Hello from the other side – the customer benefits of NFV
Communications service providers (CSPs) should start their network functions virtualisation (NFV) charm offensives now, writes Pravin Mirchandani, the chief marketing officer of OneAccess Networks.
Surprisingly few of today’s conversations about NFV address how a virtualised infrastructure will benefit end-user businesses. If CSPs want to bring their customers across without resistance, however, they must also consider how to position the benefits of NFV, particularly since some may view its new technologies as an unsolicited risk.
Flexible provisioning is the big persuader. Most businesses experience peak traffic at infrequent and predictable times. In spite of only needing this level of service occasionally, however, they have had no option but to sign contracts that deliver this maximum capacity all the time. CSPs haven’t had the flexibility to deliver anything else. Virtualisation can change all of this.
This is big news because firms of all shapes and sizes are caught in this trap. Pizza companies do 90% of their business on Friday and Saturday nights, yet provision for these peaks seven days a week. This is a huge overhead, particularly for a national networked outfit like Domino’s. Other businesses, particularly retail e-commerce sites, are governed by seasonality. The spikes in online sales triggered by Black Friday and the January sales are well documented. Hotels beef up their network capacity for four intensive months of high occupancy but, under today’s model, must provision equally for the quieter eight.
Virtualisation can address this need. A software-defined infrastructure will give customers access to a portal through which they can self-select the services they need and specify when they need them. The programmatic benefits of virtualisation enable CSPs to spin them up automatically. Compare that to the weeks of notice that a CSP currently needs to install a new line and the end-user benefits come into stark focus.
It’s easy to think in terms of download speeds only. In truth, however, spikes in demand for upload are becoming equally onerous. Sports and event stadia must cope with a 4K-smartphone-wielding capacity crowd on one or two days of the week and, literally, nothing for the remaining days. Scheduled syncs with cloud services and automated backup of business devices weigh heavily on the public and guest networks in coffee shops, conference venues, hotels and elsewhere. A self-service facility that can enable instant, on-demand asynchronous connectivity may not be deliverable in the short term, but its promise is powerful indeed.
More generally, innovative companies need to test and combine new services quickly in order to validate and improve their market propositions. They can’t afford to wait for an order-and-wait service that is often ill-adapted to their needs. They will naturally gravitate towards agile suppliers that enable them to build such custom and differentiated offers.
CSPs need to think beyond internal operations and begin the customer charm offensive sooner rather than later. Being proactive here will enable them to present themselves as more agile suppliers capable of delivering the elasticity and customised services their customers need. And who knows, engaging customers in this way may even generate new service concepts which could quickly lead to new revenue streams.