Why Amazon’s Offering Illustrates That Manual Network Management No Longer Works
I was chatting recently with Chris Wade, our CTO here at Itential, about various industry announcements during the holidays and how those may impact Itential, our customers and the industry in general. One in particular struck us as rather interesting.
Just after Thanksgiving Amazon announced their entry into the Network Services world as a provider to its customers. Light Reading published an article posing the question, “Should telcos be scared?” This question goes way beyond traditional network service providers and their fear of being supplanted, which is why I want to share some of our observations regarding this discussion.
Networks have always been predominantly static in nature. This is partly due to the fact that you just didn’t need to change things in a dynamic way to accommodate the services being used. However, as new service types are introduced and it gets easier to make changes, there will be an exponential increase in the number of changes operators need to make in the network.
A theme we kept landing on was that one of the major impediments to frequent network changes has been that they are just too hard to execute. Because the manual effort required is so high, there is a reluctance to make frequent changes. This is true even when those changes may result in some pretty significant efficiency gains or cost savings. It hasn’t been that operators didn’t want to be dynamic, more so that it just didn’t make sense to operate that way from a financial or resources perspective due to effort and cost.
What Amazon is introducing is a way for their customers to easily make changes to the network services provided by them. This will put Amazon at a competitive advantage over other network providers who don’t have automation in place, which allows them the same flexibility. Competitive pressure from Amazon, and other service providers that are putting significant effort into automation, will force those that have been willing to operate in a “good enough” mode to stop talking about automation and start actually implementing it. Can service providers afford for their competition to offer a superior network to customers? Does it even matter?
With the cost and effort lessened, we think there will be a tremendous increase in network change purely because it will no longer be a hard thing to do. This will bring many benefits to existing services in the network but is critical to the more complex services emerging such as NFV and other cloud-based offerings. Manual management of the network is not going to cut it anymore if you want to remain competitive.
The benefit doesn’t stop with service providers. Enterprise network operators that utilize these highly automated services will see great improvements in the flexibility of their own networks, as well as potential cost savings. Additionally, as the technology matures the enterprise will be able to leverage automation in their networks, something that has previously been out of reach due to cost. With innovation on the rise, such as used in the Amazon example, automation is not just for the service provider anymore. The enterprise is now able to increasingly implement these solutions much easier and more cost effectively than they realize. The game has changed, automation is here, so it is time to take advantage of it!