The other mobile revolution

Although we don’t yet know the details, with Christmas fast-approaching, no one will be surprised to hear that a new record will be set in mobile online purchases this festive season.

New highs can be similarly anticipated in areas such as the volume of video content consumed on mobile devices, the number of smartphone apps installed and percentage of web sites that deliver an experience optimised for mobile devices. All these data points provide texture to the well-recognised movement towards the “third platform” based on mobile devices and cloud-based resources.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the networking world that connects our devices to the third platform is undergoing a separate but related mobile revolution. This “other mobile revolution” does not refer to the regular transitions from one generation of cellular or wi-fi technology to the next. Those recurring upgrades, painful as they may be for wireless service providers, have been predictable features of the mobility landscape for quite some time.

In fact, the revolution referred to here is the industry’s collective response to the pain of delivering ever-new services across multiple generations of access technology and architecture, each with a bundle of specialised software on specialised hardware that is expensive to buy, exorbitant to deploy and yet almost guaranteed to be obsolete before the investment will be amortised.

The New IP creates a competitive market based on open standards and open-source software with broad community support

Service providers have actually been willing to pay a premium for long-lived equipment that would allow them to skip an upgrade cycle as it would allow them to avoid the associated operational cost and logistical pain, but this option has rarely been available.

So, telecoms industry players have come together and initiated the unseen industry revolution, which goes by the name network functions virtualisation or NFV. This is going turn the industry on its head, similar to the move from horses to cars.

NFV envisions a transition away from the use of specialised boxes for network services and towards the use of software running commodity compute servers, bringing huge benefits. Because the functionality is implemented in software, upgrades can be done “over the wire”.  Because the intelligence is provided by software on common hardware, vendors do not have the same lock-in they enjoyed in the old model. Instead, the playing field is now level and competition is expected to be fierce. In addition, this new deployment architecture offers the long-term amortisation model that service providers have been seeking.

The remarkable upshot of all this is that both the visible and the invisible mobile revolutions are driving massive changes in data centres. On the visible side, we have content. Consumer-oriented websites that cleverly leverage a user’s location, recent purchases and social network connections, whenever that information is available. Promotions that include embedded video clips from last night’s local rock concert or this week’s episode of that crazy reality show no one will admit to watching, but can’t stop talking about. All this content has been and will continue to be delivered from data centres.

The other mobile revolution is moving new and familiar services from dinosaur boxes into nimble data centres, often prompting new micro-data centres at the edges of the provider’s network or embedding virtual services in the customer’s data centre.

The other mobile revolution will bring new services, security and efficiency to our lives. It is being built on a fresh take on the technology that underpins the internet. The technology is the New IP.  The New IP creates a competitive market based on open standards and open-source software with broad community support, such as OpenDaylight, a Linux Foundation project.

The New IP is currently in trials around the world and will be transforming your world.  And who is leading the development of this new technology? Brocade.