OPIN­ION

Capacity - - Contents - Clive Sawkins Trea­surer i3­fo­rum

Clive Sawkins, i3­fo­rum, on the need to bridge car­ri­ers and en­ter­prise

Car­ri­ers talk a dif­fer­ent lan­guage from those that de­sign en­ter­prise net­works. Yet if they worked to­gether they could beat the OTT providers at de­liv­er­ing new ser­vices to their big­gest cus­tomers, writes Clive Sawkins

Why does IP Mul­ti­me­dia Sub­sys­tem (IMS) stop at the edge of the en­ter­prise net­work and not go fur­ther? You may think this ques­tion a bit ab­struse, but the an­swer – if it is the right an­swer – could help car­ri­ers main­tain a vi­tal re­la­tion­ship with their cus­tomers and not just be­come big bit-pipes.

One of the ma­jor chal­lenges fac­ing the in­dus­try is that en­ter­prise ar­chi­tec­ture and net­work ar­chi­tec­ture are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies and dif­fer­ent ar­chi­tects, all with dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties.

Yet the chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cers (CIOS) who are the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the en­ter­prises – and the big­gest end­cus­tomers of tele­coms ser­vice providers – do not think in this siloed way. Nor do the staff of the en­ter­prises, the peo­ple work­ing long hours at desks, in air­port lounges, in meet­ings, in ho­tel rooms and in their spare bed­rooms at home.

They just want the sys­tems to work. They don’t want to know about how ser­vices work; nor should they even have to think about net­works. But in­creas­ingly they do want to use ser­vices such as Out­look or Gmail, Skype for Busi­ness, What­sapp and Face­book – es­pe­cially as most if not all of those are in­creas­ingly fo­cused on busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions users’ whole world has changed in the past few years; it’s not at all clear that the net­work ar­chi­tects’ world has yet recog­nised that.

OVER-THE-TOP SER­VICES

Just think of those ser­vices whose brands I’ve just men­tioned. They can gen­er­ally be clas­si­fied as over-the-top (OTT) ser­vices and, with their in­creas­ing ap­peal to the en­ter­prise mar­ket, it re­ally is time for car­ri­ers to take no­tice. If they don’t, the OTT providers will win with­out a fight and the car­ri­ers will lose out.

That’s why the i3­fo­rum – which has long pro­moted Ip-based stan­dards and co­or­di­na­tion in the IP car­rier busi­ness – ear­lier this year merged with the Open Visual Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Con­sor­tium (OVCC), an or­gan­i­sa­tion more fo­cused on en­ter­prise ser­vices. It was a very nat­u­ral com­ing to­gether of two or­gan­i­sa­tions to work for the world as it is go­ing to be.

So, back to my orig­i­nal ques­tion: Why does IMS stop at the edge of car­ri­ers’ net­works? The an­swer is that the tele­coms in­dus­try viewed IMS as a sig­nalling sys­tem for tele­coms providers, not for en­ter­prise. As a re­sult, en­ter­prise net­works are tend­ing to move to­wards Ses­sion Ini­ti­a­tion Pro­to­col (SIP). How would SIP, a less ro­bust ap­proach, af­fect the op­er­a­tion of net­works? They could work well to­gether, but much thought needs to be given to in­ter­work­ing the two pro­to­cols.

But, more im­por­tantly, we must stop think­ing in si­los. Border­less net­works are key to the fu­ture, and that means the in­dus­try – on all sides – must do things dif­fer­ently.

How so? Just pon­der for a mo­ment on the com­plex­ity in­volved – in billing, for ex­am­ple – when a user walks out of an of­fice into the street, mak­ing a phone call that is trans­ferred from the en­ter­prise net­work to the pub­lic cel­lu­lar net­work.

The newly ex­panded i3­fo­rum is try­ing to get the in­dus­try to think dif­fer­ently, to think more broadly than in the past. We want to ex­pand peo­ple’s hori­zons. Does that need a change to the way net­works are de­signed? Ab­so­lutely it does.

But the ben­e­fits from this will out­weigh the dif­fi­cul­ties, the chal­lenges and the has­sle of learn­ing to do things in new ways. Op­por­tu­ni­ties will emerge from a tighter in­te­gra­tion of ap­pli­ca­tions: more func­tion­al­ity, more se­cu­rity – es­pe­cially in the cloud – and a bet­ter all-round ex­pe­ri­ence. In­te­gra­tion will al­low car­ri­ers to bun­dle ser­vices and ad­just their charges.

In­te­gra­tion of car­rier and en­ter­prise net­works will af­fect ev­ery­one – in­clud­ing car­ri­ers and en­ter­prises, but also of course equip­ment and soft­ware ven­dors, as well as OTT and other con­tent providers.

BIT-PIPE CAR­RI­ERS

Which will ben­e­fit most? As it stands at the mo­ment, the OTT providers look like get­ting there fastest, push­ing car­ri­ers fur­ther down the value chain. That would turn the car­ri­ers into noth­ing more than providers of large pipes. As the distributed de­nial of ser­vice (DDOS) at­tacks in Oc­to­ber showed, the in­dus­try as a whole needs to pri­ori­tise se­cu­rity and be­come aware of what’s go­ing on with the de­vices that are con­nected to the net­works.

Will the car­rier in­dus­try re­spond in time? It has to be­come aware of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that are there if car­ri­ers move faster to win new mar­kets – and re­duce the time to rev­enue. Some op­er­a­tors are al­ready of­fer­ing find me/ fol­low me ser­vices, for ex­am­ple – but so are OTT providers. The in­dus­try needs to take ad­van­tage of new op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Think of the CIOS wrestling with the chal­lenges of the new ser­vices. It’s a lonely life, be­ing a CIO. By the very na­ture of it, they work in com­pa­nies of all kinds, and it’s rare to have oth­ers of equal ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge in the com­pany with whom to share thoughts and dis­cuss ideas.

That’s one of the rea­sons why the i3­fo­rum is happy to share its thoughts. We be­lieve in ed­u­cat­ing CIOS and oth­ers across the in­dus­try, in en­ter­prises and car­ri­ers, in or­der to gen­er­ate in­ter­est and help un­der­stand­ing.

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