Peace on Earth

…and mercy mild, all God’s service providers and enterprise IT shops reconciled.

To be sure, there is plenty of disharmony and cutthroat competition in the networking, software and telecommunications industries–and in all industries–and unless our Creator were to suddenly begin to endow us all with a quite different set of characteristics, it will always be thus. Yet especially during this holiday season it is encouraging to see groups that have previously been best characterized as “warring factions” learning from each other and (dare I say it) working together.

You’ll recognize the battle lines. In one corner: Telcos, turning up their noses at or running away from anything that looks like an “enterprise” solution because carrier networks require industrial-strength systems that can scale to handle tens of millions of concurrent subscribers and users, plus hundreds or thousands of concurrent carrier employee and contractor users. In other words, doing what most enterprise management systems are simply not equipped to do. In another corner: Enterprise IT groups, looking down their noses at the alleged Neanderthals in the carrier space with their non-standard, one-shot, get-it-done-somehow-and-ask-questions-later approaches to managing their networks. In yet another: Cable broadband providers, without decades of “legacy systems” and legacy organizations to wrestle with, for whom OSS/BSS, if it had any meaning at all, had been simply and only about getting out the bills each month.

It is good to see the extent to which a lot of this is changing. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), launched by the U.K.’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to address the management of IT infrastructure, development and operations, and at first adopted solely by enterprise IT users, is now being followed religiously by many service providers. Version 2 of ITIL contained 10 books and Version 3 has consolidated those into five: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. ITILv3 links IT service strategies to customer value, and addresses service development and supporting processes, service design/delivery/control and other aspects such as measurement, reporting and service level management (SLM). Moreover, the use of the term “service” does not mean v3 is intended as a manifesto for service providers but reflects the broader and quite welcome reality that even enterprise IT operations are being run more and more not on a best-efforts basis but as “internal service providers” whose internal “subscribers” are every bit as important, not to mention vocal, as their external counterparts.

Naturally the TM Forum has a major role, perhaps the lead role, to play in all of this. Of course its Enhanced Telecom Operations Map (eTOM), Next-Generation OSS (NGOSS) and Shared/Information Data model (SID) are now akin to passages from the Bible for virtually every knowledgeable professional in the service provider community. Although its focus today is on enabling digital commerce, the fact remains that no organization in history (with apologies to AT&T Bell Laboratories, and Bellcore during Sanjiv Ahuja’s tenure) has ever had the breadth and depth of technological know-how and experience the TM Forum can bring to bear on any network management issue. And the enterprise market is not only noticing but marching to the Forum’s tune in mapping out its own strategies. In our research we make a point of asking where leaders are getting their information and taking their cues from, and in many cases now the first acronym out of enterprise users’ mouths is “eTOM.” Or, fun for those of us with a deeper heritage in this market: “FCAPS” (the old fault-configuration-accounting-performance-security management model).

The vendor community has seen these synergies for some time and has been readying itself for the moment when customers would see the light. By virtue of its acquisition of MetaSolv and others, Oracle, whose roots are clearly (and still) in enterprise, has vaulted into a leading position in the OSS/BSS market and is mentioned by a number of our research respondents, along with OSS market leader Amdocs, as the kind of large one-stop-shop they’d like to do business with going forward.

Speaking of Amdocs, its move into cable broadband through its acquisition of Jacobs Rimell, and the more recent acquisition of Ceon by Convergys, may do many things, but one thing both moves do is to validate the vision of the market leader in broadband service fulfillment, Sigma Systems. Sigma’s All Play and other offerings are built from the ground up to address not one service but as the name implies, all services. While the rest of the market catches up–and as we have written in this space, the fact that Sigma doesn’t already count more telcos as customers tells us a number of them still don’t get it–Sigma is doubling down on its existing cable broadband customer base by providing a lot more than service fulfillment, having moved into many areas including programming distribution and subscriber interaction. Which in years past was the kind of thing addressed by vendors such as Probita and, more recently, on a limited basis by cable equipment suppliers like Scientific-Atlanta, now part of Cisco Systems.

The market is opening its collective mind in another way: To using hosted software, software-as-a-service (SaaS) or managed services instead of the same old high-upfront-cost installed systems. OSS/BSS leaders at two of the largest operators in APAC have told us they never want to buy another piece of software in their careers, they want OSS/BSS to be part of a managed services solution. That appears to offer substantial opportunity for IBBS and IMI Mobile, which already compete in OSS/BSS with managed services offerings, and HCL, which currently does not–but which is one of the world’s largest IT service providers and, we believe, its #1 managed service provider (MSP) as well as the #1 computer manufacturer in India.

As I alluded to at the outset, in the midst of all of this synergy, human nature still rears its sometimes ugly head. And so in fall 2008 we saw a donnybrook in the always red-hot (?) least-cost routing sector. Telarix filed suit against Vero Systems, which was in the process of being acquired by Teoco, upon which Vero filed a countersuit against Telarix and a merry little entry popped up on the Vero site, still there as I type these words on 19 December 2008 that read, “Telarix files meritless lawsuit against Vero Systems. Click here for the latest information.” Happily, all’s well that ends well and as announced on the Teoco website, “Telarix, Teoco and Teoco’s wholly-owned subsidiary Vero Systems have reached a complete settlement. All claims and counter-claims in the case have been dismissed with prejudice and without any admission of liability by any party.” Just in time for the holidays!

And while Tim McElligott and I both receive positive email traffic about these blogs, we also hear from those who are happy enough if mentioned in a positive light but react to other thoughts about their companies and markets as if the photo at the top of the B/OSS Insider blog is a remarkably good likeness of the devil. That’s OK. (And who knows: They could be right…) This space is not for sale, our charter is to talk about what we know and analyze what we see and hopefully provide insights that help you in your business. During my time at Gartner one week stands out: Gave a five-hour in-the-round strategy talk for Ahuja (now head of Orange, at that time head of software for Bellcore) and his 15 top lieutenants in the months preceding Bellcore’s acquisition by SAIC. Saw one company pay Gartner handsomely to use some of my verbiage on its website. Saw another announce its intentions to sue Gartner because it did not like some critical comments we had about its body of work. I figured that particular week struck just about the right balance.

Before I close, let me tick off several more interest groups with this simple wish: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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