Current generation WANs remain largely static solutions that are planned, procured, deployed, and then largely left “as is” for most of their operational life. However, this static environment is at odds with the nature of many organisations’ application environments, which are trending towards greater dynamism. The challenge is that so many elements that make up current networks are simply not built for agility:
- Most of the intelligence is at the edge with limited visibility of end-to-end network performance
- Most infrastructure elements are dimensioned for current requirements with little headroom for growth
- Telco change management processes are slow and clunky
- Commercial models typically charge for change, reinforcing the message of “leave well alone”
TNC sees an ever-growing demand for greater agility and flexibility, and customers who are prepared to circumvent telcos if they won’t deliver. For example, TNC sees customers moving from traditional telcos to smaller, often newer operators that they perceive as more flexible. TNC also sees customers cutting the role of telcos in network provision, by in-sourcing some elements of service management, or using non-telco players to deliver these services.
Given this climate, it is inconceivable that networks won’t become more flexible and agile – any telco who hopes to survive the next 3-5 years will have no choice but to get on board.
Key to delivering greater flexibility is to provision more flexible access services, leveraging higher bandwidth Ethernet services, as well as taking advantage of new technologies such as 5G. However, the other key is to develop more flexible, programmable central infrastructures. TNC sees a number of telcos developing exactly these types of platforms which offer the ability to quickly turn up services within the core network to deliver new functionality, deal with peaks in demand, support new applications etc.
Whilst delivering these programmable infrastructures creates complex technical challenges, it is often forgotten that the telcos also face considerable commercial and operational challenges. These challenges include profound questions such as how to charge for these new services, can billing systems be made agile enough to deal with constant change, do contracts still include minimum site or revenue commitments, what SLAs can be offered in such a dynamic environment, and a number of other questions.
TNC’s summary is that the demand for this new approach is clear, and the telcos desire to meet that demand is also clear. However, the journey from demand to supply is extremely complex and will not be quickly completed.