|Issue:||North America 2009|
|Topic:||Living in a Web-based world|
|Title:||Executive Vice President and CTO|
Dr. Vikram Saksena is the Executive Vice President and CTO of Tellabs; he is responsibility for Tellabs’ technology strategy and business development. Previously, Mr Saksena served as chief technology officer for Sonus Network. Before Sonus, Saksena spent 16 years at AT&T building the company’s data network services, software and network infrastructure for Frame Relay, ATM and IP. Prior to AT&T, he served as chief technology officer and Vice President of Engineering of two start-up companies, MaxComm Technologies and Narad Networks. He also holds more than 15 patents in telecommunications and data networking and is a senior member of the IEEE. Vikram Saksena holds a Bachelors of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology; and a Master of Science degree and PhD. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois.
Innovations such as the Internet, smartphones, cloud computing, and convergence are changing our world. The Internet’s evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 gave us access to the world and to a world of information and social interaction. Web 3.0 – just starting – will personalise services to match our needs and resolve tasks ‘intelligently’ through the ‘semantic Web’. Cloud computing, smartphones and the convergence of services and devices will bring these Web services to everyone everywhere and wherever and whenever needed.
Communications technologies and humans have always had a push-pull relationship. Someone comes up with a desire for a new way to communicate, an ‘if-we-could-only-do-this’ idea which eventually pushes researchers into inventing the necessary tools and technology. Alternatively, a technology emerges from a laboratory, tasking its inventors with creating a market by persuading people of the technology’s usefulness. Regardless of who starts the process, some technologies never quite take off, finding a home only in niche markets or even winding up in oblivion. Others, however, make a dramatic and lasting impact on the world, embraced first by early adopters and ultimately reaching critical mass, at which point they become essential elements of our professional and personal lives. As those technologies continue to evolve, their ability to add value to our lives evolves, too. Four such technologies are the Internet, smartphones, cloud computing, and the convergence of networks, devices, services and users. First, the Internet has radically altered the world and continues to shape and re-shape it. Its first iteration, Web 1.0, functioned as an information catalogue, and Google was the poster child to organize that information around search technology. Web 1.0 put practically any piece of information, no matter how esoteric, at the fingertips of every Internet user. Then came Web 2.0, with its emphasis on social interactions. Facebook emerged as the poster child, along with MySpace, blogs, wikis and Twitter, and each platform gives people a place to come together and share thoughts, ideas and interests. Web 2.0 has humanized the Internet, effectively erasing geographic boundaries and creating global communities that could not otherwise exist, because of members’ physical distance from one another. Essentially, Web 2.0 makes the world anyone’s oyster, giving people everywhere the opportunity to make connections and friends around the globe, to learn about other countries, cultures and politics and, in the process, to promote international respect and cooperation. The next stage of the Internet’s evolution, already underway, is Web 3.0, which will have the intelligence to personalize services for individual users, thus simplifying their lives. In other words, Web 3.0 will function as a personal assistant for users. Elementary forms of such personalization already exist; for example, Amazon.com today uses information about a given customer’s previous purchases to make recommendations for additional products that customer may like. Although no single company has emerged yet to define this space, the appearance of a poster child to make Web 3.0 a widespread reality is only a matter of time. Meanwhile, Webs 1.0 and 2.0 continue to evolve as well, with each continuing to enhance its value for users. Smart devices for a personalized world A second big technology centres on the Internet’s expansion into the mobile world, via the Apple iPhone and similar intelligent devices from such companies as Google, Blackberry and Nokia. Armed with an intelligent device, be it mobile or fixed, a user simply ‘visits’ an online application store and downloads the application he or she wants. Before the mobile world embraced the Internet model, network operators determined which applications would be available to users. Now, IP technology has opened up the network, allowing Internet companies and third parties to develop applications and make them readily available to anyone who wants them and has an intelligent device to retrieve it. The interaction between the intelligent device and the application store – with the network providing the high-speed connectivity and quality of service – effectively enables individual users to choose from a broad array of applications, in addition to those available from the network operator. Furthermore, the combination of a personalized application domain with a personal intelligent device, which the user can customize to his/her preferences, actually brings Web 3.0 closer. Put another way, the true personalization that defines Web 3.0 requires a personal, mobile device or smartphone. Cloud computing – a ‘just-in-time’ infrastructure The data centre, which consists of an IT infrastructure plus applications, has been the cornerstone of the business world during the last two or three decades – and a millstone around the corporate neck as well. Because each company needs a set of applications to run the business, it obviously must invest in the infrastructure to run those applications – a data centre with hardware, software and network connectivity. In addition to the upfront cost of creating the data centre, a company also has to shoulder the ongoing operational expenditures of continuously right-sizing the underlying infrastructure as the organization grows and changes. The data centre is an expensive but necessary evil; what the company really cares about are the mission-critical applications running in the data centre. Ideally, each organization would like to create an environment in which it creates and runs its applications, while someone else takes care of everything underneath. That wish has triggered an evolution, which began with the outsourcing of data-centre chores to service providers that hosted corporate Web sites. Although the service provider hosts a company’s servers and storage, the company continues to pay, in one way or another, for all the hardware, software, and components running its applications. With the recent emergence of cloud computing, that evolution now has accelerated toward the ideal business environment. By virtualizing the data centre, cloud computing allows businesses to create the necessary infrastructure on the fly. Rather than buying physical hardware, software, storage and connectivity, companies now can purchase all those capabilities from the cloud provider, when and where they need it, with zero upfront investment. They pay only for the infrastructure they use, when they use it, which means they can now access and pay for a ‘just-in-time’ infrastructure. In addition to no longer being saddled with stranded infrastructure, which handles peak loads and then is idle the rest of the time, companies now are freed from worrying about technology-upgrade cycles and changing software. The cloud provider takes care of all of that, leaving organizations to focus only on those all-important applications necessary to running the business. Reduced costs and headaches are not the only benefits of cloud computing. Virtualizing the data centre also gives businesses much more flexibility to react to changing market conditions. For example, say the applications run by a particular company historically have been related to processing of documents – manipulating them, storing them, perhaps converting them to multiple formats. Over time, that company is adopting image processing, video processing and more complex data-mining applications. Previously, the company’s agility depended on how quickly it could upgrade its data centre to handle these new requirements. Upgrading, of course, meant going through budget approval, purchasing hardware and software, installing it and training employees on how to use it-all before the company can actually put the new application into operation and benefit from it. Contrast that with the cloud-computing world, in which the company simply goes to the cloud provider and, through a fast point-and-click process, instantly creates an infrastructure for video processing-the cloud provider already has all the underlying infrastructure components for delivering the application. In the real world, that means a company can react to changing conditions and requirements almost instantaneously, with not only just-in-time infrastructure, but just-in-time capabilities, too. Cloud computing is the least-cost route to speed and flexibility that businesses have never had before – and it removes that data – centre millstone from around their corporate necks. Converged services – bringing users together Today, a particular communications service is tied to a particular network and to a particular device. That means that when a subscriber signs up for IPTV service, he can only get that service on his home TV, not on his computer or his mobile smartphone. To obtain that same service on one or both of those other devices, he will have to sign up for separate versions of the service, which, in turn, are not available on his TV. Everyone functions in rigid communications silos that are not suited to the ways people live and work. Convergence is flattening those silos, making it possible for users to obtain a given service on any device, anywhere they happen to be at the moment. In the not-so-distant future, people will get the services they want, when and where they want them, on any device they want to use, thus eliminating the complex, expensive duplication of services and bills. For example, a user will be able to stream content between a mobile phone and a TV set. Today, mobile phones have cameras but, when users capture video on their phones, they can either see it on their phones or send it to other users who can watch it on their phones; the service is restricted to mobile phones. Convergence, however, will enable a user at a soccer game to capture the game on their video phone and stream it to their home TV, where family members can also watch the game – in real time. Just as the cell phone made it unnecessary to use a fixed location to make and receive calls, convergence will free people from depending on specific networks and specific devices when they want to use specific communications services. Some communications technologies clearly have restricted usefulness and therefore have limited lifespans. However, when a technology – or set of technologies – simplifies life and work, brings people together in common interests, personalizes their options and simultaneously gives them the freedom to move around, then that technology delivers unlimited value. It becomes part of our human experience.