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Networks of the Future: Extreme Times Call for Extreme Measures!

- June 10, 2016 - 0 Comments

Here’s an observation that happened to serve as the basis of a keynote I had the opportunity to give the other day, at the TIA 2016 “Network of the Future” conference, in Dallas: Yes, it would be wonderful indeed if broadband service providers saw 50% annual revenue growth — if only to offset that 50% in additional capacity they’ve had to build, year-after-year-after-year, every year, since about 2009.

But that’s not the case, as we all well know. Here’s what is: In four years (by 2020), 82% of the world’s Internet traffic will be video. Fixed Wi-Fi will generate half of global IP traffic. In weight, IP traffic will grow to 194 Exabytes (EBs) per month — which is 2.3 Zetabytes (ZBs) per year. (That’s all freshly mined from our latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast, by the way, which came out on the 7th..)

Refresher: A Zetabyte is 1,000 Exabytes; an Exabyte is 1,000 Petabytes; a Petabyte is 1,000 Terabytes, and so on. It’s a lot — a quick online search shows that 5 Exabytes represents all of the words ever spoken by humankind.

Which brings me back to the title of this blog. Extreme times — well, isn’t that where we all live now? Competitors and customers alike, we’re all part of the caretaker continuum for the world’s broadband connections.

Extreme times call for extreme measures. In this context, “extreme” means it’s time (again!) to look at our networks in a whole, different way.

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Starting with the traffic itself. Long gone are the days when the cable and broadcast pipes sent video only, or the mobile networks sent phone calls only, or the Internet pipes sent web pages only. The new norm is traffic that comes from all different directions, in all different sizes — a chaotic digital soup measured in exabytes.

Extreme measures equates to a need for the infrastructure that moves the massive stuff of the Internet to be elastic and flexible, expanding and shrinking based on what’s happening in a given moment.

What do we need to do to get there? Three things: Accelerate, through the techniques of agile development and continuous improvement. Monetize, to keep up with the explosive growth in broadband consumption. Optimize, particularly as it relates to cost.

Agility comes from virtualization — as much as we can, as soon as possible. Monetization is a longer story, worthy of its own blog, but it’s there. Optimization comes from moving apps, self-healing techniques and other hardware-historical elements into the cloud. It also involves the economics that come with open systems.

Here’s another necessary extreme, as important: We have to transform. All of us. As people, as colleagues, as coworkers. We need to be able to say goodbye, and quickly, to the days of the RFP sequence: Write it. Wait for responses. Pick vendors. Review. Hand off. Find a bug. Report it. Wait.  Instead, we need to do what it takes (which brings us back to “agile”) to continuously improve, continuously integrate, continuously automate.

Happily, I can shift now from proselytizing to a few proof points, based on actual experiences of agile partnerships between a vendor, and a service provider. Because when we do it, it works really, really well. Let’s start with cloud-DVR: When DVR functions are virtualized by putting them in the cloud, not in the home, the potential for a 15% TCO savings is real, as is a seven percent lift in revenue.

Virtualizing the mobile packet core presents a stunning 53% TCO savings, and a 50% savings in mobile backhaul; in our experience, moving voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) saved 23% in TCO, and a 12% lift in profitability.

You get the picture. These examples go on and on and on, and will continue to do so.

My thanks to the fine people at the TIA for inviting me to share my thoughts on the network of the future. We’re lucky to be living in such exciting and transformative times!

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