Kim Perdikou is the Executive Vice President of the Infrastructure Products Group and General Manager, Service Provider Business Team at Juniper Networks. Prior to this role, Ms Perdikou served as Juniper’s CIO driving the company’s global information systems strategy. Prior to joining Juniper Networks, Ms Perdikou was CIO at Women.com, where she built the IT infrastructure and sales operations function. Ms Perdikou was also Vice President of Global Networks at Reader’s Digest and held leadership positions at both Knight Ridder and Dun & Bradstreet. Kim Perdikou holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computing Science and Operational Research from the University of Paisley in Scotland, and two Master’s degrees: one in Education from Jordanhill College in Glasgow, Scotland, and a second in Information Systems from Pace University in New York.
The increasingly widespread use of broadband Internet and the services this brings has forced operators and service providers in general to upgrade their networks both to answer the rising demand for bandwidth and to offer a full range of converged services. The demand for seamless, personalised access regardless of location, device or modality, has phone companies, wireless providers and cable operators rushing to expand and upgrade their networks to deliver a consolidated portfolio of services, increase customer loyalty and reduce churn.
The pace of innovation is accelerating and rapidly changing the telecommunications landscape. Service providers who are able quickly to adapt their business models to meet customers’ evolving demands will be in a better position to monetize their network and grow revenues. Those without a service-enabling network infrastructure will likely fight a cost-cutting battle with few, if any, winners. It was only a few years ago when customers were generally satisfied with disparate services from different providers - for example, home phone service from the local telephone company, mobile phone service from a mobile phone provider, television channel access from a cable or satellite provider, and Internet access from yet another company. All of these ‘providers’ built out their networks to deliver specific services to their customers and prided themselves on their ability to deliver their niche services well and without service interruptions. That environment began to change as customers found themselves increasingly dependant on constant connection to people and information integral to their personal and business lives. Customers began feeling the inconvenience of dealing with multiple providers and wanted more control, more customisation, to choose the services they wanted, ideally from a single source, to reduce complexity and optimise cost. The service providers therefore raced each other to offer multiple services with the benefits of consolidated payment and streamlined customer service. However, the subtlety in this market shift was that customers didn’t want superficial integration and questioned why they couldn’t have value-added offerings such as a phone number or TV programme access that followed wherever they went on whatever device they were using. In essence, customers wanted truly converged services and expected to receive the same quality or performance they were used to. Pixilated video or dropped phone calls were not acceptable, for example. To answer the demand for seamless, personalised, access regardless of location, device, or modality, traditional phone companies, wireless providers and cable operators scrambled to build and evolve their networks from supporting disjointed single services to delivering a consolidated portfolio of services. Now, these service providers are in a race to increase customer loyalty and reduce churn by satisfying customers with a plethora of services and applications now and for the future. While this drama unfolds between service providers, content providers such as Yahoo!, MSN and Google are attempting to aggregate content and leverage new advertising-based business models. While these approaches might be able to deliver the seamless one-stop-shop integration that consumers want, they run into a fundamental problem in terms of reconciling the customer experience with the overall monetisation of the network. In other words, content providers are bypassing traditional carriers and relegating the service providers to providing basic transport as a commodity. This model has an adverse affect on both the traditional carriers and content providers. In addition, without knowledge of and control over the network, the resulting user experience is out of the hands of the content providers, which affects their ability to deliver a predictable, satisfying experience and might even impair their brand equity and affect the advertising premiums they command. At the same time, the traditional providers who hold vital usage information about the user and available connections - information of great value to the content providers - are completely missing out on the opportunity to enter and compete in the advertising-driven content world. On top of these concerns, increasingly demanding applications such as real-time video are competing for bandwidth with other paid subscriber services, forcing service providers to incur inefficient and expensive upgrade costs. The solution to this predicament has to be a collaborative or shared model that lets carriers derive value through shared advertising, while guaranteeing the service quality that users and content providers need. This model requires a fast, reliable and secure network infrastructure, with varying levels of ‘policy and control’. This will give providers the flexibility they need to roll-out new applications and services quickly to address the ever-changing needs and tastes of consumers. There is a direct correlation between the network’s ability to scale and adapt, and a provider’s ability to seize new service, partner and market opportunities quickly and cost-effectively enough to engage and retain customers. An excellent approach to advancing the fundamentals and economics of high-performance networking is through an open, high-performance infrastructure built with a single architecture, single operating system and single open network (1:1:1). This model facilitates innovation and the deployment of advanced services and applications to drive new sources of revenue. The 1:1:1 approach offers simplicity and efficiencies at a scale that helps providers achieve the sort of operational cost model they need to maximize their average revenue per user (ARPU) and capitalise on incremental revenue from the roll-out of new services and applications. An increasingly disparate and global networking marketplace creates an innovation imperative that extends beyond the capabilities of any single vendor; this market is based upon the power that a diverse technological and economic ecosystem can have on the pace of innovation. Service providers need to develop specialized applications that leverage best-in-class technologies to accelerate the deployment of innovative revenue-generating services unique to their businesses, while simultaneously reducing operational costs. This brings us to ‘policy and control’. Granular visibility and control over the network infrastructure is essential for providers to predictably and confidently deliver the services and experience customers want. Policy and control is a key element of any high-performance network. Unfortunately, it has historically been low on the list of priorities for network architects. This made sense in the past, given the single-service networks that providers provisioned. For instance, it was much easier to predict bandwidth and quality of service when delivering a single application or service over the network. But as today’s demanding IP services (e.g., voice, video and data) converge, providers are finding that they need visibility into the network traffic and a high degree of control over how that traffic is handled. This is especially compounded by the fact that everyone is now a potential ‘publisher’ of content. It used to be that providers pushed the content to customers, but with today’s easy-to-use publishing tools anyone can create and upload content. Social networking sites count on this to create value for their communities. Grandparents can share video diaries with their extended family, and local high-school rock bands can post their latest performance with hopes of being discovered by the music labels. The dynamic nature of information flow today has had a tremendous impact on the communications infrastructure requirements needed to support it. Providers must now support unpredictable traffic demands and combinations while delivering a predictable experience. The approach of putting ‘intelligence’ at the edge of the network nearest consumers, while over-provisioning the core, breaks down when trying to support the onslaught of today’s media-rich, latency-sensitive services and applications across multiple end-points. To truly deliver a predictable and satisfying experience, providers must have control over the connection from start to finish (in other terms, from edge to core and vice versa). It is not acceptable to release control and hope for the best as the traffic traverses the core - traffic needs to be predictable and the quality maintained end-to-end. A provider that can integrate the policy and control layer with its OSS (operational support systems) and BSS (business support systems) will be able to further extract return from its infrastructure investment. For example, if a gamer plays at home on his high-speed Internet connection and then goes to the house of a friend who doesn’t have a high-speed connection, the friend should be able to quickly (through a user-friendly interface) request and pay for higher-performance bandwidth for a specific period of time. This requires visibility of the network’s real-time traffic capacity and capabilities as well as the intelligence and ability to control the service delivery from the core to the edge to support and capitalise on dynamic requests. The high-performance network must be able to tie the packet-handling layer to the applications and services-layer via policy and control. For example, a residential customer who subscribes to a high-definition TV package, a high-speed Internet connection, and local and long-distance calling, should be able to rely on the same level of service regardless of time, the number of services they use, or the number of other users on the network. The provider that can deliver this experience will be able to command a premium over its competitors that only offer hit-and-miss service quality. This end-to-end service-aware paradigm will help service providers evolve their networks to derive optimal value. They need a service-enabling network infrastructure that expands and accelerates service model innovation to drive network monetization.