SANTA CLARA, Calif. --
White Box Strategies for CSPs -- At Light Reading's White Box Strategies for CSPs event in Santa Clara today, there was much debate between speakers and panelists around benefits, challenges, winners and methods, but one thing was clear: The white box world is here, and service providers and suppliers alike are adjusting their tactics to make way for the technology trend.
According to Ken Duell, assistant vice president of New Technology Product Development and Engineering at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), who spoke on the Winning the White Box Switch Strategy panel, the service provider sees many benefits for white boxes -- from cost to agility to speed -- in an industry where customers are not only asking for more bandwidth at lower cost but also for rolling out new services.
White Box Sage, Ken Duell, AT&T
"Retrain your own folks. It can get you a leg up," advises Duell.
Duell noted that there are white boxes in the CSP space already. However, what differentiates the value of the white box implementation is the ability to "right-size the box to the customer need," he said, noting that earlier this summer AT&T said it was offering white box switches and servers to consumers as customer premises equipment for the carrier's services.
But moving to a white box world is not just as easy as swapping out switches and servers -- there are other factors to consider, such as finding the right talent and skills in software development, open source, dev-ops and more.
In order to adapt itself for the white box world, AT&T has been retraining its people to "step up to the challenge," said Duell, referencing AT&T's massive retraining program involving tens of thousands of employees -- or what he called a "skills pivot."
"We are moving people who have programming skills in one arena to another," he said, passing on the advice that others do the same: "Retrain your own folks. It can get you a leg up."
Getting "a leg up" in the communications service provider space has become challenging as the pressure mounts to decrease cost, lower prices and increase bandwidth for customers, especially with over-the-tops (OTTs) and hyper scale giants hot on their heels. Many CSPs, like AT&T, have been prepping for the New IP shift to an open source, software-defined, virtualized world. But, according to Michael Bushong, vice president of datacenter routing and switching at Brocade, there are CSPs that have not even started the prep phase yet and they are at risk.
Bushong debated the capex and opex benefits and challenges with Saikrishna Kotha, global infrastructure architect at LinkedIn Corp. , and Sanjeev Mervana, senior director of product and solutions marketing at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) The three spoke on the Shaping the White Box World: Capex and Opex Tactics panel in the morning.
A Lively White Box Debate
From left, Michael Bushong, Brocade; Saikrishna Kotha, LinkedIn; and Sanjeev Mervana, Cisco, debated on the capex and opex tactics for white box networks during one of the event's morning panels.
Other challenges mentioned throughout the one-day packed event included the challenge of integrating solutions to build what keynote speaker Christos Kolias, senior research scientist at Orange
(NYSE: FTE) Silicon Valley, called a "white cloud" to deliver services and applications.
"Putting [in] all the different pieces of software will be a challenge -- to maintain interoperability, do the testing, and understand the regulatory impacts and things like that," he said. There are also issues around compliance to business standards and ongoing support for quality of service and service level agreements, and some level of reliability, "whether that's five-nines or four-nines," he said.
For more coverage of Light Reading's White Box Strategies for CSPs event, see the stories below and watch for our slideshow later in the week.
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP