Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Not A New Year's Resolution

I'm not the type of person to make New Year's resolutions because why should a person pick just one time of the year to say that they are going to evaluate how they are going to live their life or run their business. This philosophy comes from my grandmother that use to say, "Why should I wait until your birthday to give you a present to show my love? I love you all of the time so anytime is a good time to give you a gift." So while I tend to evaluate my plans and life on a continual basis, the beginning of a new year is a psychological new beginning for many people. More importantly for most of us in the business world it the beginning of a new fiscal year for many of our customers.

The start of a new fiscal year is my motivator for implementing the plans that I made last year. I previously lamented about the malaise in the telecommunications industry. My assertion was that all of the excitement was in the equipment attached to the network. Looking at the excitement surrounding the CES that just ended, one could agree with my statement. Instead of an either/or option for intelligent network/intelligent CPE, the truth is that they have to operate synergistically to achieve their desired aim. There is a tremendous amount of heavy lifting behind returning your "OK Google" request or bringing you a Uber car. It may be the application developers that appear to create magic on smartphones and tablets, but it is that work of thousands of telecom network professionals like us to make it look like magic.

Although today's mobile device has more computing power than a supercomputer from 1980, that device cannot do everything necessary to deliver information or intelligence from the far-flung reaches of the Earth. There are thousands of protocols and API designed to allow systems to interact with each other to assemble disparate pieces of information into a simple result displayed on a screen. We use catchy marketing terms like Big Data and Internet of Things to make these interactions understandable by the layperson and to sell products and services to our customers. Although I cringe every time I hear buzzwords like these or cloud, I know that they are euphemisms for a complex set of interactions taking place in the network on the user's behalf.

So there are exciting things left to do in telecommunications afterall. They may not be as straightforward as the creation of DSL or SDH/SONET technology, but we have built that layer of the network and it is mature. We are in the phase of more complex interactions between different layers of the network to automate and simplify how services are delivered. For those veterans that built the foundation of today's broadband optical network, it may appear that there is not much left to do, but that is not the case.

The industry will continue to develop the SDN-based network and take advantage of powerful inexpensive computing to virtualize more functionality (NFV) into the cloud (ouch that hurt). As we continue to optimize the transport network to add more connected devices like doorbells (Ring), lights (LIFX), and cars, we will need the added sophistication that the network provides to provide near real time interactions with us.

There are still plenty of problems to solve such as ubiquitous connectivity. With only 40% of U.S. rural population having access to wired broadband and much less connectivity in many other parts of the world, there is still a tremendous effort needed to make broadband universal worldwide.

Security of data and information is another significant concern. Up to now, everything that we have done is just treating the symptom. Personal information is being stolen and sold every day from governments and private enterprises. No organization is immune to a data breach. Privacy goes right along with data security. Privacy is a basic human right that is constantly being violated globally by governments, corporations, and individuals. I question why my identity was compromised by a company that I never did business and used against me by the government. This situation is inexcusable, and it demonstrates the fact that security has not been a priority in our industry. Our liberty depends on these two tenants which is why the industry's brightest minds must develop a holistic solution that includes end-to-end encryption of all information on devices and traversing across the network. There can be no backdoors for any reason.

Millions of new devices being connected to the network monthly requires scalability. With increased scalability comes increased power consumption. We need to put our minds on how to grow these networks without exponentially increasing power consumption. Actually power consumption should be decreasing.

I could go on and on but those are the big three topics that I see the industry addressing in 2016 and beyond. Closer to home, I will continue to be involved in the larger trends in the industry while solving some of the more tactical problems to get us there. ComTech Sales and myself can be relied upon to work with service providers to develop and implement solutions to expanding broadband penetration, security, and power consumption. We will continue to grow our business on the telecom side of the industry that we started in the fall of 2015. Please rely on us for solutions to your equipment needs.