By Christopher Cullan, Product Marketing Manager, Business Services Solutions, InfoVista
Recently, InfoVista published the results of a survey of Carrier Ethernet providers across the globe. Although I wasn't completely surprised by the findings, it was nice to get some confirmation of the needs of today's communications service providers (CSPs) and understand what they are doing to address those needs.
One message that was made loud and clear was that the visibility and reporting provided to business customers, be they enterprises or other carriers, is critical to CSPs' customer acquisition and retention. On a 10 point scale, 10 being ‘critical' and 1 being ‘unimportant,' the most frequently occurring result was 9, with averages of 6.8 and 7, respectively, for winning and retaining business.
It's, therefore, no surprise that most CSPs delivering increasingly popular Carrier Ethernet services have a performance management solution that typically feeds their customer reporting. What's perhaps a bit more surprising is the heavy reliance on in-house developed tools coupled with a clear desire to purchase COTS-based solutions. Telecommunications has been around a long time, and the needs of that industry were often not well met by third-party suppliers in the early days, which resulted in a lot of custom development. It appears much of that legacy remains and has been adapted to deal with newer services such as Carrier Ethernet, but it seems there's an implicit realization that these legacy tools don't address all of CSPs' requirements — perhaps due to cost to maintain, time to adapt to new services and lack of built-in, standard-based metrics and reporting.
CSPs all agreed that their business customers would value more sophisticated reporting — reporting that offered enhanced visibility and greater levels of empowerment such as self-defined thresholds with alerts and analytics capabilities — and that these enhancements are crucial to supporting the underlying service value. In fact, one-third of the respondents suggested that prices could increase, which is a promising sentiment in our telecommunications market that is so often plagued with price erosion.
I've seen direct evidence of the interest and motivation to deliver such empowering and sophisticated reporting with our CSP customers, as they are beginning to provide their business service users with greater access to real-time dashboarding analytics and capabilities that provide more than just a chart that says the SLA was met. They are now actually giving the end customers better visibility, notifying them about potential performance impacting events and even equipping them with predictive capabilities to support capacity planning. This intelligence helps both enterprise IT and carriers be more responsive to their end stakeholders.
The second interesting revelation was the quantity (45%) of respondents that indicated they were unfamiliar with the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) — note that this survey was very carefully targeted at Carrier Ethernet providers and their responsible individuals from product, engineering and IT within those organizations. This result was much higher than I expected, but at the same time, more than half that were aware of the MEF were also aware of the performance monitoring implementation agreement and accompanying SNMP MIB (MEF specifications 35 and 36). Furthermore, the ability to leverage MEF best practices and terminology as part of their performance management and customer reporting was considered a critical capability. Clearly, the market needs these standards to be more prevalent and accessible, so that CSPs and their wholesale and retail customers can benefit from the common set of terminology, standard metrics and alignment between service models and the MEF-defined service types. This prevalence will ensure solid return on investment for the CSPs Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification.
Another encouraging finding was that close to three quarters (73%) of the surveyed providers include particular features/functions of reporting as part of a higher tier of service and almost two thirds of those charge a premium for those functions. Clearly when one couples the reported criticality of customer reporting to both winning and retaining business along with the higher service tier usage and premium pricing we can see how much of an impact this reporting has on monetization of the CE service. Perhaps by enabling the sophisticated reporting the providers agree their customer would value, we may yet find further ways to best monetize these service and ensure both customers and operators enjoy the accelerated growth of Carrier Ethernet.
I encourage you to take a look at our findings and feel free to provide your own views on the questions as well as interpretation of the data — and any ideas you may have in terms of accelerating adoption for Carrier Ethernet and MEF standards is welcome!