By Christopher Cullan, Product Marketing Manager, Business Services Solutions, InfoVista
One thing really annoys me…okay, many things really annoy me, and the number seems to increase as I get older. I call it “grumpy old man syndrome”. My wife just calls it painful. But for this audience, the one thing I am referring to is “dumb pipes.” I am continually frustrated by the industry's willingness to down-play its core value.
It's not necessarily the customers that use the expression; it's the communications service providers (CSPs) themselves–and the ecosystem of vendors–that have fallen in love with the “dumb pipe” term. Perhaps this sometimes overt messaging contributes to the increasing pressure on pricing, especially when it comes to business services. But, there is significant potential for CSPs to deliver far greater value to their subscribers, bolster revenues and combat price-erosion, in addition to positioning innovative new services.
When taking a step back and reflecting on what our “pipes” actually achieve, it appears they are extremely clever. During my fifth crossing of the Atlantic this year, I found myself reading TM Forum's Perspectives magazine and came across an interesting factoid in Monica Zlotogorski's “Global Perspectives.” Zlotogorski pointed out that communications are increasingly indispensable and cited how Kenyans earning only $1 per day will skip eating and choose to walk instead of taking transit, so they can use that money to top up their mobile phones (which costs 72 Kenyan shillings or approximately US$0.84). I won't hazard a guess as to how smart or dumb Kenyans consider their communications networks, but clearly, they are valued!
When it comes to business services, one of the key elements of achieving value from the network is perspective. In a recent IDC survey of 1,800+ IT professionals, the number three priority cited by respondents was increasing bandwidth. But, that doesn't mean their business counterparts within their organizations will agree when they face the resulting charges. What's missing is the reason for the upgrade– what is driving the traffic and what is traversing the expensive WANs. To answer that question in a manner that business stakeholders can properly grasp, you have to map that usage to the application.
In the past, this application-based visibility of the network had to be undertaken by the enterprise's IT group –another capital expenditure requiring buy-in from the business. Maybe it's easier to just ask for price concessions from the CSP? For a long time, CSPs could offer this application visibility, but it meant expensive probes and other hardware had to be installed. Oftentimes, this was cost-prohibitive.
Now the instrumentation for understanding application behavior, usage and performance is available in the network equipment itself. One such example is with Cisco Application Visibility and Control (AVC)–part of the ISR-AX platform–it puts DPI technology into the router at the customer edge to detect more than 1,400 applications, and provides details on the sessions and their participants (the who, when and where) and the actual performance of those applications on the network.
InfoVista's Application Visibility Services solution was recently launched to take advantage of these types of technologies from leading equipment vendors like Cisco, and enable CSPs to drastically increase the value of their core business services to enterprise and SMB customers. The InfoVista solution was the first of its kind to receive Cisco's Interoperability Verification Test (IVT) certification to validate its compatibility with AVC. Together, Cisco AVC's enabling technology and InfoVista's multi-tenant collection and presentation solution allow CSPs to deliver the intelligence that exists within the ”pipes” to end-customers.
This collaboration also helps combat business services' price erosion (e.g. VPN). It provides an enhanced service for enterprises by solving their increasingly complex application troubleshooting challenges and increasing the efficiency of their WAN usage, and adds some new incremental revenue for CSPs in the form of Application Performance Management (APM)-as-a-service.
To find out more on the topic, I invite you to attend our joint Cisco-InfoVista webinar, “How to Increase Business Service Revenues for CSPs with Application Visibility,” next Thursday, June 13, 2013, at 8 a.m. PDT / 11 a.m. EDT / 4 p.m. BST. The webinar, hosted by Light Reading, will feature Bob Nusbaum, Cisco senior product manager for Application Experience and AVC, Sunil Mandya, InfoVista senior product manager for Application Visibility Services, and me.