|Issue:||Europe I 2013|
|Topic:||Service delivery from the viewpoint of a telecommunications provider|
|Title:||Chief Technical Officer (CTO)|
Marcus Grausam is Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at A1, Austria. Mr Grausam was previously Head of the division ‘Operation & Maintenance’ at mobilkom austria and Head of Operation at A1 Telekom Austria.
The rapid development of technologies and the subsequent changes particularly affect the communications sector. Transmission technologies are constantly being replaced with faster, more efficient technologies. Customer demands on mobile communications are also changing and thus their needs for services from communication providers. An interesting approach to further development is provided with the expansion of these services to the Internet or the cloud.
The increasingly complex demands on IT processes require constant adaptation of service delivery platforms (SDPs). However, service delivery platforms have reached the limits of their achievement potential. SDPs build on standards that were predefined (Parlay, OMA) but which have turned out to be too slow for the present and thereby ineffective.
Web service delivery
The current transmission speed of the Internet is considerably higher than it was five to ten years ago. More and more people are now connected to the Internet and have consequently arrived in the digital age. Smartphones and tablets enjoy increasing usage and the so-called apps are also gaining popularity. Apps have an enormous potential for development compared to SDPs.
There are no uniform SDPs, each manufacturer has its own version, each operator its own requirements in terms of how the services provided by means of an SDP are presented within the operator’s limits. Services based on SDPs have often reflected the ‘walled garden approach’ of earlier times and have not been open to a broader developer community.
The Internet has demonstrated the potential inherent in open technology: what is successful with the customers becomes the new standard. Some examples of this are the successful services of Google, Amazon, Facebook and similar media. What they all have in common is that they openly offer their capabilities on the Internet and others use them to successfully implement their own business models. This ‘offering’ takes place by means of application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be used by application developers and often generates innovation. This has led to APIs taking on a considerably more important role today. They also provide an opportunity to interest app developers for their own in-house network capabilities. However, this makes it difficult for operators to go it alone successfully, which is demonstrated by the latest announcement that operators in England are merging to provide application developers with a common API for app development (API Federation).
Many companies now recognize that there is no easy way to invent, establish and successfully market services. In the meantime they have understood that it is necessary to intensively focus on services and that their business models can vary widely and cannot be forced into a single scheme.
These developments are all based on the Internet today and demonstrate the possibilities that could come out of this technology. The addition of clouds to the mix will prove to be very exciting in the future.
The future is in the cloud
Cloud computing is the provision of abstract IT infrastructures (such as calculating capacity, data storage, network capacities or software) via a network. The exciting thing about cloud computing is the services that become possible, comprising the complete spectrum of information technology and infrastructure. There is a considerable advantage to outsourcing service delivery processes to the web: through optimized service delivery IT services can be provided much more efficiently and in a solution-oriented fashion. Another advantage is that parts of the IT landscape (hardware and software) no longer have to be operated by the end-user, but are available directly from a provider. The only additional requirement is Internet access (mobile or fixed).
Modern society is becoming increasingly interested in using cloud services. Even telecommunication service providers are relying more and more frequently on cloud technologies.
Today it is important for every company to make sustainable investments – and this is also true for ICT infrastructure. Among other things, investments in so-called ‘green architecture’ can help reduce the CO2 footprint and fixed costs: by outsourcing or expanding IT on the web, or in the cloud, the company gains the advantage of increased flexibility while simultaneously using its own infrastructure. Outsourcing IT also brings about long-term cost reductions. To maintain this hybrid architecture less hardware is needed than with purely physical usage as is currently the case with in-house server landscapes. By shifting these structures CO2 emissions sink and in the long-term provide the company with an improved CO2 footprint. Companies with international operations can also derive advantages out of uniform usage of web service delivery: their worldwide branch offices can unify application interfaces and provide company-wide processes with web service delivery, ultimately enhancing efficiency and usability. Both sides (operator and contractor) can achieve benefits through the realization of scale effects.
A look at the future
Taking into consideration the services that are already in use today thanks to this technological development, such as cloud-based software solutions for SMEs that are provided by operators, the near future outlook is very positive.
Seen from the point of view of a company, the future IT infrastructure can provide a number of advantages for its employees. Cloud-based infrastructure can have advantages in terms of costs, security and availability of company data. For example, what would it mean if all the company’s data was stored in the cloud and could be accessed anywhere by any employee with his/her company-accredited device? Data stored locally on BYODs (Bring Your Own Device) could be avoided, which would immediately increase security.
Naturally, the prerequisite for this is that access to data stored in the cloud fulfills certain minimum criteria that guarantee the productivity of employees. Central storage is usually easier to protect than when it is spread out, particularly if different people are responsible for the storage. This also requires increased security. It would also be possible to realize the ‘immediate private / office switch’, which means that as soon as a BYOD is connected to the company cloud, the channels of the private cloud are blocked. When the device is separated from the company cloud it immediately becomes privately usable again with no limitations.
Opportunities such as these provide great potential for further changes in the working world. This can go so far that some employees will no longer need a workplace in the company, but can basically work from home or while on the go. Web-based video conferencing would allow the employee to also take part in meetings while on the go. FaceTime, Webex and Netviewer are among the applications that make this possible.
The increasing global network will clearly impact areas like education, health or social welfare. Medicine, for instance, could benefit by deploying web services combined with progressive cloud technology: doctors could get the data they need for patients without the patients having to physically appear, and they could talk with their doctors by means of a web conferencing tool. In the same way, measuring devices (ECG, blood pressure, etc.) could be drawn upon for remote monitoring and remote diagnosis of patients.
The intuitive design possibilities of today’s user interfaces also attract the youngest in society, for instance to play games via the Internet. They are growing up in an environment in which learning and discovering via digital devices and gadgets is already part of everyday life. This also applies to the area of education: from eLearning in the classroom to university studies to adult or further education, digital devices make our everyday lives much easier and it is impossible to imagine doing without them. Here web service delivery enables eLearning, anytime and (almost) anywhere. The emerging, convenient opportunities for learning and the simplified access to education can contribute to a higher general level of education. These exciting and challenging developments are of great support to us on our path to a modern knowledge society.