The SDN and NFV opportunity
TT: As a company maintaining a lot of legacy infrastructure, how do you go about integrating SDN?
TB: There are many interactions between software and legacy infrastructure and that is happening as well within our network. This is a good example of the strength between the IT ecosystem and the traditional ecosystem. Our position here is very clear. We think that we need to be an accelerator of innovation. When it comes to the network, we think SDN is an opportunity, not a threat, for customers and for us. We think it requires us to be completely open and so we are in favor of open APIs within the different layers of the SDN enablers. It should also be completely interoperable and we are supporting the idea of white boxes. The equipment must be completely agnostic to any operating system. That is a good example of what it means to integrate the software and the traditional infrastructure. We have been working on this SDN journey with partners and providers that are sharing the same ambition when it comes to open networks -- that is, open source, open APIs and the capacity to accelerate.
TT: Where is the biggest growth opportunity when it comes to virtualization?
TB: There is virtualization of the network, of the workspace and of the IT. The virtualization of the workspace, which is becoming more and more mobile, is an area of growth for us. We have developed a gallery of applications with partners like Microsoft and Google. Using our networks, which are MPLS-based, we can offer those applications to our customers as if they were within the customers' data centers. But it's a virtual gallery and remotely accessible anywhere and anytime and on any device with the security and guaranteed bandwidth of our MPLS network. That is a good illustration of the virtualization of the workspace. Of course, there is virtualization of IT infrastructure as well. We have a strong position when it comes to private virtual IT through our big international partners. Then in some parts of Europe there is a requirement for sovereignty, and so we have a public cloud that is completely independent and with infrastructure in the country in question. It's important to note that security counts when it comes to all those topics and that is a critical part of what we are providing with our Orange cyberdefense capability.
TT: Which is the biggest headache out of network, workspace and IT virtualization?
TB: It's always a bumpy road. The public cloud is the really challenging story because the big American usual suspects are very strong, and by the big ones I mean Microsoft, Amazon and Google. It's an area where the investment required for the infrastructure is so high that there is a barrier to entry, and I think it will be difficult to fight here without stronger regulation.
TT: Is that because these players are regulated so very differently from telecom service providers?
TB: That is one of the big issues, yes -- there are differences in the rules of the game.
TT: How do you expect network-as-a-service offerings to change your business model in the future?
TB: There will be a huge change in the business model because it's about end-user centricity. It's no longer about providing connectivity to a site but instead about giving a user access to particular apps. That means greater automation, more plug and play and being more agile in terms of what you consume. We are very optimistic about the SDN journey and that is why we have been investing in this journey, probably starting many years before competitors and being one or two steps ahead of the competition.
TT: Is it crucial for Orange Business Services to gain an upper hand over rivals through this?
TB: Yes, but it's not just a question of fighting competitors. Its about addressing customer needs. Organizations expect Orange to connect apps wherever they are and that is something completely different from the business in the old days. You have a portfolio of apps you like to use as a consumer and the same is happening in professional life. That is something the digital and IT officers of this world have understood and are expecting us to help them provide to the marketeers, the finance team and technicians within their companies.
TT: What is the service that is most in demand?
TB: One is universal communications, including messaging and access to social networking tools. That is something required by any employee within any company. You also have the business applications that are specific to a manufacturing ecosystem or an airline or something else. Those are the two layers that are big opportunities for B2B. These needs will grow as more objects come online and we've been investing in that area too. And all this requires a lot of security -- you can't afford not to protect the data of customers.
TT: How are your revenues and profits developing?
TB: The good news is that analysts have been seeing strong improvement in revenues over the past three or four quarters. We also stabilized our P&L at the end of 2015. We made the right choices in terms of the organization and when it comes to understanding the customer expectations for the digital journey. That required capex investments a few years ago but it's now generating revenue growth and profitability that's very positive, and demonstrates we did the right thing.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading, Editor-in-Chief, Telco Transformation