Breaking up traditional silos between information technology and operations departments accelerates service providers' ability to deploy virtualized, cloud and on-demand services for ultra-broadband projects.
For years, enterprise IT departments -- including internal divisions within cable operators, ISPs and CSPs -- have heavily invested in cloud-based solutions to support internal business and tech operations. Now a growing number of providers are leveraging these approaches for external customers, operations' leaders can tap into their company experts to reduce the learning curve, more easily adopt best practices and improve their buying power, say industry executives.
"CIOs and CTOs at operators didn't necessarily share practices, and now I see a lot more of those blending to help the whole operator move forward and help them get where they need to be," Lynn Comp, senior director of Industry and Sales Enabling at Intel, tells UBB2020.
That's certainly the case at MetTel , says Ed Fox, vice president of Networking Services in an interview. Fox, who's in operations, says the lines are "blurring" between traditional IT and customer-facing development.
"Internally, it's become more and more where our network services and our IT folks get together for a lot of different reasons. Number one is the virtualization of network functions. Our guys need to be adept in VMware and underlying applications and infrastructure that they didn't need to be that familiar with in the past," he says. "As we can add features and functionality to our customer network, it's all software. We team together pretty closely with the IT side of the house to make that happen."
Proactive partnerships between the two divisions also can benefit IT, since any resulting solution positively affects all customers -- the CIO's team, end-customers and business users, says Fox.
Recently, for example, MetTel began work on providing customers with more single sign-on and other management capabilities, features of interest to IT, Fox says.
"That has become [important to] both the network services group and our internal IT group because now, internal IT folks want to use the same system as well and we can tie in our Active Directory credentials and authentication methods...," he adds. "There's another place where the CIO and CTO are working on the same thing."
If service providers use the same vendors for internal and customer-facing infrastructure, their buying power increases exponentially, says Intel's Comp. It also cuts benchmarking, interoperability and other time- and money-hogging procedures, she adds.
"I say, 'This is how IT procures and this is how [operations] procures, and this is the result in your supplier cost.' Then they realized that's a good economic argument," she adds. "There are some areas we're really focused on -- get the most out of the hardware that you do have deployed and differentiate the service you're giving your customers, based on the capabilities that are there."
At smaller providers, the CIO and CTO often are the same person, regardless of actual title. This helps in buying power and other areas. That's the case at Starman -- and the dual roles are one reason CTO Jaanus Erlemann believes the cable operator acts faster and more flexibly than some larger, red-tape-prone businesses.
"The infrastructure and also the information systems -- the OSS, the BSS -- are all handled within the same team. We have a business and technology architecture team under my management, and we also have an infrastructure and operations team which is also under my management," he tells UBB2020.
But big doesn't necessarily mean bureaucracy, says Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO at AT&T.
"A lot of the machine learning and AI-type programs that we're working on for customers actually started as projects for our own internal customers. What we mean by internal customers are departments like operations," he says in an interview, citing the CSP's use of drones for tower maintenance and inspection. (See AT&T: Using High-Speed Broadband to Boost Customer Service)
"You can see some of the automation, economic benefits of this as well. And you can see how this technology can be expanded to many other use cases, not just inspecting cell towers," says Fuetsch.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.