Speed, software key to monetizing networks

Matt Walker/Ovum
22 Mar 2013

How do carriers squeeze more value out of their networks? This issue was the focus of the first panel at OFC/NFOEC’s Service Provider Summit, Monetizing the network: Achieving value out of the infrastructure, on Wednesday March 20.

Monetization is a top concern of operators as many OTT players become profitable household names while paying nothing for the network. Unfortunately it’s a concern without an easy solution. Yet two of the speakers at the summit identified a common issue where they really need help: more speed and better software.

In his talk on OTN-based SDN, TDC’s Per Larsson noted that vendors tend to focus on scalability, resource utilization, and opex reduction as the spending drivers. But that’s not what operators most urgently need – they “want only one thing: speed to revenue.”

While Larsson wasn’t an SDN naysayer, he raised a laundry list of challenges restricting any big operator from rapid SDN adoption. The most important ones seemed to be effects on SLAs (and ability to charge for them), security, and the business model. On the latter, Larsson agreed that SDN is simple in theory, but faults may be complex to pinpoint and recover from, and it requires engineers with new skill sets.

The lack of certainty about how to charge in an SDN world is another obstacle. Even if vendors give away the box, the actual production cost of the network is important, uncertain, and could be high enough to nix SDN adoption: “Is there a good business reason for OTN-based SDN? We still don’t know.”

What’s clear is that new technologies like SDN always take longer to adopt than vendors anticipate. The network’s SDH/SONET layer was supposed to be gone years ago, yet it’s likely to be around for another 5–10 years.

In his talk on packet-optical convergence, Sprint’s Walter Chen pointed to “service speed” as the key element operators need to thrive in the next 30 years. In other words: OTT players have already demonstrated their ability to innovate to achieve speed; for operators to compete they need to do likewise.

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