Automating to tackle unprecedented disruption

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Duncan Greenwood GM for VMware’s Northern Region, EMEA, examines the increased need for automation that comes with 5G.

The telecoms industry is experiencing a moment of unprecedented disruption. As it prepares to shift from 4G to 5G, they find themselves having to manage both physical and virtual infrastructures on a scale never before seen, while also contending with the growing importance of the network edge.

That’s before the demands of innovations such as smart cities and an expanding IoT universe are taken into account, plus a predicted increase in communication intensity, or time spent connected, of 63 per cent over the next ten years.

All of this against a backdrop of heightened customer expectations that must be satisfied.

To meet these challenges head on, CSPs worldwide are having to go through major digital transformation to increase service and business agility.

Why are they putting themselves through this? Because of the huge opportunities this period of transition offers – new lines of business and sources of revenue, coupled with the multitude of efficiencies enhanced optimisation and automation promise.

Successful digital transformation brings increased complexity

The goal of digital transformation is to enable CSPs to better compete in the digital economy with a flexible and programmable network, powered by network functions virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN). Together, these two technologies significantly increase network complexity, resulting in new requirements and pressure points for operations.

More devices, more variables, more complexity – it is increasingly difficult to have end-to-end visibility and assess actual network issues in real time. This in turns limits CSPs’ ability to link network performance with service quality and customer experience, which is vital to provide actionable intelligence for the physical and virtual networks tasked with delivering dynamic digital services.

That is the major issue. CSPs cannot expect customers to put up with continuous disruption. There are alternatives to their offerings, whether new entrants lacking legacy infrastructure or better prepared established players. All of this means CSPs must prepare for tomorrow while still delivering the essentials of today. That’s easier said and than done, so how do they go about achieving this?

Ultimately, they need to work backwards from the customer. It is the experience of providers that matters, meaning they should continually be asking how much and what sort of resource would be best deployed.

On the front line, for example, successfully dealing with customers requires human interaction – to empathise, to connect, to offer tailored solutions and facilitate those experiences consumers expect. But as we get further from the customer, how much human is really needed? It may seem counter-intuitive, but does the answer to best supporting human workforces in delivering exceptional customer experiences actually lie in automating where possible?

Smarter automation for better customer experiences

Currently, CSPs rely on human intervention at each layer, reacting to issues. Greater speed is required, however, if they’re going to keep up with, and ahead of, the disruptive opportunities within the industry. In order to deliver on the promise of 5G and digital transformation, CSPs must embrace operations automation and look at every opportunity to reduce human intervention. This can be supported by comprehensive management tools already available – ones that can integrate and interlink multiple networks to ensure the highest possible experience for their customers.

To that end, what if CSPs could adopt truly smart automation, removing that need for intervention and shifting them from a reactive to proactive footing? Suddenly, they can continuously monitor for situations that could cause network incidents, detecting abnormal patterns before these have a chance to disrupt service. And, when incidents cannot be prevented, automatically identify the root cause of the problem.

Furthermore, as new devices or virtual functions are moved, added or changed, smart automation tools ensure the network topology is automatically updated and refreshed, eliminating the need for manual updates by the network ops team. This level of assurance automation is even more critical in NFV and cloud-native networks due to the inherently dynamic nature of virtual network functions (VNFs) and service chains.

So, everything moves faster – when issues are identified proactively, solutions can be deployed before users flag the problems. And with the right tools, the management of different environments can all be delivered through one solution. In other words, having complete, end-to-end visibility.

As a result, network operators can focus on delivering quality of service guarantees, meet stringent service level agreements, and provide a high-quality customer experience, rather than spend their time troubleshooting network problems.

High standards today, future-proofed for tomorrow

In doing so, CSPs can continue to deliver a high standard today, while investing and deploying for tomorrow. Rather than frustrating people with railway-style upgrades, new services simply appear in the eyes of the customer, with no inclination of the alterations happening behind the scene.

It is a rich, integrated approach to managing ever-changing networks. It goes beyond traditional service assurance and infrastructure monitoring to provide a complete approach to physical, virtual and service-based network management.

This automated approach is the only way CSPs can keep pace with the avalanche of new services, tighter cross-domain dependencies and virtualized networks.

 

Duncan Greenwood is Vice President and General Manager for VMware’s Northern Region, EMEA, responsible for driving business growth across VMware’s compute, cloud, mobility, networking and security portfolio in the UK, Ireland, Benelux and Nordics.

VMWare goes on $4.8bn cloud spending spree

VMWare has doubled down on the cloud, writing two cheques totalling $4.8 billion to acquire security firm Carbon Black and software development firm Pivotal.

Founded in 2007, Carbon Black currently offers cloud security solutions to 5,600 customers and 500 partners globally. The cloud-native security platform leverages big data and behavioural analytics to provide endpoint protection against a growing variety and increasing velocity of cyber threats.

“The security industry is broken and ineffective with too many fragmented solutions and no cohesive platform architecture,” said Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare. “By bringing Carbon Black into the VMware family, we are now taking a huge step forward in security and delivering an enterprise-grade platform to administer and protect workloads, applications and networks.”

“We now have the opportunity to seamlessly integrate Carbon Black’s cloud-native endpoint protection platform into all of VMware’s control points,” said Patrick Morley, CEO of Carbon Black. “This type of bold move is exactly what the IT and security industries have been looking to see for a very long time.”

With Carbon Black’s portfolio added to the fray, VMWare has said it can now create a modern security cloud platform for any application, running on any cloud, on any device. The aim is to add more intelligence to security functions, threat detection, as well as accelerating responses to limit the damage which can be inflicted.

This is the challenge which many enterprise organizations are facing around the world; the volume of threats is increasing, but the complexity is becoming an even greater headache. With security team limited, and due to a skills shortage, it looks likely to stay this way, many organizations are turning to artificial intelligence to shore up defences.

For Carbon Black, this could prove to be a very useful move. Although the footprint of the business is already impressive, leaning on the significant presence of the Dell Technologies family, the parent company of VMWare, could certainly open doors to new customers.

After years of neglect, it seems the security segments of the digital economy might finally get the attention deserved.

Heading over to the Pivotal acquisition, VMWare will have to part with $2.7 billion to bring this firm into the family.

“Kubernetes is emerging as the de facto standard for multi-cloud modern apps,” said Gelsinger. “We are excited to combine Pivotal’s development platform, tools and services with VMware’s infrastructure capabilities to deliver a comprehensive Kubernetes portfolio to build, run and manage modern applications.”

Pivotal will add to the ‘Any Cloud, Any App, Any Device’ strategy being set in place by VMWare. Following the acquisition of Heptio last year, VMWare has become one of the top three contributors to Kubernetes, the open-source container-orchestration system for automating application deployment, scaling, and management. With Pivotal in the stable, another leader in the Kubernetes ecosystem, the momentum will only head one direction.

Dell flies through Q3 with 15% revenue growth

Dell Technologies has reported its financials for the third quarter of 2018, with few complaining about15% revenue growth to $22.5 billion.

While the company still has a considerable bill to pay off following the $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2016, the firm has boasted about paying off approximately $1.3 billion of core debt after three months of positive growth across the group.

“The digital transformation of our world is underway, and we are in the early stages of a massive, technology-led investment cycle,” said Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies. “Dell Technologies was created to meet this opportunity head on for our customers and our investors. You can see the proof in our strong growth, in our powerful innovation and in the depth of our customer relationships.”

With total revenues standing at $22.482 billion, most of the numbers are heading in the right direction. The company is still loss-making, though this has narrowed to $356 million for the last three months and $522 million for 2018 so far, improvements of 13% and 78% respectively compared to the same periods of 2017.

Starting with the Infrastructure Solutions Group, revenue for the third quarter was $8.9 billion, a 19% increase, with the servers and networking delivering its sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth. Storage products saw a 6% increase in revenues taking the total up to $3.9 billion.

The Client Solutions Group saw revenues increase by 11% to $10.9 billion, with Dell suggested strong growth in both the commercial and consumer units. Commercial revenue grew 12% to $7.6 billion, and Consumer revenue was up 8% to $3.3 billion, while the firm outperformed the PC industry for total worldwide units.

In the VMWare business unit, revenue for the third quarter was $2.2 billion, up 15%, with operating income of $768 million. This is one area where the Dell management team feel some of the biggest benefits of the EMC acquisition are being felt, with the dreaded ‘synergies’ tag emerging. However, it’s the external AWS partnership which seems to be claiming the majority of the plaudits.

“Overall, I think yesterday’s announcement at re:Invent just reinforced the momentum that we have in the partnership with Amazon,” said Patrick Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare. “And clearly, the VMware Cloud on AWS, we continue to see great customer uptake for that. We reinforce the expansion of that with the Relational Database Service, the RDS announcement that we did at VMworld and yesterday’s Outposts announcement just puts another pillar in that relationship. So now I’d say, we’re on Chapter 3 of the partnership. And overall, we just can see the continued momentum.”

Dell Technologies is not a company which get a huge amount of press inches nowadays, though trends are certainly heading in the right direction here.

Telcos urged to stop moaning and get on with 5G because it’s inevitable

At 5G World in London operators were in agreement that the industry needs to stop having panic attacks about the business case for 5G and just get on with it.

The CTOs of both Swisscom and Three UK both expressed frustration at the apparent tendency of many in the industry to wait for a killer business case before going all-in on 5G. Since 5G is inevitable and the eventual ROI seems beyond dispute, why not just get on with it now. ‘Sh*t or get off the pot,’ they seemed to be saying.

Heinz Herren of Swisscom and Bryn Jones of Three were joined in a panel moderated by Gabriel Brown of Heavy Reading by the brilliantly-named Constantine Polychronopoulos, CTO of the Telco NFV Group at VMware and the latter concurred that 5G is a ‘do or die’ situation. It’s not a matter of if, but when, so get on with it already.

One of the main reasons for hesitation, presumably, is the presumed capex spike that it will entail, but all three of the panel were sceptical about that objection too. Herren doesn’t see the sub-millimetre wave upgrade to 5G requiring significant additional capex and Jones compared network upgrading to painting the Forth Bridge in so much as it’s a constant, rolling, substitutional process so the capex is already baked in.

They did concede some areas are going to cost a bit extra, such as massive MIMO antennas, additional need for fibre and the cost of buying, placing and servicing small cells. Herren and Jones both concurred that having as good and active a relationship as possible with vendor partners is vital. You can read more about the capex discussion at Light Reading here.