AUSTIN -- Big Communications Event -- With SDN, NFV, virtualization, IoT and big data being kicked about on a daily basis by communications service providers, is dramatic change really possible, and is it happening today?
During last week's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, Carol Wilson, editor-at-large for Light Reading, posed those questions in the keynote panel she moderated.
While there was some consensus among the panelists, the degree of change was debated. Here are some of the panelists' responses to Wilson's questions about dramatic change, which also included whether it was even possible. (Some of the responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
A BCE keynote panel, which was moderated by event chair and Light Reading Editor-at-Large Carol Wilson, debated whether communication service providers were undergoing dramatic changes. Panel participants, from left to right, included James Feger, CenturyLink; Jeff Finkelstein, Cox Communications; Doug Junkins, NTT Innovation Institute; Don MacNeil, EdgeConnex; Tim Naramore, Masergy; and Randy Nicklas, Windstream.
"I would say yes to all of those questions [about whether dramatic change was happening and if it was possible]. We've heard a couple of times [at the conference] that we're starting to see a lot of velocity. We've seen a couple of projects where we have taken these smaller teams and we have incubated them. We've given them the runway and the flexibility in the company to do exactly what they needed to do. If you can't solve the problem in this room, we'll bring the right people into the room. Once we start seeing traction, we bring those types of services into the larger company. It's very different than the way a traditional service, product or technology was launched in the past." — James Feger, Vice President, Infrastructure Support, CenturyLink
"I think it's an important step that number 1, there's this admission that things need to move in an open environment…I think it's foundational, but there's more to come. What can you point to other than service offerings that are kind of like what we've always had, but typically are (now) being done a little differently?" — Don MacNeil, Chief Technology Officer, EdgeConneX
"I think there's change taking place but I don't think it's really being driven by the telcos. I think it's people that are starting to encroach on telcos' typical space and causing us to react. I would say it's more reactionary. Telcos need to really learn how to innovate in order to be able to really remain relevant in anything other than simply providing infrastructure." — Doug Junkins, Chief Technology Officer, NTT Innovation Institute Inc.
"I think dramatic change is pretty rare. I'm not sure we're in one right now, but I tend to agree with my colleagues saying that it remains to be seen, that some of the things that are being talked about at this conference are truly on the same scale as going from, say, circuit switching to packet switching, or something like that. That was dramatic. I'll be a little more on the fence for now. With that said I think there's lots of changes that are quite dramatic, such as consolidation as a whole with service providers and vendors." — Randy Nicklas, EVP, Engineering; CTO, Windstream
"There are changes, which at the time feel dramatic, they feel disruptive, but as you look back at it you realize in many ways it was just organic growth. Service providers tend not to be very innovative historically. We change our Post-it notes from yellow to pink and we think we've revolutionized the company in some regards. Realistically, we undertake quite a bit of change, but because we do it in a very incremental fashion we often lose sight of how dramatic or disruptive it is to our own business. A lot of is forced upon us, thankfully, because it makes us become better at what we do." — Jeff Finkelstein, Executive Director, Network Architecture, Cox Communications
"I think the rate of change is going up dramatically. Maybe that's just me getting older, but I do think the rate of change is happening much quicker. There's a fundamental change in the business model between the web scale people and the traditional telecom carrier people. I think that is what is driving some of the change we see at this conference in terms of NFV and software." — Tim Naramore, Chief Technology Officer, Masergy
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation