SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Tom Nolle | August 27, 2015 |

 
   

Network Change: Evolutions and Revolutions

Network Change: Evolutions and Revolutions The missing piece in both networking's revolutionary and evolutionary stories is the thing that started it all -- the Internet.

The missing piece in both networking's revolutionary and evolutionary stories is the thing that started it all -- the Internet.

Networking, and its transformation, is more than just technology. Broadband Internet came along during an unfortunate shift in the politics of networking. In the '80s and '90s we were moving from a global vision of communications as a regulated monopoly or even a government agency to one of a free market. The Internet exploded on the scene during the shift, at a time when subtle distinctions between "communication" and "information" services made an enormous difference.

The operators were left on the communications side, and what we call "over the top," or OTT, players took what turned out to be the new age of services, the information services. What operators want now is a combination of a lower base cost for their commodity communications services, and a way to participate in that dazzling information-services future. The current software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) revolutions are credible to the extent they can address this dualistic goal.

portable

The challenge for revolutionary change is revolutionary benefits. Both SDN and NFV are really about service automation. Neither SDN nor NFV proponents had paid much attention to operations in their early work, and little has changed since. As a result, the whole basis for a revolutionary solution to cost control and revenue augmentation has been compromised. There's some recognition of this problem now, but because the operators say that their revenue- and cost-per-bit curves will cross over in 2017, they may not have time to solve the problem.

Well, not by a revolution. As it happens, we have a second possible approach.

Virtualizing the Physical Layer
For the last five years, without much fanfare, there's been an evolution in the role of Layer 1 (L1) -- the physical layer where optics and dumb tunnels or pipes live -- technology in the old OSI model. Agile physical media seems to be a contradiction in terms, but what we're really doing is virtualizing the physical layer. Since, in the OSI model, the physical layer's limitations in scope and cost efficiency is what created the need for higher-layer aggregation and connectivity, making Layer 1 more capable lets you simplify the higher layers.

With virtual-L1 technology, you can separate customer networks and services below the Ethernet (L2) or IP (L3) layers. That would seem to drive us toward a bunch of expensive and inefficient service and customer silos -- except for another factor, which is "virtual routing."

Virtual routing isn't really the same as virtual functions, though the concepts could overlap. A virtual router is really router software that can be hosted somewhere. The notion is already gaining popularity in the cloud data center and at the network edge, but it's not rolled out into the broad router market because servers are limited in performance and availability relative to special-purpose routers. But if we can groom services and customers at Layer 1, we don't have to route great masses of customers' traffic for most services. For the L1-segmented service/customer future, virtual routers are fine.

Most of the cost and operations complexity of today's networks come at Layers 2 and 3. The evolution of agile optics and virtual physical layers has offered operators a chance to simplify those parts of their networks without doing anything revolutionary at all -- no SDN or NFV. I think you could argue that AT&T's strategy to virtualize 80% of its network by 2020 is more a reflection of this agile-L1 evolutionary approach than a commitment to SDN or NFV.

Building the Information Utility
The missing piece in both the revolutionary and evolutionary stories is the thing that started it all -- the Internet. It's possible to envision an Internet made up of discrete services on discrete networks that share a common address space and are united at the point of user connection, but it's not clear how we could get there gracefully through either network revolution or evolution. We may need a revolution of a different sort, one that's kind of "evolutionary" in that it demands a solution to an old problem to create a new service.

As a business, the Internet of Things is a lot like the phone system in one sense, which is that it's going to cost an arm and a leg to build it. Think of the number of sensors that will have to be deployed, the number of applications that will have to be written. IoT isn't really about "the Internet" at all, but about a new information utility that supplements the Internet, a utility of contextual information. We had to offer companies public utility protection to build the phone system, and unless regulators do that again with IoT the companies most likely to build it are the companies that did the phone system in the first place -- the network operators or Internet service providers or telcos. You need to be cash-flow rich, tolerate low ROIs, and build for the long haul. Who else does that these days?

Ten years from now, we'll say that IoT changed everything about networking, but not in the way people expect. For my last blog in this topic, I'll share what IoT will bring about in 2025, in the service, technology, and business domains. (For my previous posts in this series, see: Commoditization: Sometimes Less Really Is Less and How 2 M&A Drivers Shape Networking Overall.

Follow Tom Nolle on Google+!
Tom Nolle on Google+





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

October 18, 2017

Microsofts recent Ignite event had some critically important announcements for enterprise communications. Namely, Microsofts new Team Collaboration offering, Teams, will be its primary communicatio

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.