This article is a two-part series, read Part 1 HERE
Network service providers need to understand and accept that their future success is dependent on rich software-driven environments. It is more than just a buzzword, but also an important enabler of innovation. Change must happen because the traditional networking model is a barrier to innovation and has been a stumbling block for too long.
Characteristics of traditional networking model:
- Manual processes
- Offline ordering and procurement
- Long-Development cycles
- ‘Best Effort’ services
- Contracts with no flexibility
DevOps changes everything, shifting a mindset focused on A to B connectivity to enablement through software-defined networking. It influences every aspect of the business and that stems from the new world of software-driven service providers. The opportunity is to explore ways to use networking as an enabler for innovation on a global scale. As much as the actual fibre in the ground matters so does the application. We are taking the physical assets and maximising the potential of networking through:
- Orchestration and Automation
- On-Demand, Intelligent Network Services
- Network Analytics and Guaranteed QoS and QoE
- Platforms & APIs
- Web-Based Procurement
This combined is what we call Cloud-centric networking. Bringing the agility, efficiency, and speed of the Cloud to networking. That is what will deliver network transformation and drive innovation in applications and services.
I see a future where service providers can close the gap between operations and development. The delivery of new applications can be supported with fully automated development, deployment, and testing. New networking environments can be created at the click-of-a-button which will enable developers to rapidly release new features, services, and apps.
Network service providers can be in a constant state of evolution and adaptation where developers are reshaping their services. This creates a space where innovation can thrive, and incremental changes can cascade across a network without limitations.
However, the future is dependent on partnering and collaboration. If you want to go far, go together. A partnership can help accelerate transformation and having a long-term partner strategy is becoming a differentiator. Rather than innovating in isolation, it is important to build and transform services by choosing and collaborating with the right partners.
Nobody can be experts in everything or cover all geographies in this age of disruption.
The Application Programming Interface (API) model can help to realise many new partnership opportunities. The software archipelago we are seeing today can come together to enable network services beyond its physical boundaries. These services can be fluid and sourced from new places. Service providers can aggregate APIs and integrate to create new services and broaden the scope of their operations. In this way, they can serve new verticals with highly specialised solutions that draw on a wealth of API-enabled services that go beyond their core competency.
The biggest challenge today is the change in mindset. Culture shift will require transformation across the entire organisation, not just one aspect of the business. This change is painful but there needs to be a balance between maintaining legacy revenues and looking at future growth. In practice, this often means:
- Hiring new types of employees – Software developers, data scientists and people skilled in emerging technologies
- Incentivising staff differently – Rewarding innovation, creativity, and personal achievements
- Creating a culture of openness – Deeper collaboration and promoting innovators and intrapreneurs
- Demanding new agility – Understanding that the pace of change is accelerating, and the future will be more challenging
It is immediately noticeable that people are at the centre of this change. We often hear that automation is replacing human jobs, but people remain as the most important aspect of this transformation journey.
By investing in DevOps, service providers can become key enablers in the development of next-generation technology such as autonomous vehicles, smart cities and robotics. They are dependent on a network that can scale, adapt, change and evolve at a new pace. All these are driven by partnerships as well as the shift from legacy mindset to innovation.