Last month, I took a trip to Barcelona to attend Mobile World Congress. This event is quite possibly the largest in the telecom and service provider industry. My rationale for going was to test a theory about (a) EMC’s focus on Cloud, Big Data, Trusted IT, and (b) our increasing emphasis on the Software-Defined Data Center: are these themes as interesting to Service Providers as they are to the Enterprise?
My conclusion is that the themes and focus of EMC (including VMware, Pivotal and RSA) are central to the evolution underway in the Carrier and Service Provider world. Here are a few observations to validate my conclusion:
1. There is a huge opportunity for virtualization.
Carrier networks, such as the massive LTE mobile broadband networks that are currently being deployed, have a huge dependency on software and information processing. In fact, the amount of compute and storage capacity in global carrier networks may be at least as large as that in their data centers. While enterprise data centers have clearly seen the cost and complexity improvement through the use of virtualization, this technology has not been utilized widely on the network side of carriers. Applying this model to the carrier infrastructure is one of the single biggest tools to reduce CAPEX and improve the economics and efficiency of these incredibly cost sensitive environments.
2. The future is in the Software-Defined Data Center.
Beyond just compute virtualization for the carrier network, the entire vision of the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) makes sense in the carrier environment. Today, carriers are exploring Software-Defined Network models for their infrastructure and data centers. They are also looking at new models of Software-Defined Storage to better manage and place information assets within their overall infrastructure.
3. Carriers are becoming even larger information storage customers.
Carrier networks generate huge amounts of data and store/process content such as video files and local advertisements. They also act as the back end of the mobile experience for services, ranging from backup of a mobile device to repositories of our digital lives, housing our collections of pictures and music files. The number of petabytes and exabytes stored by carriers is growing as fast (or faster) than many large enterprises.
4. Big Data and Analytics will generate big value in the carrier ecosystem.
Carriers have access to subscriber information. When this information is combined with the real time events and information coming from their networks, it can create entirely new capabilities. A cellular network that can dynamically adapt its behavior based on the user, and their historical relationship with the operator, would be invaluable in improving real time quality and overall customer experience. A carrier environment can collect and analyze the behavioral information of the entire system over very long periods of time. This allows them to better predict network degradation or proactively plan capacity expansion and reduce outages and better target CAPEX investment. To do any of these activities, the collection of huge amounts of real time and historical unstructured and structured data, and the ability to analyze it at scale quickly, will be critical. Today the best tools to do this are not coming from traditional carrier ecosystems but rather are emerging in the Big Data and Analytics innovation ecosystems.
5. Interactions with the public part of Hybrid cloud must be seamless.
Every large service provider desires to be the public part of the enterprise hybrid cloud. In order to do this, they must not only have a public cloud infrastructure but they must design and implement it so that the interaction between the enterprise infrastructure and carrier ecosystem is seamless. Public clouds, while adequate for some discrete applications, lack the interworking capability with the private data center. This shortfall limits their role within most hybrid cloud models.
6. Enterprise IT wants to use Mobile Broadband, Hybrid Cloud, IoT… but needs an enterprise operating model.
While most enterprises are beginning to leverage cellular mobility (LTE specifically) and other carrier infrastructure as a logical part of their IT experience, the Enterprise CIO still has the fiduciary responsibility to protect and operate the enterprise IT experience in a secure and stable manner. Because of this, Enterprise CIOs value carriers that are investing in new security and trust models. Most service providers are also now exploring new trust and security models as their environments are becoming as fluid and complex as the newly extended enterprise is. Sharing learnings, developing better interworking and extending technology capabilities across the public/private security boundary is critical to both the future carrier and the future extended enterprise. Again, many of the most advanced security tools in this new class of behavioral security and trust are originating from the enterprise security ecosystem but are now of significant interest in the carrier environment.
In my various dialogues with service providers at this event, almost all areas of EMC’s strategy were relevant. The scale and specific environments for services providers were different but the problems were similar and the interest in finding the best tools to solve those problems was genuine. I am particularly optimistic that after MWC, the carrier and enterprise parts of the hybrid cloud will converge much more effectively that we may have expected.
For an unabridged version of these observations, my interview with TelecomTV is linked here.