Two weeks before mobile world congress the Canonical offices received from Amazon one of the cheapest Intel servers with 6 Ethernet ports. It contains no hardware acceleration. Two weeks later employees from Ericsson, Cisco, Huawei, ZTE, HP Networking had to admit that they could not take us to see a smarter switch in the whole of MWC. This blog post is about what made this switch the smartest switch. The next blog post explains how this smart switch can solve the four biggest problems in the telecom industry (I.e. new revenue, churn reduction, cost reduction and OTT revenues).
So what made this switch so smart. First of all when we got it, it was an Intel server with an i5 processor and we had to go and buy 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD and put Ubuntu Core on it. The next thing our brilliant engineer Loic created was a Snapp App or Snap that made port 1 into WAN and the others into LAN. Now we actually had a switch. He and our equally brilliant head of R&D, Alex, also worked with F5 on a Snap that can boot up a KVM in which you run another operating system. This allowed us to put F5 Linerate in the switch. The end result is that we have the only Switch that very easily can support any exotic operating system to run on top. Via our Docker framework we could also run Docker based networking logic. However if you run the networking logic inside a Snap then this would give bare-metal performance with the flexibility of completely reconfiguring the switch by just deploying a different snap or adding multiple. If the engineers of the companies, that had to admit we had the smartest switch, want to win tomorrow then they just need to take a box with accelerated networking hardware and put a Snappy Framework that mediates between different Snaps that use network hardware acceleration. It would be the most flexible software defined networking appliance or SDNA out there. We also worked with the super engineers from Balabit that delivered a Firewall Snap in three days. So now we can assign Linerate to port 2 till 4 and Zorp to port 5 and 6. Making it a very flexible SDNA and Ubuntu Core the perfect NFV or SDNA operating system.
Zabbix already made one of our best written Juju Charms and they made a Snap of the Zabbix agent for ARM and Intel in no time. This means that our SDNA was now being monitored.
When telling the public that we called Microsoft to ask if they could write some software for our SNDA and open source it, everybody was surprised they said yes. The truth is that Microsoft is one of our best partners for quite some time now. Two days later we had a Snap that worked both on Intel and ARM and put a nice graph of the real-time load of our SDNA onto Azure. They even documented everything hence any programmer can connect Ubuntu Core to Azure super easy. Impressive work and thank you Microsoft because it made for a very surprising element in our story.
Even more surprising was the fact that we had ARM software running on Intel. Thanks to Forgerock and ARM we had an ARM mbed coap snap and mbed device server running in the cloud. Forgerock and ARM helped to put our SDNA inside a complete device management solution with identity and access management being seamlessly resolved.
However none of these solutions made us have the smartest switch of MWC. That was reserved to our amazing IoT partners Dataart and Cybervision. A simple €5 bluetooth low energy dongle integrated our switch with light and temperature sensors. Devicehive made our switch magically into a light controller. What was event more amazing was that via a Snap our switch became AllJoyn compliant and was the first switch to be able to talk to a television, dishwasher or fridge. The open source Devicehive will shortly be extended with Snaps for all possible IoT standards solving one of the biggest IoT problems for IoT developers instantly: interoperability. This will be the easiest way for any industrial gateway to become compliant with all types of standards. Also the cool open source IoT platform Kaa made our switch magical. Imagine how a shop can easily buy a Snap from a Snap Store that would be able to project Tweets onto a large LED display in the shop’s window. If only one Tweet every ten seconds would be randomly selected, it could start a new trend of Tweesplaying. The store that started it could potentially have millions of Tweets competing to be on the display and become an instant social network celebrity.
The last part was my most personal contribution. If you work with the most brilliant engineers you have to be able to ask intelligent questions. Nothing better than actually trying out the technology they just created. Thanks to a discount in Maplin, we were able to buy a robot arm for £35. Three hours later it was build. However there were no Linux drivers. I have been looking for an excuse to learn Golang and build something with Ajax. The end result is on github and you can now control the Maplin robot and make it do amazing demos via a Json script or some buttons.
All this would not have been possible without the contributions of all these amazing partners and colleagues, so thank you very much. So without any delay here is the smartest switch and the first software define network appliance, or SDNA. We hope somebody soon makes a smarter one because the hardware specs was embarrassingly low-end compared to what was available on the show.
See it move here.
Everybody is hearing Cloud Computing on the television now. Operators will store your contacts in the Cloud. Hosting companies will host your website in the Cloud. Others will store your photos in the Cloud.
However how do you make money with the Cloud?
The first thing is to forget about infrastructure and virtualization. If you are thinking that in 2013, the world needs more IaaS providers then you haven’t seen what is currently on offer (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, Joyent, Verizon/Terramark, IBM, HP, etc.).
So what are alternative strategies:
1) Rocket Internet SaaS Cloning
Your best hope is SaaS and PaaS. The best markets are non-English speaking markets. We have seen an explosion of SaaS in the USA but most have not made it to the rest of the world yet. Only some bigger SaaS solutions (Webex, GoToMeeting, Office 365, etc.) and PaaS platforms (Salesforce, Workday, etc.) are available outside of the US and the UK. However most SaaS and PaaS solutions are currently still English-only. So the quickest solution to make some money is to just copy, translate and paste some successful English-only SaaS product. If you do not know how to copy dotcoms, take a look at how the Rocket Internet team is doing it. Of course you should always be open for those annoying problems everybody has that could use a new innovative solution and as such create your own SaaS.
During the gold rush, be the restaurant, hotel or tool shop. While everybody is looking for the SaaS gold, offer solutions that will save gold diggers time and money. SaaSification allows others to focus on building their SaaS business, not on reinventing for the millionth time a web page, web store, email server, search, CRM, monthly subscription billing, reporting, BI, etc. Instead of a “Use Shopify to create your online store”, it should be “Use <YOUR PRODUCT> to create a SaaS Business”.
3) Mobile & Cloud
Everybody is having, or at least thinking about buying, a Smartphone. However there are very few really good mobile services that fully exploit the Cloud. Yet I can get a shopping list app but most are just glorified to-do lists. None is recommending me where to go and buy based on current promotions and comparison with other buyers. None is helping me find products inside a large supermarket. None is learning from my shopping habits and suggesting items on the list. None is allowing me to take a number at the seafood queue. These are just examples for one mobile + cloud app. Think about any other field and you are sure to find great ideas.
4) Specialized IaaS
I mentioned it before, IaaS is already overcrowded but there is one exception: specialized IaaS. You can focus on specialized hardware, e.g. virtualized GPU, DSP, mobile ARM processors. On network virtualization like SDN and Openflow. Mobile and tablet virtualization. Embedded device virtualization. Machine Learning IaaS. Car Software virtualization.
5) Disruptive Innovations + Cloud
Selling disruptive innovations and offering them as Cloud services. Examples could be 3D printing services, wireless sensor networks / M2M, Big Data, Wearable Tech, Open Source Hardware, etc. The Cloud will lower your costs and give you a global elastically scalable solution.
If you just invested a lot of money in a Big Data solution from any of the traditional BI vendors (Teradata, IBM, Oracle, SAS, EMC, HP, etc.) then you are likely to see a sub-optimal ROI in 2013.
Several innovations will come in 2013 that will change the value of Big Data exponentially. Other technology innovations are just waiting for smart start-ups to put them into good use.
The first major innovation will be Google’s Dremel-like solutions coming of age like Impala, Drill, etc. They will allow real-time queries on Big Data and be open source. So you will get a superior offering compared to what is currently available for free.
Cloud-Based Big Data Solutions
The absolute market leader is Amazon with EMR. Elastic Map Reduce is not so much about being able to run a Map Reduce operation in the Cloud but about paying for what you use and not more. The traditional BI vendors are still getting their head around a usage-based licensing for the Cloud. Except a lot of smart startups to come up with really innovative Big Data and Cloud solutions.
Big Data Appliances
You can buy some really expensive Big Data Appliances but also here disruptive players are likely to change the market. GPUs are relatively cheap. Stack them into servers and use something like Virtual OpenCL to make your own GPU virtualization cluster solution. These type of home-made GPU clusters are already being used for security Big Data related work.
Finally Parallella will put a 16-core supercomputer into everybody’s hands for $99. Their 2013 supercomputer challenge is definitely something to keep your eyes on. Their roadmap talks about 64 and 1000 core versions. If Adapteva can keep their promises and flood the market with Parallella’s then expect Parallella Clusters to be 2013 Big Data Appliance.
Distributed Machine Learning
Mahout is a cool project but Map Reduce might not be the best possible architecture to run iterative distributed backpropagation or any other machine learning algorithms. Jubatus looks promising. Also algorithm innovations like HogWild could really change the dynamics for efficient distributed machine learning. This space is definitely ready for more ground-breaking innovations in 2013.
Easier Big Data Tools
This is still a big white spot in the Open Source field. Having Open Source and easy to use drag-and-drop tools for Big Data Analytics would really excel the adoption. We already have some good commercial examples (Radoop = RapidMiner + Mahout, Tableau, Datameer, etc.) but we are missing good Open Source tools.
I am currently looking for new challenges so if you are active in the Big Data space and are looking for a knowledgable senior executive be sure to contact me at maarten at telruptive dot com.
Several operators are planning on launching Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) soon. Afterwards they want to launch SaaS and Telco SaaS (SaaS + Telecom assets) that run on top of their IaaS. Unfortunately this is doing things the wrong way around.
Since an operator spends millions on IaaS, CxOs want to see results. As such telecom managers are looking for applications and SaaS that can utilize this new IaaS. The problem is that operators are likely to spend again 4-6 months to launch a limited number of SaaS that are fully integrated into their complete backoffice system. This means that operators will be able to launch a limited set of SaaS by mid 2012 at very high APEX. Due to the limited number of services, operators are picking the “usual” suspects to launch, e.g. Microsoft 365.
What will happen in mid-2012?
Several European operators will launch their highly priced IaaS together with a limited number of similar SaaS services. The end result will be an oversupply of Microsoft and virtual servers with an immediate price pressure as a result. Enterprise customers will find local operators offering similar services as global IT players, e.g. IBM, HP, Fujitsu, etc. All will have good SLA promises to compete with the likes of Amazon and Rackspace, so at the end the lowest price will be the only selection criteria.
Operators should focus on launching SaaS and Telco SaaS first via open marketplaces. Operators should focus on building up a unique SaaS catalog that sets them apart from competition and builds an eco-system of customers and partners. The next step should be to open telecom assets and allow SaaS solutions to be extended into Telco SaaS. Only when operators see a clear winner in a niche or global marketplace, then they should talk to the supplier about becoming a strategic partner and to use the operator’s infrastructure to guarantee SLAs, etc.
The SaaS market is not mature yet. It is hard to pick winners because end-customers are only beginning to migrate towards SaaS. Most operators think that big names like Google and Microsoft are the only way of helping their end-customers move towards SaaS. However applying “Crossing the Chasm“, tells us that it would be better to be a big fish in a small pont first. Pick niche markets and specialized solutions that solve problems that currently are not addressed or generate new revenues that currently are not available. These niche products are easier to sell since they often involve a clear customer segment that will see a real problem solved. It will take time for end-customers to switch off their data centers and move everything to the cloud. These end-customers have established policies, IT-staff, etc. that will work against moving towards the cloud. By offering a solution that is substantially better then the current and offering a complete eco-system around a limited set of solutions, operators will be able to easily pursuade a well-defined group of companies to move parts of their operations towards the cloud. A final advantage is also that suppliers of niche products win most with the push of a large incumbant that has established relationships with all potential customers within a niche market. End-customers will not trust SmallABC.com but will trust LargeIncumbant offering the SmallABC solution. A Microsoft-like SaaS has its own name so LargeIncumbant’s 365 offering is not bringing end-customers any value.
Operators should focus on automating the onboarding of SaaS and offering quick and easy ways to over-the-top players to integrate telecom assets and become Telco SaaS providers and sell them via the operator’s open marketplaces. The only thing missing is to add Support 2.0 to the mix to have a telecom platform-as-a-service or Telco PaaS…