In the past few years, we have seen a revolution on how IT systems are built and deployed. Enterprise and consumer software systems were completely re-designed to abstract its dependency on the hardware infrastructure, run in the cloud, and be accessed through mobile devices over the Internet.
The benefits are too clear to ignore and the Telecom industry is going in the same direction, with software-centric deployments using Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) on high-volume, standard hardware platforms.
In the past, most communications network functions (e.g. VoIP switches, Session Border Controllers, firewalls, media servers, deep packet inspection, etc.) were implemented as appliances, with tight integration between proprietary hardware and software from a single vendor. Scaling services involved deploying additional hardware. Implementing redundancy required duplicating infrastructures.
Recent advances in IT technology, including faster general-purpose processors capable of processing demanding real-time tasks (such as media transcoding, for example), and advances in software (e.g. virtualization technology) makes it possible to quickly deploy (minutes, not months) software components that can be made available to users to support increasing demand or to offer new services.
NFV is an architecture that breaks the various network functions into modules so that they can be virtualized. Those network functions run as independent software components without requiring awareness of the underlying physical infrastructure and without proprietary dependencies on the other network functions.
In order to validate the benefits of NFV, we have built a fully functional multi-point conferencing system and deployed it in the cloud.
Direct Cost and Maintenance Efficiencies
Improved Operational Efficiency
Minimization of Innovation Cycle
The implications are significant not only for the Mobile and Telecom Operators, but also for Over-the-Top (OTT) Communication Providers, who will feel the competitive pressure to offer integrated services and can benefit from the unbundling of integrated systems previously accessible only to large operators.
The architecture and the results we observed attest the benefits of NFV and are detailed in the white paper: "Attesting to the Benefits of NFV - Building integrated cloud-based communication services".
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From Transactions to Relationships
The coupling between the phone system, dedicated hardware infrastructure, and the software solution has made the contact center a very conservative environment for decades. New entrants were kept out of the market by larger contact centers because the service and integration components of the solution were too complex and expensive for smaller companies to tackle.
But current trends that are leveling the playing field. New players are gaining ground with customer service solutions that operate in the cloud, using exclusively VoIP, with services that don’t require on premise hardware or infrastructure.
But it’s really all about the customer.
With Social Media and Mobile Connectivity becoming central to how consumers interact with brands, companies providing service through contact centers must consider customer relationships in the context of the overall customer experience to remain competitive.
Looking at the market and how the software systems supporting contact centers are evolving, we can identify the following technology trends:
For a more detailed discussion on the trends above and how both traditional and new vendors of contact center solutions can cope with it, please download the white paper, Moving from Contact Center to Customer Engagement: Using The Cloud, Big Data and WebRTC to Get There
Managing Resources between Mature and New Product Development
Once an enterprise software product becomes successful, it typically delivers value to customers for several years. However, in most markets there is a constant need to continue creating new products to stay ahead of the competition. Successful technology vendors end up with a product portfolio that is a mix of new and existing products.
Because resource constraints are always present, this mix can cause either new product development delays as resources are tied up in product maintenance or negatively impact customer service levels by losing the ability to respond quickly to enhancement requests and/or fixing bugs. This is a major challenge for any software vendor who needs to keep driving innovation in the market while maintaining existing products.
There are both productivity and financial benefits gained by focusing in-house resources on core innovation while maintenance (or sustaining) efforts for mature products are offloaded to an outsourcing partner.
The Development vs Maintenance Dilemma
When a product becomes a success, it’s time to develop the next-generation product to respond to market changes. Naturally, it is a common desire to have the star team who created the successful product leverage all of the experience gained to develop the next-generation product.
But it also makes sense to have this team who knows this product so well to continue into the maintenance phase, especially the engineering efforts.
“The engineering efforts required will go down after the product is launched.”
While maintenance efforts may fluctuate, such as in the initial high volume of requests from customers or intermittent changes to OS environments, the problem is that they are often underestimated.
Maintenance efforts range from 40-80% of the total engineering effort for a typical software product lifecycle.
“Why doesn’t the development team want to support it?”
Skill sets and motivations between the new product development and the maintenance phases vary greatly and not many are suited for both.
Building a product from scratch involves focus on innovation and risk-taking, the reliance on super-star domain experts, and the use of trial-and-error approaches.
Maintaining a successful product involves focus on the customers’ needs; the reliance on good communication and team collaboration; and the use of processes that ensure quality and reliability.
These are very different objectives requiring different skill sets that can easily create conflicting prioritization and essentially delaying new releases and/or decreasing customer satisfaction.
”Let’s handle this by adding more developers to the original team.”
Regardless of the team size, the conflicting objectives between new product development and maintaining existing products fails to create a balanced work effort which ultimately impacts revenue and market share.
A Better Solution for Software Product Maintenance
A potentially better solution is to let an external provider take over the maintenance efforts once the product matures.
Once the hand-off happens, the entire focus of the in-house development team can be on the next product. The experienced outsourcing partner seamlessly handles the fluctuations of demand without causing impact on the new product development schedule. The company wins, the development team is focused on what they do best, and customers get better service.
To read more about this challenge and to see a discussion on maintenance options, download this white paper, "The Software Development versus Maintenance Dilemma: Common miscalculations impact revenue and market share".
IMS and NFV
IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS) is standardized architecture adopted by telecommunication operators to provide IP-based telecom services. Its main promise is to enable converged service offerings that are flexible and quick to deploy. IMS is not exactly an emerging technology and many have the perception that the benefits of most deployments to date have not offset the complexity and cost.
But we now see a convergence of factors that creates critical mass for established technologies, like IMS, combined with emerging technologies to deliver innovation such as integrated communication services.
The rollout of Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) by mobile operators will use IMS in very large scale, which is exactly where it can deliver on its promises. VoLTE is a mobility-enhanced version of VoIP in the IMS network. It is the final transition into a world where voice service is transported as data all the way to the handset.
In addition, these solutions can benefit from approaches already adopted in the Internet world such as software-centric deployments using Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) on high-volume, standard hardware platforms.
The implications are significant not only for the Mobile and Telecom Operators doing it, but also for Over-the-Top (OTT) Communication Providers, who will feel the competitive pressure to offer integrated services and can benefit from the unbundling of integrated systems previously accessible only to large operators.
VoLTE Deployments to change Communications Market
That is why we see IMS, VoLTE, WebRTC and NFV as key technologies for anyone in the telecom or IP-communications spaces. Together, these technologies will change the communications market.
The rollout of VoLTE is the market catalyst for the deployment of IMS. NVF is the technology enabler for Mobile Operators to achieve scalable and cost-effective services. Availability of converged services is the competitive pressure that will push OTT Operators to also adopt IMS.
For a more extensive discussion, click here to download the Daitan White Paper "IMS, NFV and Cloud-based Services". We also welcome your comments on our LinkedIn page.
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