Service provider networks are at the epicenter of digitization, affecting how businesses and entire industries will operate for years to come.  Today it seems as if every disruptive new business model shaking up an industry is reliant on the innovative use of applications based on network services. The sharing economy of Airbnb, Uber and AWS. Connected experiences and entertainment with Netflix, Pokemon Go and Peloton. Connected and driverless cars. Etailers. Business apps and data centers as services in the cloud. Examples abound.

Customer expectations are rising as industries are being transformed. That puts constant pressure on companies to keep innovating. And while communication service providers are the conduit for digitization, you too must transform yourselves and continue to innovate. Like the Darwinian theory of evolution sped up, you need to adopt the most favorable traits to survive and thrive.

  • The Need for Speed ― Time has become a key differentiator in your business. What’s needed is not only fast service delivery but fast service creation, changes and takedown. Spending a year or more to create and deploy a new service is not competitive. You need to measure time-to-market in hours instead of months. Some opportunities are short-term; without agility you’re out of the race.
  • Efficiency is Destiny ― Complexity is not your friend. It’s understandable that most operators have over time evolved a patchwork quilt of siloed, inflexible infrastructure and various ways of managing it that rely heavily on manual processes and the expertise of key personnel. But that’s no longer cost-effective or fast enough. Some estimates claim that for every dollar you spend in CapEx, $7 in OpEx is required. It’s time to switch to a newer, simpler paradigm.
  • Reach out to new Partners ― Disruptive companies are innovating. You must too. With the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, video and cloud, there are numerous applications and markets that have yet to be addressed. Others are being conceived every day. You can no longer rely on outbound and inbound marketing alone for new customers. You need a more expansive strategy for growth. Why not create an ecosystem of partners―like developers, device manufacturers, vertical market innovators, content providers, and even other operators―to help you uncover new markets and opportunities?
  • Become Security Obsessed ― Your customers want it. It’s non-negotiable. Embrace security for services and data that is pervasive. Strive to become so good at it that you can offer security services to your enterprise customers on a consulting or subscription basis.

Transformational Components 

There’s a global consensus within the industry on how service providers can gain the traits listed above. You must embrace virtualization, automation, simplification and programmability for your foundational networks. Each contributes to a much better services environment that is prepared to handle the tremendous challenges and opportunities coming with pervasive digitization.

Virtualization adds speed, efficiency and a lower cost structure. You decouple network functions from hardware. You separate the control and user plane functions. Services can be created on-demand and with a lot less hardware, more flexibility and higher utilization of existing infrastructure.

Automation also adds speed and a more innovation-capable environment while reducing complexity and the potential for human error. You deploy faster with orchestration tools. Advanced telemetry and analytics aid you in optimizing the services. Now you’re able to customize the user experience in real-time.

Simplification is possible with this type of network services environment. Your admins don’t require years of technical training and experience anymore. Intuitive interfaces guide their way. Your quest to partner with others and forge new business models and services is simplified when all of those legacy technology silos are converged. A world of new services awaits you.

Programmability gives you real-time control over your network to anticipate problems and provide proactive fixes. It let you configure and reconfigure services, infrastructure and policies on the fly to keep customers satisfied and resources safe. Add data analytics and you have a powerful feedback loop that helps you keep quality of service and reliability high.

Taking Action Now

Like consumers who find reasons to upgrade their smartphones or laptops every few years, a major retooling of the service provider environment is now upon us. It’s being driven by challenges that are not being met by legacy infrastructure and practices. Faster time-to-market has been a challenge. So has operational cost efficiency.  Defining a growth strategy has also been a challenge for many providers while so much about the business is changing. And effectively protecting services and data has also been daunting.

There are solutions for all of these challenges, like those provided by the Cisco Open Network Architecture, which includes everything service providers need to address the requirements of digital business.

As cumulative changes rock our world, there’s no time to wait. As Charles Darwin said, it’s all about survival of the fittest.

Also, note, Cisco is participating at CommunicAsia 2017 where we will be showcasing how our industry leading Open Network Architecture enables network transformation successfully for 5G, Internet-of-Things(IoT) and beyond. Register now if you are at Singapore !!


Sanjeev Mervana

Vice President of Product Management

Emerging Technologies & Incubation