Based on Future Creators session by Mariam Sorond, CTO of Service Provider and Edge at VMware
Across every market, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) look poised for disruption, even chaos. From rising customer expectations to new network technologies, architectures, and business models, the future can seem like one looming challenge after another. And to that Mariam says: Good!
Periods of transition are always a little scary, but it’s in the chaos of disruption that opportunity is born. It’s chaos that helps us put aside long-held assumptions, reset expectations, reimagine possibilities. And few industries can benefit from that kind of chaos more than telecommunications.
Think back to the days when we were first building 3G networks. At the time, the only “killer app” for CSP data networks was text messaging, which barely used any data at all. We had no idea what people would do with all those kilobytes of 3G bandwidth. Yet CSPs bet on the future anyway, investing billions in new spectrum and network upgrades. And those investments enabled the modern Digital Age.
Now, we’re on the cusp of a new age, the “Innovation Age,” and our industry needs to get back to that kind of bold thinking. It’s only by investing in new possibilities—even if we don’t know where those investments will lead—that we can unleash the amazing future we all envision.
Out of Chaos Comes Opportunity
Survey the digital landscape, and it’s clear that we’re entering a world that will look very, very different. With faster speeds, ubiquitous connectivity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), automated networks, and much more, consumers and businesses will operate very differently than they do today. Which means their needs will be different too—including in ways we can’t anticipate. For CSPs building the networks to deliver these innovations, the biggest challenge is not simply anticipating those needs. It’s being agile enough to adapt to disruption wherever it leads.
As an industry, we need to embrace risk, even failure, as that’s how organizations learn and innovate. For example, look to OpenAI. The release of new GPT-3 language models last November hit the industry like a tidal wave. Reactions ranged from, “Wow, this changes everything,” to “This is no big deal,” to “This is the end of the world.” That’s creative chaos. That’s the uncertainty of not knowing what people will do with new tools or where they’ll go next. But that uncertainty fuels imagination, opening the door for those who embrace innovation to reshape their businesses, even their industries.
Right now, CSPs are at a crossroads. They want to break free from building the business around basic connectivity. They aim to compete on quality and customizability, targeting enterprises as the biggest opportunity for growth. Yet many questions remain: Should you virtualize across the Radio Access Network (RAN)? Start rolling out full Open RAN? Should you be preparing for 6G now, or is it too soon? If telecom leaders want to be among those shaping the Innovation Age instead of just reacting to it, we can’t shrink from uncertainty. We know we’ll continue getting disrupted. We know we’ll need to adapt. We need to invest in enabling rapid advancement, even if we don’t yet know exactly how those investments will be monetized.
Fortunately, convergences are already emerging to offer clues. For example, since enterprises are at the edge of the CSP network, investing in edge can help CSPs enable their own edge use cases, even as they target new enterprise opportunities. Or consider open networks. Some operators plan to expose APIs for third parties to consume—making the CSP network literally programmable by enterprise customers. Neither of these capabilities has been offered before, and no one knows exactly how customers will use them. But they’re the kinds of risks CSPs should be taking.
New Capabilities for New Revenue
VMware is in unique position to help CSPs prepare for disruption. After all, our entire virtualization business was created to give businesses more scalability and agility than they had with hardware-centric models. CSPs partner with us because of that DNA. Not only do we understand where telco networks are coming from, we understand where they’re going. We’ve been doing things like disaggregation and orchestration longer than almost anyone. We live and breathe the world of containers, cloud-native architectures, and open environments. And because of that, CSPs find our goals better aligned than most traditional vendors.
Our Telco Cloud portfolio provides the platform for creativity and innovation, and rapid adaptation to change. VMware Telco Cloud enables:
- Multi-cloud flexibility: Put RAN or core workloads on-premises, private cloud, or public cloud. You can not only take advantage of multi-cloud agility, you can decide precisely where and how to best land each workload.
- Disaggregation: Previously, CSPs relied on appliance-based solutions. Now, we’re entering a world of decoupled hardware and software with disaggregated components. VMware helps tame cloud-native complexity and automate across multiple vendors and domains.
- Programmability: We give CSPs the flexibility to tap into AI and Machine Learning (ML) to continually optimize their networks and business. In the RAN, for example, VMware RIC is already enabling new use cases to improve network and spectrum efficiency, reduce emissions, and unleash new revenue models.
Seeding the Innovation Age
These capabilities can help CSPs capitalize on tomorrow’s edge opportunities—even those we can’t foresee today—through the convergence of Telco Cloud and enterprise edge. For example, the chart below depicts proliferating end devices, from smartphones to airplanes to thermometers to security cameras, and any other endpoint you can imagine. Some devices will sit in a telco network, some in an enterprise network, a satellite network. They could be anywhere. But the real innovation potential exists not just in the greater diversity of devices, but diversity of edges. Each green circle represents one more place where CSPs can position intelligence and compute to deliver next-generation service experiences.
By converging Telco Cloud with the enterprise edge, VMware can help support new edge needs—even when CSPs don’t yet know what those needs will be. We provide:
- An open, interoperable toolset that extends across all devices, edges, and clouds to help CSPs simplify operations, optimize efficiency, and tap into new revenue opportunities.
- Service orchestration and assurance tools that draw on flexible and composable common services. These can include zero-touch workflows, orchestration and automation, network service assurance, and end-to-end observability and analytics to enable ongoing optimization.
- Support for emerging features like open APIs, Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), and more to enable seamless convergence between Telco and Edge.
When you have this agile, converged network toolset in place, you gain the speed to make changes and deploy new services in minutes. You can operate greener and more efficiently through ongoing, automated network optimizations. You can tap into new revenues—both from launching new kinds of services and redirecting developer resources from day-to-day operations to more strategic initiatives. And you can better attract and retain customers by delivering higher-quality, more customizable services.
Add it all up, and you can control your destiny. You have a network platform that lets you explore, experiment, quickly see what works, and learn from what doesn’t. You can continually reposition your business to capitalize on disruption. And you don’t have to worry about uncertainty and chaos, because now, you can thrive on it.
Learn more at telco.vmware.com