It’s not you, it’s me: Why operators and vendors must help employees ‘skill up’
With the introduction of Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV), and Software Defined Networking (SDN) operators hope that they can finally rival, at a local level, the types of services that the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon offer globally.
NFV and SDN promise to decrease the amount of bespoke costly hardware needed to operate the network, and streamline the operation of the network functions, bringing agility and lowering cost barriers for operators.
In these new, versatile, virtualised networks, there is a myriad of components that exist from Virtual Infrastructure Managers (VIMs), Hypervisors, to the Management and Orchestration (MANO) components all connected together via SDN Controllers, says Derek McElhinney, senior product manager at Openmind Networks.
Each of these components has multiple alternatives which can be selected from traditional NEPs, through to products from start-up companies and are all enabled through a plethora of Open Source technologies. This creates a complex matrix of software components, APIs, new deployment methodologies, security considerations and specifications – enough to give anyone a headache even just from the multitude of new TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)!
These new networks require more and more IT and Cloud Networking skills rather than traditional Core Network knowledge. Employees who are skilled in the older technologies will have to be retrained and there will likely be a shortage of experienced technicians as services get rolled out. And getting up-to-speed will be no easy task, a fact that hasn’t gone un-noticed by operators.
Earlier this year, in an interview with the New York Times, AT&T announced its initiative to re-skill many of the current workforce. However, part of this initiative suggested that those employees that don’t take the time out of their week to learn these new skills, will obsolete themselves with the technology.
While the importance of upskilling cannot be overstated, it can often be difficult to do when you factor in the day-to-day demands most employees are now under – especially given the contractions that have happened within the industry over the last couple of years.
The same argument can be made for employees of vendors who provide traditional network functions and services, and they too must adapt. Without the ability to navigate, and embrace the newer Cloud Technologies it will become impossible to fully realise the benefit that these new technologies can bring to network functions and services.
As became clear during the recent SDN World Congress in The Hague, operators are embracing SDN and NFV and they need their vendors to also follow suit. However, many vendors are only at a point of virtualising their applications, rather than taking the plunge and making their applications “Cloud Native”.
While this requires a complete shift from the traditional Telco mind-set, it is the only way to ensure competitiveness in today’s marketplace, where Over-The-Top services are disrupting all aspects of an operator’s offerings. Operators need to be able to start-up, shut-down, migrate, upgrade and expand a range of services at the push of a button – all in a matter of minutes, rather than weeks or months – and the knowledge and skillset required to design, build and deliver this functionality has to be part of a company’s development plans.
Networks are changing and technologies are changing – and for good reason. But it means that current employees must work to keep their skill-sets up to date, or face the prospect of being made obsolete by younger, “more relevantly skilled” people. To succeed within such a rapidly changing market both employees, and the companies that employ them, must invest in the training required.
The author of this blog is Derek McElhinney, senior product manager at Openmind Networks.
About the author:
Derek is a Senior Product Manager within Openmind Networks, with over 15 years’ experience in the global telecommunications industry having been responsible for operations, product development delivery and business development in a number of international companies.
Derek’s experience covers a wide area in the telecommunications sector, from mobile messaging to IN and roaming services and he has worked with mobile operators throughout the world. Derek has worked at Openmind Networks since 2013, and is an Electronic Engineering graduate from NUI Galway.
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