!
E.G.Nadhan, Chief Technology Strategist (Central), Red Hat and Intel Blogger
Ian Hood, Global Chief Architect, Telco Industry, Red Hat