By Vinay Bansal, Head: Telco vertical– South Africa, Wipro Limited

 

The ever-greater number of applications and software solutions in the hands of consumers drives an insatiable demand for powerful, feature-rich and flexible networks.

 

Telecoms networks simply must evolve. The days of being a ‘dumb pipe’ that merely provides essential voice and data access are gone forever.

 

Telcos are on the cusp of a major revolution in how they deliver their services. All the hype is about 5G, but there is far more to the story than just the pure speed of the transmission network.

 

To evolve into a true digital telco that has lasting relevance in the future, carriers must redefine every aspect of their operations and start embracing the potential of ‘software-defined everything’ (SDX).

 

This umbrella concept encapsulates everything from software-defined networking, to software-defined computing, data centres, and storage. It enables carriers to orchestrate and automate many aspects of network and IT management and crack open a host of new technology opportunities.

 

With SDX, all of the network’s intelligence and configuration is abstracted away from the hardware components of the network itself and is instead centrally controlled in virtual environments. It includes the domain of network function virtualisation – which virtualises entire classes of network node functions, such as IMS, packet core, load balancers, firewalls, intrusion detection devices or WAN accelerators.

 

Unrealised benefits

But, somehow, the concepts of SDN and SDX haven’t yet ignited the imagination of many telecom execs.   They have merely been scratching the surface of what’s possible with SDX.

 

In general, the abstracted functionality of SDX in the software layer has been used to simply replicate the same functionality as the old applications, without removing the hardware dependency truly.

 

To realise the potential of SDX, operators must create entirely new functionalities to address today’s biggest challenges: the exponential demand for data, millions of new IoT devices, Cloud-enabled businesses, sophisticated consumer applications, and proprietary nature of the network elements.

 

Global network operators are starting to define their own solutions, collaborating with OEMs and overlaying their technology with in-house customised services.

 

Technology providers haven’t yet been able to deliver software-defined services that address every possible use case or business case that an operator may have – as every environment is different, and every market has its own unique dynamics.

 

Adding greater value

But by putting software at the centre of their businesses, telcos can focus on developing these customised and feature-rich arrays of next-generation services, in close collaboration with technology vendors.

 

There is still an incredible opportunity for a telco to gain first-mover advantage in so many areas – across both enterprise and retail markets. Imagine a telco providing an IoT solution that allows soft drink companies to embed IoT features into their product distribution, instantly tracking the performance of every vending machine, every retail outlet, nationwide.

 

This would be an incredibly valuable service for a telco to weave into its core enterprise connectivity offerings.

 

With the concept of software-defined enterprises rises into prominence in the digital era, progressive telcos have the opportunity to get the edge on their peers – by developing customised, virtualised services, to spur new thinking in network management.