The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

What’s the difference between SDN and NFV?

networking.jpgI was in a discussion the other day with someone focused on the networking services space and they kept using the acronym NFV, without really defining it. I dug in a bit and this is what I found.

 

Network Functions Virtualization aims to address the issue of having a large and increasing variety of proprietary hardware appliances. Its approach is to leverage standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate many types of network equipment onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage. These more standard device can be located in datacenters, network nodes or at end user premises. NFS is applicable to any data planepacket processing and control plane function in fixed and mobile network infrastructures. 

 

 

I’ve mentioned Software Defined Networking (SDN) in this blog before.  NFV and SDN are mutually beneficial but are not dependent on each other. That was one of the confusions I had during the initial conversation. NFV is focused on consolidating and reducing hardware costs. Although these devices could be virtualized and managed using techniques like SDN they don’t have to be.

 

The concepts of NFV are not really new. Even so, a more formalized approach with PoCs … will hopefully contribute to accelerating changes taking place in the communications industry allowing for reduced operational complexity, greater automation and self-provisioning – much like is happening in the cloud space (either through public or private techniques) for the rest of IT.

 

I just saw that Dave Larsen (of HP) put out a post about what HP is doing in both SDN and NFV, just as I was finishing up this post. Expect to see more about this when HP releases an HP Industry Edge e-zine devoted entirely to NFV, in the near future.  

Who defines business opportunities of mobile?

mobile worker2.pngThis morning I was in a discussion with some people from academia and industry that was primarily focused on communications trends. We quickly dove into the issues of security, networking education, mobility and sensing. Everyone agreed about the impact these areas are having at a high level, but when you dug down just a little bit, the business implications thinking stopped.

 

These technologies are going to shift how we think about some of the foundational aspects of business and employment today. Concepts are going to shift by asking: “What is a mobile worker?” In this age of BYOD and Mobile Device Management (MDM), nearly everyone is a mobile worker. Mobile is no longer special, it is a foundational tool for the masses, not a convenience for the elite. If anything, when the field services workers at the face of the customer are enabled by the technology, they can fundamentally shift how the client sees an organization. For many business the client is the field service worker.

 

Mobile interfaces can be more effective (since they are present at the time information is needed) and can actually be more secure (with all the sensing capabilities of modern devices they have much greater contextual understanding of who you really are than old PC or green screen interfaces ever could).

 

Organizations that want to generate new business value need to start identifying the business processes that are under-addressed with in the current IT portfolio (can a more mobile interface help?). They need to assess how the roles in those processes could be support – what is scarce in the decision making process – and provide the content (or even context) needed to make that process more effective. Techniques can be applied to shift adoption.

 

One thing that also needs to be considered is how will the change be tracked. With all the information mobile devices are capable of gathering, it sets the stage for a much deeper understanding of what is really happening, allowing more agile organizations to make course corrections on their deployments along the way.

 

Employees and customers are typically excited to use these techniques, if they can perceive its value. If they can embrace the experience. It is up to us to recognize the opportunity and make it happen. 

2014 – a year of instability

crystalball.gif2014 will be a year of Instability for most organizations. For the optimists, it will be a year that many of the technologies that entered the business environment, shift to delivering significantly new levels of value. For the pessimist, it will be another year of unwanted change.

 

One of the changes organizations will embrace is the shift from a focus on service delivery (including cloud) as a commodity to a value play. This will move Service Level Agreement metrics from measuring commodity performance (like uptime) to more business-focused and quality measures.

 

Many of the service players will begin to offer solutions higher up the value stack and directly address business processes. SaaS vendors moving to BPO for example, causing them to take on whole new areas of responsibility.

 

The same kinds of shifts will happen within IT support organizations. Workplace services that are currently focused on supporting BYOD will need to embrace Bring Your Own Service – a more environmental view of what is needed to address the business needs of the day. The security and service broker functions will become even more critical for support organizations since much of the work will be provided by others.

 

In 2013, HP talked a lot about the new style of IT. In 2014, a new style of business that is more social, mobile, flexible, data driven, secure and automated will generate greater value levels and allow those who embrace the change to excel. For example, social will be a lever for greater engagement for employees and customers. Mobile will build upon that engagement capability and add in the element of speed, shifting the time to action for organizations. Analytics will move out of the glass house and take advantage of mobile to provide the visibility and efficiency needed and where possible automation will offload well understood tasks and assist in simplifying and eliminating distractions. The race with the machine will be the race to watch in 2014 -- this will be a year of widespread transformation. Defining criteria to evaluate an innovation and its implication will help organizations minimize instability.

 

In 2012 a wide variety of ubiquitous and wearable computing hit the ground (even more in 2013) but in 2014 these will hit the road and be incorporated into more business and personal processes. They will shift from being isolated devices to becoming linked networks of functionality. As the costs and power requirements go down, they will be embedded in more products (and produce, limiting spoilage -- as an example) optimizing results. This will also enable a more software-defined everything view of computers in products. The instabilities this shift implies will be readily apparent in 2014.

 

Another shift will be to a software defined anything approach. The concepts of OpenStack for Cloud OS and OpenFlow for software defined networking will start to permeate higher into the value stack with a more open ‘smarts’ approach to pattern recognition and process optimization during 2014. This more open approach will allow for standardization yet customization enabling new level of business flexibility and applicability. The personalization and custom development for 3D printing... will continue to move into the mainstream.

 

Software in 2014 will incorporate more flexible information sources and analytics, enabling greater levels of automation and systems of action. For the end user we’ll likely see a great deal of interface work and changes as HTML5 integrates more capabilities for voice, video… and organizations begin to capitalize upon these capabilities across devices. A wider variety of spatial (gesture), touch, voice and even mind control interfaces will be incorporated into enterprise software, moving out of the consumer space. Organizations will learn from how the consumer space adopts the functionality of the Xbox One into their interactions. We will move beyond a ‘mobile first’ view for development to mobile is 'the interface' and desktop is a special case – fortunately with HTML5 that should not be that big of an issue.

 

The software portfolio that has been built through the success of all the previous projects will need to be re-assessed in 2014 against these services and the revised needs of the business. Mobile interfaces will allow the enterprise to take advantage of the computer everyone has with them. This environmental perspective will enable the employees to become more engaged with the processes, customers and other employees, empowering them and enabling them to empower others.

 

Organizations will need to assess what is abundant in this world of 2014 and what will still be scarce for them. Those that recognize this distinction will have a significant advantage in planning and removing instability. Everyone can probably recognize that security, privacy and time (attention) will be scarce, but what else can be optimize and used differently to provide advantage.

 

Engaged and motivated employees will still be scarce. I think businesses will need to do more in-house orientation and development enabling a more predictable talent creation pipeline. Although a variety of education techniques can be applied to make this happen, the passive approach that came about during the .com era will no longer be accepted by the businesses or its employees and the new skills and change management required to shift the business will be recognized and addressed in 2014.

 

Organizations that can quickly adjust to the volatility around them will remain stable and in control. Most of the instability can be predicted, although there are some situations that will always surprise us. Being flexible and aware can make those situations turn into an opportunity.

Grading my predictions for 2013

grading predictions.pngAt the end of every year that I’ve been making annual predictions, I grade my predications made in the previous December

(200620072008200920102011, 2012). It's time to look at 2013. 2013 has been the start of a turnaround for HP. We’re not out of it all yet, but we’re definitely making progress. In a way, the same thing could be said about the economy and the industry as a whole.

 

I said that 2013 would be a year of expectation -- changing the very foundation of how IT is judged. HP’s efforts around the new style of IT attests to that and many of the trends I talked about in 2012 (and earlier) began to generate business value.

 

I’ll grade myself with the following scale again this year:

A: Big changes during the year that are having wide effect.

B: Notable progress through the year and isolated areas of significant impact.

C: Progress with some impact

D: Little progress or impact – but work still taking place

F: No progress or the concept abandoned in any commercial sense.

 

Grade

Prediction

Rational

A

Organizations will have a higher expectations of security based on what everyone has experienced and learned. The battle over Internet censorship and control will reach new heights in 2013.

Thanks to the Snowden issue, this one definitely came out big, although in a way none of us may have expected.

C

Software defined networks will make communications as virtualized and flexible as the computing infrastructure. This versatility will become an expectation.

I facilitated a discussion on SDN back in September and throughout our talk it was clear that progress has been made, but we’re still only scratching the surface.

A

IT organizations will expand their definition of “customer” and their analytics to include suppliers, partners, consumers and anything/one that can make a difference

Although Big Data was not new in 2013, it definitely started to penetrate even the most slow to adopt organization’s thinking. There is definitely progress being made, although I still wonder about the bias issue.

B

We can expect to see bigger data and even bigger storage, with copious amounts of information coming from more sensors in more places. Organizations will no longer be satisfied with using only 3-5% of the data available. Beyond there being more data, the information collected will be of a wider variety (including video, sound…) so transforming the information from one format to another and back will be increasingly important.

This is a case of definite progress being made but I am not sure organizations are yet using double digit percentages of the information available to them.

B

The whole concept of ‘In Memory’ computing will be up for a shift in expectations for where and how it is used.

SAP Hana (probably the most notable of the large commercial applications in this space) is now being looked at seriously for a wide range of database applications. It is not too widespread but HP and SAP are definitely making inroads.

D

Widespread acceptance of new and improved NFC capabilities for payment and identity. The Internet of Things (IoT) will become just the Internet. Individuals will be able to add IoT capabilities independent of the original manufacturer, if desired. Although enterprises may still be crawling their way to the IoT, consumers will embrace IoT in 2013.

Although the Internet of Things is real, it has not made the progress I expected it to make in 2013. The consumer space has not really moved all that much more quickly than the Enterprise space. Sure there are devices and applications, but are they really having the impact they should.

D

The availability of different disruptive display technologies in 2013 to shift our thinking about where and when a display is needed (or even possible).

Although there are some new interface approaches and techniques, displays have not really shifted significantly in 2013.

D

One of the other core shifts in expectation will be around simplicity and the use of automation to focus attention and automate more business processes. The concept of human augmentation of automation will be significantly less foreign at the end of 2013 than it is today.

This is another case where there has been some progress, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. Human augmented automation is about as foreign to strategic planning now as it was in 2012.

C

Enterprises will begin to address the issue that most of the apps in production can’t really unleash the power of the cloud. 2013 should see new tools and techniques to address this potential.

Application portfolio management is definitely part of a move to greater value in IT, but I’d say the adoption is only slightly more than 2012.

C

IT will begin to see ways to virtualize the mobile experience in new, secure and innovative ways.

Once again there has been progress, but it has primarily been incremental in nature. No radically new devices or approaches have come on the scene, although HP has services that understand virtualization in the mobile space, they are just not yet in demand.

B

The skills within the organization will be a constraint on value generation. Gamification, as an example, is a skill that will be recognized and move hand-in-hand with strategic change.

I do believe that gamification and its understanding by organizations shifted significantly in 2013, but that might just be because I kept talking with people about it.

C

Using the contextual information available from big data and the need for attention engineering, individuals and corporations will have greater expectation on how information is delivered to them.

Although to most businesses the expectations on information delivery is changing, I don’t think it has made significant change from the approach used in 2012.

B

There will also be a shift in how products are personalized as 3D printing moves out of limited use and becomes significantly more mainstream with some parts of the world having 3D printing capabilities as a local service. 

2013 was a good year for 3D printing. Most people have heard about it, even if they have not held something that has been through a 3D printing process. Commercial entities have begun to embrace the possibilities.

D

Implementation of IPV6 is going to be a focus in 2013.

Now there are those who are pushing back and saying they may never need to go to IPV6, the workaround are good enough.

D

Realization that automation is the new off-shore, specifically in development

I don’t believe this moved much in 2013. Very few organizations use significant automation techniques in the development space.

 

Based on these scores, my predictions for 2013 were not too conservative. My personal goal is to get close to a C+. If I get too high a grade, I am not trying to stretch my thinking (or yours for that matter) enough.

 

My view is the same as when I finished up my post in 2011:

 

“Having said all that, it is a great time to be in IT. Most of our concerns are currently driven by an overabundance of capabilities that most organizations have not tapped into effectively. Those who can have the vision will be in for quite a ride this year as they look to do more with more.”

 

I should have my predictions for 2014 out by the middle of December.

AT&T preparing for further wireless investment

telecom.pngYou may not have heard much about it, but a deal was agreed upon last month that will enable Crown Castle International to lease about 9,100 of AT&T's towers for an average term of 28 years. The agreement, under which Crown Castle will also buy about 600 AT&T towers outright, will bring AT&T about US$4.85 billion in cash up front, enabling AT&T to invest is further upgrades.

 

If you think about how the mobile market works, there is about 10 years between generations of mobile technology. Many regions are finishing up the rollout of 4G and people are starting to talk about 5G capabilities. By 2040 we’ll probably be on 7G technology – whatever that means. Just the 5G capabilities being demonstrated are impressive.

 

As these technologies are rolled out it takes the whole abundance of networking capability to a whole new level. Since we'll likely see these capabilities before the end of the decade it is something to plan around.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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