Mike Volpi is the Senior Vice President & General Manager for Cisco’s Routing and Service Provider Technology Group. In this capacity, he leads Cisco’s business for the Service Provider market. Previously, Mr Volpi served as Cisco’s Chief Strategy Officer, and was responsible for corporate strategy, business development and strategic alliances. Before joining Cisco, Mr Volpi was a product development engineer and marketing manager with Hewlett Packard’s optoelectronics division. Mr Volpi is a member of both the FON and Opsware, Inc boards of directors. Mike Volpi earned his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA, all from Stanford University.
“Service providers have traditionally been defined by access technology” - cable operators own a piece of cable that connects them to the use, mobile operators own spectrum dedicated to mobile communications, service providers, however, are a new breed and not defined by their access methods. Today, IP is driving network convergence and the provider is defined by the services it provides. The interconnection between all types of communication, and blurring of lines between services, is amplifying functionality and individual choice.
Consumers want a unifying experience The world of technology is migrating from a vertical model of independent technologies, networks and devices to one of interoperability, convergence and consolidation. Consumers want devices capable of consuming data, voice and video - and networks that can deliver on an integrated infrastructure. To accommodate these new demands, the service provider industry is consolidating, transforming its business models and expanding the functionality of its networks. Service providers have traditionally been defined by access technology - cable operators are called cable operators because they own a piece of cable between the home and their head end; mobile operators are defined by their ownership of some spectrum. But service providers are in the process of transformation. Eventually, they will be known for the service and experience they provide rather than the access technology they use. These newly consolidated service providers offer multiple access technologies under one umbrella, providing more services to users under a single branded experience. The converged network The networks we have today were each built to support a single type of application, such as telephony or video. In the case of television, several networks were created, one based on cable, one on satellite, one on terrestrial wireless. Then devices customized to consume that application were produced - a telephone or a television set. This model, the model of the past, is vertical: specific content for a specific application on a specific network with a specific device. But today, consumers watch television on their PCs, chat with friends on their PCs, and use mobile devices for games. The evolving model is one where applications, networks and devices are interlinked in a much more flexible way. Next-generation IP, Internet Protocol, networks are enabling compatible and interoperable devices and applications. This consolidation, which will accelerate greatly over the coming years, has deep, lasting implications for the way that people communicate, collaborate, work and play. Early adopters have already taken the lead by linking together such devices as their PCs, TVs and digital music players. From here, it’s up to technology companies to offer ways to provide easy interoperability among now-disparate capabilities and applications. This interconnectivity all begins at the network level. So, what will a unified network look like? It will be an intelligent, IP-based platform that understands and robustly supports voice, video and data over fixed and mobile networks. It will be a converged network that can function intelligently whether a user is making a phone call, transporting a data file, watching television or accessing a video on the Web. It will have the built-in intelligence, service quality and fault tolerance necessary to handle all kinds of applications, delivering the right type of content to the right kind of device. At work, the new network will transform business models by delivering new capabilities to the office and new ways of reaching and interacting with consumers. Organizations will be able to conduct one-to-one personalised advertising or personnel training or customer seminars, all via Web video. The flexible network will enable dynamic, virtual collaboration, allowing customers and company personnel to collaborate wherever, whenever and however they wish. For instance, they may communicate through an email, an instant message chat, a phone call, a videoconference - or through a blend of methods. All along, the intelligent network will be aware of the user and the communication method, processing information to match the situation. At home, the new network will provide compatibility and enhanced functionality for a wide range of consumer devices, including computers, mobile phones, televisions and even MP3 players. Imagine being able to download a video or song just once, then being able to play it on almost any device, managing and controlling access from a central point. When you leave, you’d be able to upload it onto a cell phone, PDA, music player or laptop computer and take it on the road. Next-generation networks will also optimise the delivery of content into the house. One of the most valuable emerging technologies for the home is IPTV, which delivers digital TV services, including video on demand, over the IP network. For consumers to switch from HDTV, high definition television, and the DVR, digital video recorder, to IPTV, the experience will have to be a significant improvement over what they have today. With broadcast television, everyone watches the same programme, with the same content, at the same time. IPTV, however, transforms the television experience from broadcast to narrowcast or uni-cast. Individuals get the content they want, where they want it, and when they want it. They will be able to access the Internet through the TV and transfer programmes from a handheld device to the television and back without interruption. Improving the experience of the user is the true value of a converged network. Adding security and openness In networks that carry video and advanced applications, security and quality of service become even more critical. A denial-of-service attack during a live sporting event, for instance, would destroy the real-time experience for viewers. Moreover, users may be more vulnerable to security threats when all their communications and entertainment applications share a common platform. In an era of largely separate networks, a cable TV outage doesn’t affect phone service or Internet access. Not so with a converged network. Such a network, which supports an enormous variety of critical applications, must have uncompromising security. In the IT industry, the technologies that succeed are generally the most open ones. Why? Because developers depend on open systems to create new applications which, in turn, drive further innovation. There is a good reason that TDM-based phone systems are passing from the scene. In large part, it is because they are closed, proprietary networks. In contrast, an open, IP-based platform is more conducive to third-party development, which can lead to an amazing level of innovation. Openness and cross-compatibility are the best guarantors of innovation: from hardware to software to set-top boxes to the network itself. Making connections The world, increasingly, is becoming interconnected and cross-dependent. Technology is playing an enormous role in assisting this integration, with IP networks serving as the foundation to link applications, equipment, services and, ultimately, the people who use them. Indeed, the whole communications model is changing, so that information is able to flow more freely and can be presented in a wider variety of creative ways. Concurrently, this new model is empowering users who are able to use technology, devices and content on their own terms. Interconnectedness plus individual choice: that’s the ultimate value of IP-based network convergence.