SDIS: An Uplifting Event, but the Institutions remain Detached from Reality

sdis service delivery innovation summitAt the end of this weblog is an update with a review of some of the slides presented.

The SDP Global Summit, renamed Service Delivery Innovation Summit (#SDIS), reached its 10th year. The name change was to reflect the broader scope of service innovation beyond the nebulous and to some extent discredited term SDP, so APIs, the broader concept of the services domain, the processes, partners, enterprise architecture, and relevant web-technologies and services could be discussed. A highlight for me was the joint meetup with MoMo London where 10 innovative services were pitched. It gave a chance for the few telcos that remained into the evening to meet a broader range of developers, innovators and entrepreneurs. By the way, we’re running a joint TADMeetup / MoMo Singapore event next week on a Tuesday as well!

Overall, I found the event uplifting as more people get-it, they do not believe the silly marketing jabber. For most, OneAPI is not considered relevant, formal API standards are not necessary, rather de facto standards should emerge from building businesses using best-available technologies – that is we build the business and coalesce around what works. I still remain disappointed with the GSMA and its stance in this area, for many telcos without an extensive strategy department they rely on the GSMA’s thinking. OneAPI, OneAPI Exchange, its lack of experience in this business yet critical role in setting the strategy continue to retard the industry and make my life more challenging in helping telcos innovate.

I’m now of the opinion the GSMA must divest its conferencing business as soon as possible, sell it off and give the telcos funding the GSMA a holiday on the fees for a few (quite a few) years. The events business detrimentally dominates GSMA execs attention and revenue. A conference organizer has to breath the marketing jabber, rather than set a pragmatic industry course. With the conference business gone, the exec team can focus on creating teams with the right mix of skills to lead the industry. To become an industry trade body again, not a conference organizer.

At the event I stated, “No longer being a telco person is good enough, we all need IT and web expertise to succeed in this converged world.” I could see the shock in people’s faces at the obvious truth we need to broaden our horizons to succeed. The GSMA desperately needs those skills in its leadership.  The closed chummy telco world where “They (the GSMA) are trying their best” is used as an excuse for their failings when what’s meant is “They’re one of us, we’ll muddle through somehow as we always have as we’re sat on a monopoly” can no longer be used. Its a competitive converged market, the attitudes of the past can no longer be tolerated, especially in the industry’s trade body. Sell the conferencing business, bring in the right people, and don’t just say the words “Edge of Innovation” in breathy marketing tones do something practical about it.

In the morning of Day One Karel Bourgois from Orange Libon gave a nice review of their progress and solid customer engagement. Though I think they need to launch more features, and they need to promote Libon harder and faster to other telcos to build their community faster else see it stagnate. But they are moving in the right direction. Sacha Wolter (DT) and Dirk Rejahl (Bearing Point) gave an inspirational presentation and demonstration on how to engage business customers and other industries on the value telecoms can deliver in solving problems they face. Helping to embed telecoms in every business ecosystem. Rehman Adil from DT reviewed their use of roaming information for fraud prevention, many telcos are implementing this, and its a great example of working with a partner in telecom APIs.

There was a panel where the GSMA and some telcos were treading the tired old public APIs and engaging ‘developers.’ I pointed out Nexmo, Tropo, Twilio and many others have that covered. Aurélien from Orange did have a point that in some of Orange’s regions aggregators are not dominant, but all the challenges telco have will mean ‘long tail developers’ will jump once better options are available. Its repeating the mistakes of the past that BlueVia, Verizon Developer Community, etc. made. But the GSMA continues to push on tired on models so we waste time, when time is running short.  At TADSummit, Aurélien can meet with the partners that can engage much more effectively with the developers he’s trying to reach.

In the afternoon I chaired the Virtualization stream, Adel from Franhofer FOKUS showed likely deployment options for NFV, and was quite open on the challenges and limited costs savings. Ivan from Hrvatski Telecom (TMO Croatia) showed the progress they had made in virtualizing some of the service platform components. No business case, its just how things are done in the data center, so no orchestration or NFV standards. The panel discussion was pragmatic, and re-inforced the article I wrote for TelecomTV on the Industrial Embarrassment of NFV Marketing. This panel would have been heresy at a NFV/SDN conference, but at SDIS it was such a relief to see common sense prevailing. All analysts must stop repeating vendor marketing crap and start being real analysts and point out the challenges and necessary pragmatic adoption. For example, in many cases the latency virtualization introduces will mean the data path can not be virtualized, only the control path.  Adel had some nice deployment options for NFV that covered that.

Day 2 kicked off with two excellent presentations from Cynthia Wong of Telus: on API use 70% is internal and 30% is with partners, with no long tail use. Antonio Cruz from Portugal Telecom showed its an IT problem not a telco problem, anything within the business can be an API, and its simply the SOA journey many enterprises are walking. His enterprise architecture is a role model for the industry.  We then ran a panel with developers and developer communities showing the variety of developers and were telcos need to focus.

It was interesting in the use of the word standard, developers say we’ll use whatever becomes standard (meaning defacto) while telco standard people react, ‘see, see they need our divine intervention.’ Do not get me wrong, standards are essential for air interfaces, for VoLTE in the handset and interconnect, in browsers, as they need to work with billions of devices. But in the web part of the services domain, we need to be much more pragmatic in letting the market decide through focusing on building the business.

I gave a presentation reviewing what we’re doing with TADHack, TADSummit and TADMeetups to build a telecom application developer ecosystem, see below. Its a grassroots initiative bringing all the whole industry together. The presnetation provides more details on the what is meant by developer, and where we are focusing. TADSummit is coming up on 12-13 November in Istanbul, you can download the agenda here.  You’ll see its a unique and intense event.

There were some interesting discussions on the impact of iPhone 6 supporting VoLTE and SRVCC. Currently only VoWiFi is available with TMO, so they’re playing nice with telcos at the moment, but Apple could extend FaceTime quite easily and become a global MVNO. There appear to be some Apple specials hidden in its implementation for example on the security keys, so its not just in the iSIM. iPhone 6 will drive VoLTE and VoWiFi in the industry, even VZ which has maintained ‘VoWiFi is for losers’ is now saying it will deploy next year. And I think this will also shake up the lethargy in European operators on VoLTE. Finally, we’ll see some investment, and perhaps a renaissance in the IMS World Forum as telcos meet a number of operational issues in the race to deploy VoLTE.

Overall SDIS was uplifting as more and more people within telcos get-it on how to approach the market, but still frustrating as the institutions continue to ignore what the market is telling them.