January 25, 2017 | Written by: Steven Teitzel
Categorized: Network Agility
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“Commit, adapt, innovate”….sounds very avant-guard, techie and leading edge. However, over the holidays at the end of the year I was able to take some down time enough to get to the point of simply being able to find a moment or two to read, ponder, and ‘connect dots’. I sometimes find reading in completely diverse fields causes me to view in new ways what I do daily. My thoughts this time came from the world of a modern-day cattle ranching operation that has sustained and grown over a hundred and fifty years that was featured on the front page of the first issue of the year in a ranching magazine. I kept looking at the article and thinking what was the key to this longevity of success and growth in such an unforgiving business and is there something in there that could apply the problem facing communication service providers (CSPs) today with their challenge in the shifting network infrastructure to NFV/SDN?
The article was about a fifth generation cattle-ranch in the rugged hills of southern California where let’s just say there is a lot of ‘dirt between the blades of grass’…ie, rough dry country. But here a family lives off the grid within two hours of Hollywood, has sustained and is growing a small business under an unforgiving an environment. What intrigued me is that this is a lot like the world of the service provider today, sustaining a business in an unforgiving environment though in the middle of the highest tech light waves, communications and services with their whole business and infrastructure virtualizing underneath them and there is no choice they must change or reinvent themselves… What enables the ability to sustain and grow in these times?
The three things that drove the success in this cattle ranching operation over the years were hard but simple: commit, adapt and innovate….incessantly. The article talked to starting with a vision 150 years ago of being in the beef industry in a rough part of country. That meant commitment to long term vision and tactical monthly, yearly return on that vision. This began to sound a lot like the world today of the service provider with a long term vision of being a provider of service but delivery in tactical returns to investors in spite of changes going on which is also at the heart of why network transformation with NFV is challenged, not from technology though that is challenging but the business case for change and how do we change. (See TMF blog by Craig Farrell: “The dilemma of implementing NFV services: Why is it taking so long?”, CTO IBM TME Industry).
Next in the article was this constant ability to change, not once, not yearly but ongoing. Moving from long horn to short horn to changing breeds, feed, seasonal activity, climate pattern shifts, herd reduction and expansion, shift in focus but always with an eye on a vision with tactical results….they had to in order to survive. Again, as I looked at service providers in the shift of their infrastructure to a hybrid virtual and physical environment, I saw the parallel that I see in CSP’s beginning to have success with NFV, that they are about change, a constant willingness to not accept growth in one way or one path as is built today but how the infrastructure must constantly adapt to the new climate of the business, the NFV/SDN technology and the scope. It is not just about the virtual function or infrastructure, but about the whole surrounding set of processes, operations and way it must change and come together in a new way and a culture that needs to combine and shift with network, IT, and business within an organization.
Last, the article talked to a unique quality found in the western rancher – resourcefulness. Though there was always one more issue or challenge, they were resourceful in how they resolved the issue. It’s not always about the new technology or tool but what is needed within the moment of the business challenge. It is a willingness to think differently and just get what is needed done to meet the vision (long term and tactical) and adapt. Perhaps it takes a little bit of that old-west “cowboy or cowgirl” independent thinking to try, consider, and find a way and just “cowboy up” to ride out and do what is needed with the technology or within the business, which in our language of technology means we need to be willing to innovate. Being willing and then just trying is a key to success in this world of NFV/SDN. In many ways we cannot simply wait for the perfect solution but instead “cowboy up” and move forward.
In the technical world of the service provider with the change to a world of virtualization with NFV/SDN there is a need to commit, adapt, and innovate. Within IBM we are helping clients through our deep skills in cloud and cognitive computing to reinvent their industries. We find CSPs encounter this and as they reinvent their network, there are some great ways to shift to this new hybrid world of virtual and physical and move to cloud-based networking. As we help clients re-invent their networks this year we look forward to partnering with you too as you work to commit, adapt, and innovate.
We will be sharing some of that innovation here (see the next article in this series on Re-Inventing Networks: Unifying OSS), and would be glad to meet with you at GSMA Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona to show or talk through some of this with our experts that are working with clients today to “commit, adapt, and innovate….incessantly.”