Mark Daley, Director Digital Strategy & Business Development at Epsilon, is one of the most visionary strategists in the industry. Continually in the vanguard of disruption, he pushes the boundaries of the possible and pivotal to Epsilon’s Digital transformation strategy.
He recently shared his views on why network transformation is not an option but a must, what it really means and how Epsilon is tackling its own digital journey. Read on to get a glimpse into the network of the future.
The programmable network
Why do you think service providers must transform their network?
The reason why we need to transform our networks is because the needs of our customers are evolving radically. Customers of today are all about control, flexibility, efficiency, programmability and real-time, which goes against what our networks have enabled until recently: static, opaque, rigid connectivity.
Today’s communications reality is a world of OTTs, System Integrators, platforms, applications, DevOps and most importantly, end users. And in a world where even 10 year olds are learning to program, it is inevitable that to win in our world we need to provide control and visibility to our customers. What they, we all crave are solutions they can not only easily orchestrate in real time, but also control throughout the life of a service. And even more so, to integrate into other service layers.
Therefore, to give them the tools they need to succeed in the digital world, we must move to programmable and fluid networking. And that starts with, exposing telecoms as a resource, a visible set of service capabilities for a new breed of customers. Having the ability to provide these new service functions across the board is the catalyst for putting our customers in control of their own service creation. And this approach has already proved to be very successful.
The goal here is to make the network easy to access, control and consume, while also making it cost effective.
What does network transformation mean in this day and age?
For me, network transformation is about separating the network function from the physical layer. As the functions become virtualised and programmable, service providers get more and more power to construct customized and threaded services faster and in a far more efficient manner.
Network transformation is also about enabling the network to have more intelligent and flexible interactions with other systems, which makes it more effective, attractive and even more scalable. It is also about ensuring interoperability, not just at the physical, media or signalling layer, but now also at the programmability layer. And being able to present telecom services as resources to developers and partners in an easy to access manner is changing our own eco-systems, we are much more three dimensional now in how we address markets and our customer segments than we used to be. This is what network transformation is all about.
What are the keys to a successful network transformation?
The number one key to success is understanding your customers, what services they offer, how they offer them, and how they go about acquiring or building them. From there, you can define a network that will enable these requirements. We should be in the business of building networks for our customers and not for ourselves.
Then, it is about transforming your own mind-set and not necessarily about transformation the whole network end to end. It is about taking a DevOps approach, which means using what you have in place now and building an overlay that interacts with what is already there, creating a pseudo-SDN as an example. There is not necessarily a need to rip and replace. But taking a Network as an API approach to analysing what you have in place right now and what you will need is a good start.
This enables you to monetize your existing investment, while rapidly benefiting from a gradual network transformation. It also enables you to offer services on-demand rapidly, while minimizing the required upfront investment.
The federated future
What will the network of the future look like?
The network of the future will be one that is programmable, interoperable, adaptable and ultimately it will be consumable. This in my opinion will facilitate federations and partnerships, not only at a commercial level, but more importantly, in terms of services. This will therefore empower service providers to create a single service overlay over multiple networks, which is very powerful.
It will allow us to use partners when we can, so we can then focus on more strategic investments to expand our own network and services in underserved parts of the market and regions of the world, which is a good thing. Again, this is the DevOps mentality: do not invent what exists already, but focus in creating what does not exist.
I strongly believe that the world of the future will be a world of federated networks at the physical, application and orchestration layers. At Epsilon, we are transforming ourselves to enable this new federated world and to support our customers on this journey.
The Epsilon journey
What have you done so far in Epsilon to enable your own network transformation?
Our transformation is not actually about creating new technical services, but rather it is re-presenting services to the new demographic that we are now targeting (the cloud and cPaaS providers). These companies offer flexibility and services that are programmable on the fly, so we had to evolve our network and the way it is accessed and presented to empower them to achieve this.
Our objective was to transform our network to create a flexible, interworking capability in an efficient and cost efficient way to enhance our customers’ ability to innovate. At the same time, it was about how we ourselves could reap the rewards of our own digital evolution, with internal automation and easy integration within our own internal systems architecture enabling business and process performance improvement.
Consequently, we firstly had to be able to orchestrate our end-to-end network and secondly we needed to create what we like to call service threading capabilities, which means creating a single service built of multiple sub-services. We also wanted the ability to go beyond providing APIs, to providing a complete self-served customer portal.
We could not find solutions in the industry that would sit as an overlay over the top of our network to facilitate this. We therefore had to craft and create a unified network as an API capability ourselves.
It has been an incredible journey, and I believe that we succeeded in creating something that only a handful of companies have achieved to date. This has ultimately allowed us to monetize services that have not been paid for before and address new markets with a disruptive business model, this in a very short period of time – something to be proud of!