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Strategically Exposing Network Assets in an SDN Environment 

  • November 2014
  • 22 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2530811

Summary

Table of Contents

Introduction

Communications service providers (CSPs) appear on the cutting edge at the moment, and poised for a breakthrough in innovation. Their prospects have not looked this good in a long time. Business analysts first began questioning the relevance and value of the CSP business model in earnest around the time of the initial AT&T Bell System divestiture in 1984. By the time competition was introduced, through a spectacular regulatory fiasco known as the Telecommunications Act of 1996, CSPs were openly described as operationally inflexible and culturally adverse to change. They were advised to evolve or die. Yet, here we are in 2014 pondering the same dynamics of competitiveness and flexibility. And here they are—AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, and Vodafone—all safely among the largest public companies in the world.
It could be argued that CSPs were right to go about change at their own deliberate pace, given that they have not only persevered but prospered. Still, for many good reasons, mostly related to new Internet business models and mobility, the calls for change and evolution—now more urgently referred to as transformation—grow louder. Stratecast believes CSPs have heard that call, and that change is possible now because the CSPs are ready to change. In fact, they are driving it in some cases. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and, to some extent, Software Defined Networking (SDN) are two primary examples.

Stratecast also believes that in heeding the call for change, CSPs can answer other critics who castigate them for being vacuous when it comes to creativity and innovation, and for being inflexible and risk-averse. As it has turned out, CSPs do recognize a good vision when they see one. For example, CSPs have realized they do not always need to be the innovators, and have found a better way. Through NFV, SDN and cloud technologies, they have found a way to live with the once anathematic idea of opening their highly valuable network assets to other innovators.

These technologies will benefit CSPs on many levels. Cost containment, flexibility, programmability and optimization are the most apparent operational improvements. As for business benefits, the holy grails of enabling new revenue-generating services and monetizing network activity, such as over-the-top (OTT) traffic, are within reach. These new revenue-generating services will come through the exposure of network assets to third-party developers and service-delivery partners that will create services enriched with the data and functionality of these assets. This exposure is enabled and supported primarily through the emerging SDN network architecture. Exhibit 1 provides examples of network assets that CSPs are likely to expose initially, and that information developers can use to build enhanced applications.

How CSPs will safely and strategically manage access to their network assets is the focus of this report. This report will also review recent advances in SDN development that bring the industry closer to its goal of enabling innovation through asset exposure. Deployments and partnerships around API management, as well as the role of open source and a look at just how big open source might become in telecom are also examined in this report.

Exposing assets will require a delicate balance between openness and security, and between profit and privacy. This balancing act will also require better solutions to long-standing incompatibility and integration problems in both the network and back office, which have been exacerbated for the last years by poorly designed and managed application programming interfaces (APIs). Since the industry has not defined a better way than APIs to communicate between systems, the challenge will be to develop API platforms that are both open and secure enough to manage the complex exchange of data between network elements, software systems, developers and partners.

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