By Manjeet Dhariwal, and Co-Founder and CIO,
The Network Function Virtualization and Software-defined Networking market is booming. Proofs-of-concept (PoCs) are moving into the commercialized phase this year, driving a significant increase in the adoption of SDN/NFV-related technology. As such, an increase in spending on SDN/NFV projects is not linked to an increase in capex budgets, but is more about the reallocation of budgets away from traditional hardware and software.
While POCs are being developed in test labs and dozens-upon-dozens of use cases are being discussed, and while time-consuming, it can be a necessary series of steps in the process for many. The opportunity in looking with a 360 perspective (the ability to encapsulate both Southbound and Northbound development) is to accelerate the lab workstage, to the POC stage and on to revenue generation. Itis a difference of development and integration southbound versus Northbound and how the process you have in place today could be a disadvantage. With an included Northbound focus in your agile development plans, you’ll have the following: APIs from Southbound, a focus on ESB architecture support for OSS/BSS and integration to a functional customer portal.
A lot of carriers get hung up on the technology aspect when it comes to switches and managing the network – which is most important from the engineering perspective. Now, you will probably be OK to build and replace regardless what technology you choose for Southbound, but going Northbound onward it will not be as easy to build or replace.
When it comes to making it profitable and productizing, how much time do you really have? The answer will vary based on how you are growing your customer base or increasing your market share for new customers.
It is time to change how you are thinking about rolling out products as you operationalize the systems, processes, and team players.
CIO and CMO Work in Parallel for Northbound Innovation
As cutting edge technologies come to market – it is not enough to be wooed by the fact that something can happen. The critical element is how to get to market, in which case the CIO, CMO, and Head of Engineering have to work together. It is important to know out of the gate that you’ll be working with multiple cross functional teams and working with multiple legacy systems that are not easy to integrate with. A great place to start could be ‘Bandwidth on Demand”.
"You do not want your product roll-out to be impacted by upstream systems that wouldn’t support what you want to do – short and long-term"
There are a lot of discussions about southbound SDN and vCPE, but most are not focusing on Northbound because they are so caught up on the Southbound discussions, in terms of selecting the right vendors and the ability to operate in a multi-site vendor environment. This is even more challenging when talking about vCPE (i.e.: white boxes). The technology definitely matters, but only to a certain extent.
Working as a cohesive team, the product roll-out has to be part of the decision making associated with Southbound technologies and how this all comes together. You do not want your product roll-out to be impacted by upstream systems that wouldn’t support what you want to do – short and long-term.
The good news is that many have already been successful. Those companies have already made it to market proving validation to the approach, while others continue to delay releases 6 months at a time or more.
You should architect that solution at the time when you are making the decision on which southbound technology you want to use. This allows you to then set a timeline in place, so before you commit to any technology, you already know when and how your product is going to be out.
Southbound and Northbound are parallel decisions. The biggest problem isn’t that you picked OpenDayLight, ONUS, Tail-F or something else – the biggest problem you face is how to make SDN/NFV profitable from a “customer perspective”.
The Market Isn’t Going to Wait
It could take 6 months to pick the technology – and when that is said and done, it could take another 18 months to productize. This includes factors such as legacy OSS/BSS with a focus on automation and self-activation all the way through to the customer portal. Do you really want to wait to go to market in 24 months?
The larger carriers are slower at times – some are doing lab work and some are doing internal POCs, but most are playing the “analyzingand waiting” game and may not have a true product strategy yet. The issue with this is that customers want solutions today and loyalty to carriers are ever changing and evolving as technology matures – so having a product to market quickly with a Northbound/Southbound 360 perspective and your team working in a steady drum beat, you’ll be able to help to support the markets growing needs.
The teams that are thinking ahead on how to get this to the customer will be further along. A common scenario is that IT that will create roadmap and a plan that will cost multiple times more and take much longer to complete – but the market isn’t going to wait. So how do you take this to market faster?
Success lies in working with partners that have tangible experience. They will be able to architect a solution at both northbound and southbound – so by the time you get started, you already know when you’re product will launch.
At the end of the day… while all that is great… who is making money?
With a 360 perspective on overcoming challenges for Productization and revenue acceleration, find a partner that has the experience and who have been the pioneers in northbound innovations, rolling out new complex technologies for carriers is an important part of the early-on decision making.
You can’t make money until you have a product. And you are not going to have a product until you have customer experience, operations, southbound, and system integrations in place – what are you waiting for to figure that part out? Your goals should focus on following the money to help grow your business.