The New Network Normal: Service-Oriented, Not Infrastructure-Oriented

Mobile broadband connections will account for almost 70% of the global base by 2020. The new types of services those customers consume will drive a tenfold increase in data traffic by 2019. At this rate, most of the world will be mobile, with “mobile” expectations. The “cloud” has become synonymous with mobility and is matching customers with new products and services more and more. More customers are coming, more services are coming, and more types of services are coming. More, more, more.

Carrier networks must embrace a new normal to support and drive this digital revolution. Unlike the static operating models of the past, a new dynamic system is emerging, and it’s not about the network at all. It’s about the applications that deliver services to paying customers— wherever they are, however they want them. This kind of dynamic network requires intelligence, extreme flexibility, modularity, and scalability. The new normal means creating innovative, differentiated services and combining these with the kind of intensely integrated, highly personalized relationships that enable services to delivered and  billed on-demand.

To be competitive in the new application economy, service providers need to dedicate more budget and resources to service innovation. However, multi-layer/multi-vendor network design necessitates that the lion’s share of any service provider’s budget goes to the network itself. At Fujitsu, we are changing that: we are working with our customers to architect an entirely new system: disaggregated, flattened, and virtual. And it doesn’t require a “scorched earth re-write” or “rip and replace” investment.

The new network normal means a new way of doing business for service providers, and it requires a different way of operating. In the old business model, service providers functioned like vending machine companies. A vending machine offered a pre-set lineup of products, snacks, and a single way to pay, namely your pocket change. Only field technicians could fill vending machines, only field technicians could fix broken machines, and only field technicians could deliver new vending machines to new locations. An entirely different staff collected the money and handled banking. Vending machine companies were forced to wait weeks, or even months, to receive payment for sold goods.

Vending machines in remote areas might not get serviced as often as population-dense areas. Technicians didn’t know which products were the most popular, but they knew which were the least! Plenty of people had dollar bills in their wallet- but no loose change. If the machine was out of stock, customers had to find another.

Companies lost sales because of the limitations of this infrastructure— not because there were no willing customers.

Vending machine companies developed new ways to accept payment, re-negotiated partnerships and delivery routes to refill popular product lines more often, and reorganized the labor force into groups who could fill and service machines simultaneously. In spite of these optimization tactics, much like service providers, vending machine companies were still ultimately reliant on physical devices and physical infrastructure to deliver a static line of products. Otherwise happy customers were required to seek other vendors when their needs were unfulfilled.

But unlike vending machine companies, service providers are not always selling a physical product. Service providers can re-package their products virtually— and it starts with virtualization of the network itself. Applying standard IT virtualization technologies to the service provider network allows administrators to shed the expense and constraints of single-purpose, hardware-based appliances.

Rolling out new services over traditional hardware-based network infrastructure used to take months or even years for service providers to achieve. Many time-consuming steps were required: service design, integration, testing, and provisioning. Virtualization addresses these wide-ranging use cases and more.

Software-defined networking, combined with network function virtualization, creates a single resource to manage and traverse an abstracted and unified fabric. As a result, application developers and network operators don’t have to worry about network connections; the intelligent network does that for them. Imagine seamlessly connecting applications and delivering new services, automatically, at the will of the end user. Virtualization provides this new normal: best-of-breed components that are intelligent, optimized end-to-end, fully utilized, and much less expensive. Budget previously dedicated to network infrastructure can now be released to support new applications and services for whole new categories of customers.

Thanks to readily-available data analytics on trending customer behavior, Network Operators will know exactly which products their customers are willing to buy and what they’re looking for—and they’ll be able to deliver them individually or as part of value-package offerings far beyond the current range of choices. Remote areas can get the same services and level of customer support that those in population-dense areas enjoy. Payment will be possible on-demand or by subscription. Premium convenience services will offer new flexibility for customers—and new revenue streams for providers.

Service providers will be able to differentiate their offerings beyond physical products, including bandwidth, SLAs and price points. Their enterprise customers will get better tools, on-demand provisioning, and tight integration between the carrier network, enterprise network, and cloud builders. Service Provider’s business customers will get on-demand services and always-on mobile connectivity. Other customers will get bundled services or high-bandwidth mobile connectivity only.

Not like a vending machine at all. Even the new ones that accept credit cards. Welcome to the new normal.

About Rhonda Holloway

One of our resident “Business Users,” Rhonda Holloway is responsible for product marketing in the Fujitsu Software Business Unit. With over 20 years in high-tech marketing and technical writing, Rhonda has worked on multiple on-premises and cloud systems management solutions including network software, supply chain management, customer relationship management, enterprise performance management and database management in the original cloud—the mainframe. Rhonda is a member of the global marketing leadership team and a key strategist for our software portfolio. Prior to joining Fujitsu, Rhonda led multiple teams where she managed narrative branding and the customer journey using a mix of acquisition, retention, and cross-sell/up-sell content and tactics. In addition to her professional roles, Rhonda is a third-generation beekeeper, a computer security enthusiast, and an intense advocate for using technology and equipment to help those with neuromuscular diseases. If you are interested in how one non-profit is guiding this mission, please visit http://www.teamgleason.org/.