When I was very young and visiting my grandparents in Germany 30 years ago, I remember being stuck in gridlocked traffic somewhere around a big city with my parents -- Dad at the wheel of our tiny Opel rental car, sweating and building up to that maniacal laugh that dads get when stuck in traffic (think: Chevy Chase in European Vacation) while my Mom, the navigator and the only one who could speak and read German, read the signs to get us onto the correct Autobahn entrance. As the traffic crept along, we passed a sign on the side of the highway which made her laugh out loud at its cleverness. It said: "Reiβverschluss." In English, it means roughly, "Merge like a zipper."
"Merge like a zipper" is a phrase that has stuck with me for all those years. It pops into my head in all sort of situations -- like today, for example, when I was preparing for a panel I'm moderating next week in Chicago on Cloud and NFV at the ITT Real Time Communications Conference and Expo, or when I was at the NFV and the Data Center event in Santa Clara last week and the discussion during the Women in Telecom Breakfast focused on the merging of cloud and telecom.
While once two very separate sectors, the lines between cloud and telecom are merging as rapidly as the tines of a zipper. However, that zipper faces some pretty big challenges when it comes to merging the two mindsets. Moving toward a completely new type of software-based, virtualized, open, network driven by users and demand is one challenge, but another is the cultural difference between the two sectors: one bent on 18-month development cycles and caution and the other known for fast thinking and taking risk. A classic cartoon image of the two would be a tortoise and a hare.
But this time the tortoise is not going to win, I’m afraid, and forcing drivers to merge neatly onto a highway is easy compared to what the cloud and telecom industries are facing with regard to merging culture and skillsets.
In case you missed it, Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading, noted in her blog on The New IP, "The move to a virtualized model -- including network functions virtualization -- is a huge disruptor to this environment. Indeed, some of the biggest obstacles to widespread adoption of NFV will be related to organizational and people issues. You can always make technology work with enough time and money. People aren't so easily changed." (See NFV Culture Shock: Minds Over Matter)
The good thing about the move to the new IP is that all parties are aware of the challenges ahead, and industry collaboration to solve those challenges, and the desire and support for education and new skills are stronger than ever, which will ultimately open doors for career expansion development previously not even considered.
Perhaps Bethany Mayer, CEO, Ixia, said it best last week in Santa Clara: "The cloud and telecom infrastructure is merging. Read up on how to build a cloud, what you need to cloudify an environment -- that would be a very valuable skill set."
While some may question whether or not the industry has the ability to change, it has to. Not only is there is little choice but to change in order to keep up with nimble competitors, but there is also huge opportunity for financial growth from all parties involved. People in the telecom industry need to be preparing now for the future or else they will be left behind during this merge, squashed out by aggressive drivers who speed by on the shoulder.
So how are you investing in the skills needed for this new IP world and learning about NFV, SDN, cloud? Are you getting support in the workplace to get educated? What are some examples of change you've already seen that give you hope the two sectors can merge like a zipper without getting stuck?
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP