BRIEFINGS DIRECT PODCASTS with Dana Gardner
Since 1999 Dana Gardner has emerged as a leading identifier of software productivity trends and new IT business value opportunities and is frequently quoted as a thought leader in top, news and IT industry publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Washington Post, Business Week, San Francisco, Reuters, Associated Press, MSNBC.com, CNN.com and more.
Gardner is well known as a creative thought leader on enterprise software solutions, strategies, partnerships, and markets. As a skilled multi-media communicator and evangelist, he has written dozens of industry reports on the business benefits of IT and Internet innovation for advancing general productivity, improving employee efficiency, and reducing total IT costs.
Gardner tracks and analyzes a critical set of enterprise software technologies and business transformation issues: Cloud computing, data center modernization, software-defined data centers, virtualization, big data analysis platforms, business intelligence, application development tools and application delivery optimization techniques, as well as mobile and virtual desktop strategies. His specific interests include enterprise architecture, IT as a service, open source strategies, social media, and mobile-first DevOps initiatives.
As founder and president of Interarbor Solutions, Gardner has taken a strong record in consulting services for IT vendors, carriers, and enterprises to yet another level: The exciting new communications capabilities around Internet social media. Businesses of all kinds are quickly exploiting blogs, podcasts and video-podcasts for education, communications and viral outreach. Gardner practices what he preaches, as a frequent blogger on ZDNet and his personal blog, as well as a podcaster. He began podcasting as a founding member of the Gillmor Gang in 2005.
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How Mounting Complexity, Multi-Cloud Sprawl, and Need for Maturity Confront Hybrid IT’s Ability to Grow and Thrive
Transcript of a discussion on how companies and IT leaders are seeking to manage an increasingly complex transition to sustainable hybrid IT.
Join us now as we hear from leading IT industry analysts and consultants on how to make the hybrid IT journey to successful digital business transformation.
Our next interview examines how the economics and risk management elements of hybrid IT factor into effective cloud adoption and choice. We’ll now explore how mounting complexity and a lack of multi-cloud services management maturity must be solved in order to have businesses grow and thrive as digital enterprises.
To report on how companies and IT leaders are managing an increasingly complex transition to sustainable hybrid IT, we are joined by Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA in Los Angeles. Welcome, Tim.
Tim Crawford: Thanks, Dana. Thanks for having me on the program; I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Gardner: You and I have appeared on a number of panels and videos over the years, but it’s great to have you on BriefingsDirect. I appreciate your time.
Crawford: It’s always a pleasure to get an opportunity to chat with you, and now actually getting a chance to talk to your audience as well. I’m happy to share what I can.
Gardner: Tim, there’s a lot of evidence that businesses are adopting cloud models at a rapid pace. But there is also lingering concern about how to best determine the right mix of cloud, what kinds of cloud, and how to mitigate the risks and manage change over time.
As someone who regularly advises chief information officers (CIOs), who or which group is surfacing that is tasked with managing this cloud adoption and its complexity within these businesses? Who will be managing this dynamic complexity?
To IT and beyond
Crawford: For the short-term, I would say everyone. It’s not as simple as it has been in the past where we look to the IT organization as the end-all, be-all for all things technology. As we begin talking about different consumption models -- and cloud is a relatively new consumption model for technology -- it changes the dynamics of it. It’s the combination of changing that consumption model -- but then there’s another factor that comes into this. There is also the consumerization of technology, right? We are “democratizing” technology to the point where everyone can use it, and therefore everyone does use it, and they begin to get more comfortable with technology.
It’s not as it used to be, where we would say, “Okay, I'm not sure how to turn on a computer.” Now, businesses may be more familiar outside of the IT organization with certain technologies. Bringing that full-circle, the answer is that we have to look beyond just IT. Cloud is something that is consumed by IT organizations. It’s consumed by different lines of business, too. It’s consumed even by end-consumers of the products and services. I would say it’s all of the above.
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Gardner: The good news is that more and more people are able to -- on their own –innovate, to acquire cloud services, and they can factor those into how they obtain business objectives. But do you expect that we will get to the point where that becomes disjointed? Will the goodness of innovation become something that spins out of control, or becomes a negative over time?
Crawford: To some degree, we’ve already hit that inflection-point where technology is being used in inappropriate ways. A great example of this -- and it’s something that just kind of raises the hair on the back of my neck -- is when I hear that boards of directors of publicly traded companies are giving mandates to their organization to “Go cloud.”
The board should be very business-focused and instead they're dictating specific technology -- whether it’s the right technology or not. That’s really what this comes down to.
Another example is folks that try and go all-in on cloud but aren’t necessarily thinking about what’s the right use of cloud – in all forms, public, private, software as a service (SaaS). What’s the right combination to use for any given application? It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.
We in the enterprise IT space haven't really done enough work to truly understand how best to leverage these new sets of tools. We need to both wrap our head around it but also get in the right frame of mind and thought process around how to take advantage of them in the best way possible.
Another example that I've worked through from an economic standpoint is if you were to do the math, which I have done a number of times with clients -- you do the math to figure out what’s the comparative between the IT you're doing on-premises in your corporate data center with any given application -- versus doing it in a public cloud.
If you do the math, taking an application from a corporate data center and moving it to public cloud will cost you four times as much money. Four times as much money to go to cloud! Yet we hear the cloud is a lot cheaper. Why is that?
When you begin to tease apart the pieces, the bottom line is that we get that four-times-as-much number because we’re using the same traditional mindset where we think about cloud as a solution, the delivery mechanism, and a tool. The reality is it’s a different delivery mechanism, and it’s a different kind of tool.
When used appropriately, in some cases, yes, it can be less expensive. The challenge is you have to get yourself out of your traditional thinking and think differently about the how and why of leveraging cloud. And when you do that, then things begin to fall into place and make a lot more sense both organizationally -- from a process standpoint, and from a delivery standpoint -- and also economically.
Gardner: That “appropriate use of cloud” is the key. Of course, that could be a moving target. What’s appropriate today might not be appropriate in a month or a quarter. But before we delve into more … Tim, tell us about your organization. What’s a typical day in the life for Tim Crawford like?
Crawford: I love that question. AVOA stands for that position in which we sit between business and technology. If you think about the intersection of business and technology, of using technology for business advantage, that’s the space we spend our time thinking about. We think about how organizations across a myriad of different industries can leverage technology in a meaningful way. It’s not tech for tech’s sake, and I want to be really clear about that. But rather it’s best to say, “How do we use technology for business advantage?”
We spend a lot of time with large enterprises across the globe working through some of these challenges. It could be as simple as changing traditional mindsets to transformational, or it could be talking about tactical objectives. Most times, though, it’s strategic in nature. We spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to solve these big problems and to change the way that companies function, how they operate.
A day in a life of me could range from, if I'm lucky, being able to stay in my office and be on the phone with clients, working with folks and thinking through some of these big problems. But I do spend a lot of time on the road, on an airplane, getting out in the field, meeting with clients, understanding what people really are contending with.
I spent well over 20 years of my career before I began doing this within the IT organization, inside leading IT organizations. It’s incredibly important for me to stay relevant by being out with these folks and understanding what they're challenged by -- and then, of course, helping them through their challenges.
Any given day is something new and I love that diversity. I love hearing different ideas. I love hearing new ideas. I love people who challenge the way I think.
It’s an opportunity for me personally to learn and to grow, and I wish more of us would do that. So it does vary quite a bit, but I'm grateful that the opportunities that I've had to work with have been just fabulous, and the same goes for the people.
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Gardner: I've always enjoyed my conversations with you, Tim, because you always do challenge me to think a little bit differently -- and I find that very valuable.
Okay, let’s get back to this idea of “appropriate use of cloud.” I wonder if we should also expand that to be “appropriate use of IT and cloud.” So including that notion of hybrid IT, which includes cloud and hybrid cloud and even multi-cloud. And let’s not forget about the legacy IT services.
How do we know if we’re appropriately using cloud in the context of hybrid IT? Are there measurements? Is there a methodology that’s been established yet? Or are we still in the opening innings of how to even measure and gain visibility into how we consume and use cloud in the context of all IT -- to therefore know if we’re doing it appropriately?
The monkey-bread model
Crawford: The first thing we have to do is take a step back to provide the context of that visibility -- or a compass, as I usually refer to these things. You need to provide a compass to help understand where we need to go.
If we look back for a minute, and look at how IT operates -- traditionally, we did everything. We had our own data center, we built all the applications, we ran our own servers, our own storage, we had the network – we did it all. We did it all, because we had to. We, in IT, didn’t really have a reasonable alternative to running our own email systems, our own file storage systems. Those days have changed.
Fast-forward to today. Now, you have to pick apart the pieces and ask, “What is strategic?” When I say, “strategic,” it doesn’t mean critically important. Electrical power is an example. Is that strategic to your business? No. Is it important? Heck, yeah, because without it, we don’t run. But it’s not something where we’re going out and building power plants next to our office buildings just so we can have power, right? We rely on others to do it because there are mature infrastructures, mature solutions for that. The same is true with IT. We have now crossed the point where there are mature solutions at an enterprise level that we can capitalize on, or that we can leverage.
Part of the methodology I use is the monkey bread example. If you're not familiar with monkey bread, it’s kind of a crazy thing where you have these balls of dough. When you bake it, the balls of dough congeal together and meld. What you're essentially doing is using that as representative of, or an analogue to, your IT portfolio of services and applications. You have to pick apart the pieces of those balls of dough and figure out, “Okay. Well, these systems that support email, those could go off to Google or Microsoft 365. And these applications, well, they could go off to this SaaS-based offering. And these other applications, well, they could go off to this platform.”
And then, what you're left with is this really squishy -- but much smaller -- footprint that you have to contend with. That problem in the center is much more specific -- and arguably that’s what differentiates your company from your competition.
Whether you run email [on-premises] or in a cloud, that’s not differentiating to a business. It’s incredibly important, but not differentiating. When you get to that gooey center, that’s the core piece, that’s where you put your resources in, that’s what you focus on.
This example helps you work through determining what’s critical, and -- more importantly -- what’s strategic and differentiating to my business, and what is not. And when you start to pick apart these pieces, it actually is incredibly liberating. At first, it’s a little scary, but once you get the hang of it, you realize how liberating it is. It brings focus to the things that are most critical for your business.
That’s what we have to do more of. When we do that, we identify opportunities where cloud makes sense -- and where it doesn’t. Cloud is not the end-all, be-all for everything. It definitely is one of the most significant opportunities for most IT organizations today.
So it’s important: Understand what is appropriate, how you leverage the right solutions for the right application or service.
Gardner: IT in many organizations is still responsible for everything around technology. And that now includes higher-level strategic undertakings of how all this technology and the businesses come together. It includes how we help our businesses transform to be more agile in new and competitive environments.
So is IT itself going to rise to this challenge, of not doing everything, but instead becoming more of that strategic broker between in IT functions and business outcomes? Or will those decisions get ceded over to another group? Maybe enterprise architects, business architects, business process management (BPM) analysts? Do you think it’s important for IT to both stay in and elevate to the bigger game?
Changing IT roles and responsibilities
Crawford: It’s a great question. For every organization, the answer is going to be different. IT needs to take on a very different role and sensibility. IT needs to look different than how it looks today. Instead of being a technology-centric organization, IT really needs to be a business organization that leverages technology.
The CIO of today and moving forward is not the tech-centric CIO. There are traditional CIOs and transformational CIOs. The transformational CIO is the business leader first who happens to have responsibility for technology. IT, as a whole, needs to follow the same vein.
For example, if you were to go into a traditional IT organization today and ask them what’s the nature of their business, ask them to tell you what they do as an administrator, as a developer, to help you understand how that’s going to impact the company and the business -- unfortunately, most of them would have a really hard time doing that.
The IT organization of the future, will articulate clearly the work they’re doing and how that impacts their customers and their business, and how making different changes and tweaks will impact their business. They will have an intimate knowledge of how their business functions much more than how the technology functions. That’s a very different mindset, that’s the place we have to get to for IT on the whole. IT can’t just be this technology organization that sits in a room, separate from the rest of the company. It has to be integral, absolutely integral to the business.
Gardner: If we recognize that cloud is here to stay -- but that the consumption of it needs to be appropriate, and if we’re at some sort of inflection point, we’re also at the risk of consuming cloud inappropriately. If IT and leadership within IT are elevating themselves, and upping their game to be that strategic player, isn’t IT then in the best position to be managing cloud, hybrid cloud and hybrid IT? What tools and what mechanisms will they need in order to make that possible?
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Crawford: Theoretically, the answer is that they really need to get to that level. We’re not there, on the whole, yet. Many organizations are not prepared to adopt cloud. I don’t want to be a naysayer of IT, but I think in terms of where IT needs to go on the whole, on the sum, we need to move into that position where we can manage the different types of delivery mechanisms -- whether it’s public cloud, SaaS, private cloud, appropriate data centers -- those are all just different levers we can pull depending on the business type.
As you mentioned earlier, businesses change, customers change, demand changes, and revenue comes from different places. In IT, we need to be able to shift gears just as fast and be prepared to shift those gears in anticipation of where the company goes. That’s a very different mindset. It’s a very different way of thinking, but it also means we have to think of clever ways to bring these tools together so that we’re well-prepared to leverage things like cloud.
The challenge is many folks are still in that classic mindset, which unfortunately holds back companies from being able to take advantage of some of these new technologies and methodologies. But getting there is key.
Gardner: Some boards of directors, as you mentioned, are saying, “Go cloud,” or be cloud-first. People are taking them at that, and so we are facing a sort of cloud sprawl. People are doing micro services and as developers spinning up cloud instances and object storage instances. Sometimes they’ll keep those running into production; sometimes they’ll shut them down. We have line of business (LOB) managers going out and acquiring services like SaaS applications, running them for a while, perhaps making them a part of their standard operating procedures. But, in many organizations, one hand doesn’t really know what the other is doing.
Are we at the inflection point now where it’s simply a matter of measurement? Would we stifle innovation if we required people to at least mention what it is that they’re doing with their credit cards or petty cash when it comes to IT and cloud services? How important is it to understand what’s going on in your organization so that you can begin a journey toward better management of this overall hybrid IT?
Why, oh why, oh why, cloud?
Crawford: It depends on how you approach it. If you’re doing it from an IT command-and-control perspective, where you want to control everything in cloud -- full stop, that’s failure right out of the gate. But if you’re doing it from a position of -- I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to understand why are these folks leveraging cloud, and why are they not coming to IT, and how can I as CIO be better positioned to be able to support them, then great! Go forth and conquer.
The reality is that different parts of the organization are consuming cloud-based services today. I think there’s an opportunity to bring those together where appropriate. But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself a very important question. It’s a very simple question, but you have to ask it, and it has to do with each of the different ways that you might leverage cloud. Even when you go beyond cloud and talk about just traditional corporate data assets -- especially as you start thinking about Internet of things (IoT) and start thinking about edge computing -- you know that public cloud becomes problematic for some of those things.
The important question you have to ask yourself is, “Why?” A very simple question, but it can have a really complicated answer. Why are you using public cloud? Why are you using three different forms of public cloud? Why are you using private cloud and public cloud together?
Once you begin to ask yourself those questions, and you keep asking yourself that question … it’s like that old adage. Ask yourself why three times and you kind of get to the core as the true reason why. You’ll bring greater clarity as to the reasons, and typically the business reasons, of why you’re actually going down that path. When you start to understand that, it brings clarity to what decisions are smart decisions -- and what decisions maybe you might want to think about doing differently.
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Gardner: Of course, you may begin doing something with cloud for a very good reason. It could be a business reason, a technology reason. You’ll recognize it, you gain value from it -- but then over time you have to step back with maturity and ask, “Am I consuming this in such a way that I’m getting it at the best price-point?” You mentioned a little earlier that sometimes going to public cloud could be four times as expensive.
So even though you may have an organization where you want to foster innovation, you want people to spread their wings, try out proofs of concept, be agile and democratic in terms of their ability to use myriad IT services, at what point do you say, “Okay, we’re doing the business, but we’re not running it like a good business should be run.” How are the economic factors driven into cloud decision-making after you’ve done it for a period of time?
Cloud’s good, but is it good for business?
Crawford: That’s a tough question. You have to look at the services that you’re leveraging and how that ties into business outcomes. If you tie it back to a business outcome, it will provide greater clarity on the sourcing decisions you should make.
For example, if you’re spending $5 to make $6 in a specialty industry, that’s probably not a wise move. But if you’re spending $5 to make $500, okay, that’s a pretty good move, right? There is a trade-off that you have to understand from an economic standpoint. But you have to understand what the true cost is and whether there’s sufficient value. I don’t mean technological value, I mean business value, which is measured in dollars.
If you begin to understand the business value of the actions you take -- how you leverage public cloud versus private cloud versus your corporate data center assets -- and you match that against the strategic decisions of what is differentiating versus what’s not, then you get clarity around these decisions. You can properly leverage different resources and gain them at the price points that make sense. If that gets above a certain amount, well, you know that’s not necessarily the right decision to make.
Economics plays a very significant role -- but let’s not kid ourselves. IT organizations haven’t exactly been the best at economics in the past. We need to be moving forward. And so it’s just one more thing on that overflowing plate that we call demand and requirements for IT, but we have to be prepared for that.
Gardner: There might be one other big item on that plate. We can allow people to pursue business outcomes using any technology that they can get their hands on -- perhaps at any price – and we can then mature that process over time by looking at price, by finding the best options.
But the other item that we need to consider at all times is risk. Sometimes we need to consider whether getting too far into a model like a public cloud, for example, that we can’t get back out of, is part of that risk. Maybe we have to consider that being completely dependent on external cloud networks across a global supply chain, for example, has inherent cyber security risks. Isn’t it up to IT also to help organizations factor some of these risks -- along with compliance, regulation, data sovereignty issues? It’s a big barrel of monkeys.
Before we sign off, as we’re almost out of time, please address for me, Tim, the idea of IT being a risk factor mitigator for a business.
Safety in numbers
Crawford: You bring up a great point, Dana. Risk -- whether it is risk from a cyber security standpoint or it could be data sovereignty issues, as well as regulatory compliance -- the reality is that nobody across the organization truly understands all of these pieces together.
It really is a team effort to bring it all together -- where you have the privacy folks, the information security folks, and the compliance folks -- that can become a united team. I don’t think IT is the only component of that. I really think this is a team sport. In any organization that I’ve worked with, across the industry it’s a team sport. It’s not just one group.
It’s complicated, and frankly, it’s getting more complicated every single day. When you have these huge breaches that sit on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and other publications, it’s really hard to get clarity around risk when you’re always trying to fight against the fear factor. So that’s another balancing act that these groups are going to have to contend with moving forward. You can’t ignore it. You absolutely shouldn’t. You should get proactive about it, but it is complicated and it is a team sport.
Gardner: Some take-aways for me today are that IT needs to raise its game. Yet again, they need to get more strategic, to develop some of the tools that they’ll need to address issues of sprawl, complexity, cost, and simply gaining visibility into what everyone in the organization is – or isn’t -- doing appropriately with hybrid cloud and hybrid IT.
I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. We’ve been exploring how the economics and risk management elements of hybrid IT factor into effective cloud adoption and choice. And we’ve learned how mounting complexity and a lack of multi-cloud services management maturity must be solved in order for businesses to continue to grow -- and for IT organizations to continue to fulfill what could very well be their new charter.
So please join me now in thanking our guest, Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA in Los Angeles. Thank you, Tim.
Crawford: Thanks for having me on the program.
Gardner: Tim, how can our listeners and readers best follow you to gain more of your excellent insights?
Crawford: There are two great ways to do that. One is on Twitter, @tcrawford or my blog at www.avoa.com.
Gardner: Thanks again, that was really great. A big thank you as well to our audience for joining us for this BriefingsDirect Voice of the Analyst discussion on how to best manage the hybrid IT journey to digital business transformation.
I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of Hewlett Packard Enterprise-sponsored interviews. Follow me on Twitter at @Dana_Gardner and find more hybrid IT-focused podcasts at www.briefingsdirect.com. Lastly, please pass this content on to your IT community, and do come back next time.
Transcript of a discussion on how companies and IT leaders are seeking to manage an increasingly complex transition to sustainable hybrid IT. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2017. All rights reserved.
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How Nokia Refactors the Video Delivery Business With New Time-Managed IT Financing Models
Transcript of a discussion on new video delivery architectures and the creative ways that media companies are paying for the technology that supports IP video streaming.
Dana Gardner: Welcome to the next edition of the BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer podcast series. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on digital transformation success stories. Stay with us now to learn how agile businesses are fending off disruption -- in favor of innovation.
Our next thought leader interview examines how Nokia is refactoring the video delivery business. We will now learn about new video delivery architectures and the creative ways media companies are paying for the technology that supports them.
Paul Larbey: Hey, Dana, it’s great to be here.
Gardner: It seems that the video-delivery business is in upheaval. How are video delivery trends coming together to make it necessary for rethinking architectures? How are pricing models and business models changing, too?
The mobile video decade
Larbey: We sit here in 2017, but let’s look back 10 years to 2007. There were a couple key events in 2007 that dramatically shaped how we all consume video today and how, as a company, we use technology to go to market.
It’s been 10 years since the creation of the Apple iPhone. The iPhone sparked whole new device-types, moving eventually into the iPad. Not only that, Apple underneath developed a lot of technology in terms of how you stream video, how you protect video over IP, and the technology underneath that, which we still use today. Not only did they create a new device-type and avenue for us to watch video, they also created new underlying protocols.
It was also 10 years ago that Netflix began to first offer a video streaming service. So if you look back, I see one year in which how we all consume our video today was dramatically changed by a couple of events.
If we fast-forward, and look to where that goes to in the future, there are two trends we see today that will create challenges tomorrow. Video has become truly mobile. When we talk about mobile video, we mean watching some films on our iPad or on our iPhone -- so not on a big TV screen, that is what most people mean by mobile video today.
The future is personalized
When you can take your video with you, you want to take all your content with you. You can’t do that today. That has to happen in the future. When you are on an airplane, you can’t take your content with you. You need connectivity to extend so that you can take your content with you no matter where you are.
Take the simple example of a driverless car. Now, you are driving along and you are watching the satellite-navigation feed, watching the traffic, and keeping the kids quiet in the back. When driverless cars come, what you are going to be doing? You are still going to be keeping the kids quiet, but there is a void, a space that needs to be filled with activity, and clearly extending the content into the car is the natural next step.
And the final challenge is around personalization. TV will become a lot more personalized. Today we all get the same user experience. If we are all on the same service provider, it looks the same -- it’s the same color, it’s the same grid. There is no reason why that should all be the same. There is no reason why my kids shouldn’t have a different user interface.
The user interface presented to me in the morning may be different than the user
interface presented to me in the evening. There is no reason why I should have 10 pages of channels that I have to go through to find something that I want to watch. Why aren’t all those channels specifically curated for me? That’s what we mean by personalization. So if you put those all together and extrapolate those 10 years into the future, then 2027 will be a very different place for video.
Gardner: It sounds like a few things need to change between the original content’s location and those mobile screens and those customized user scenarios you just described. What underlying architecture needs to change in order to get us to 2027 safely?
Larbey: It’s a journey; this is not a step-change. This is something that’s going to happen gradually.
But if you step back and look at the fundamental changes -- all video will be streamed. Today, the majority of what we view is via broadcasting, from cable TV, or from a satellite. It’s a signal that’s going to everybody at the same time.
If you think about the mobile video concept, if you think about personalization, that is not going be the case. Today we watch a portion of our video streamed over IP. In the future, it will all be streamed over IP.
And that clearly creates challenges for operators in terms of how to architect the network, how to optimize the delivery, and how to recreate that broadcast experience using streaming video. This is where a lot of our innovation is focused today.
Gardner: You also mentioned in the case of an airplane, where it's not just streaming but also bringing a video object down to the device. What will be different in terms of the boundary between the stream and a download?
IT’s all about intelligence
Larbey: It’s all about intelligence. Firstly, connectivity has to extend and become really ubiquitous via technology such as 5G. The increase in fiber technology will dramatically enable truly ubiquitous connectivity, which we don’t really have today. That will resolve some of the problems, but not all.
But, by the fact that television will be personalized, the network will know what’s in my schedule. If I have an upcoming flight, machine learning can automatically predict what I’m going to do and make sure it suggests the right content in context. It may download the content because it knows I am going to be sitting in a flight for the next 12 hours.
Gardner: We are putting intelligence into the network to be beneficial to the user experience. But it sounds like it’s also going to give you the opportunity to be more efficient, with just-in-time utilization -- minimal viable streaming, if you will.
How does the network becoming more intelligent also benefit the carriers, the deliverers of the content, and even the content creators and owners? There must be an increased benefit for them on utility as well as in the user experience?
Larbey: Absolutely. We think everything moves into the network, and the intelligence becomes the network. So what does that do immediately? That means the operators don’t have to buy set-top boxes. They are expensive. They are very costly to maintain. They stay in the network a long time. They can have a much lighter client capability, which basically just renders the user interface
The first obvious example of all this, that we are heavily focused on, is the storage. So taking the hard drive out of the set-top box and putting that data back into the network. Some huge deployments are going on at the moment in collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) using the HPE Apollo platform to deploy high-density storage systems that remove the need to ship a set-top box with a hard drive in it.
How to acquire, pay for
And use IT
Now, what are the advantages of that? Everybody thinks it’s costly, so you’ve taken the hard drive out, you have the storage in the network, and that’s clearly one element. But actually if you talk to any operator, their biggest cause of subscriber churn is when somebody’s set-top box fails and they lose their personalized recordings.
The personal connection you had with your service isn’t there any longer. It’s a lot easier to then look at competing services. So if that content is in the network, then clearly you don’t have that churn issue. Not only can you access your content from any mobile device, it’s protected and it will always be with you.
Taking the CDN private
Gardner: For the past few decades, part of the solution to this problem was to employ a content delivery network (CDN) and use that in a variety of ways. It started with web pages and the downloading of flat graphic files. Now that's extended into all sorts of objects and content. Are we going to do away with the CDN? Are we going to refactor it, is it going to evolve? How does that pan out over the next decade?
Larbey: The CDN will still exist. That still becomes the key way of optimizing video delivery -- but it changes. If you go back 10 years, the only CDNs available were CDNs in the Internet. So it was a shared service, you bought capacity on the shared service.
Even today that’s how a lot of video from the content owners and broadcasters is streamed. For the past seven years, we have been taking that technology and deploying it in private network -- with both telcos and cable operators -- so they can have their own private CDN, and there are a lot of advantages to having your own private CDN.
You get complete control of the roadmap. You can start to introduce advanced features such as targeted ad insertion, blackout, and features like that to generate more revenue. You have complete control over the quality of experience, which you don’t if you outsource to a shared service.
What we’re seeing now is both the programmers and broadcasters taking an interest in that private CDN because they want the control. Video is their business, so the quality they deliver is even more important to them. We’re seeing a lot of the programmers and broadcasters starting to look at adopting the private CDN model as well.
The challenge is how do you build that? You have to build for peak. Peak is generally driven by live sporting events and one-off news events. So that leaves you with a lot of capacity that’s sitting idle a lot of the time. With cloud and orchestration, we have solved that technically -- we can add servers in very quickly, we can take them out very quickly, react to the traffic demands and we can technically move things around.
But the commercial model has lagged behind. So we have been working with HPE Financial Services to understand how we can innovate on that commercial model as well and get that flexibility -- not just from an IT perspective, but also from a commercial perspective.
Gardner: Tell me about Private CDN technology. Is that a Nokia product? Tell us about your business unit and the commercial models.
Larbey: We basically help as a business unit. Anyone who has content -- be that broadcasters or programmers – they pay the operators to stream the content over IP, and to launch new services. We have a product focused on video networking: How to optimize a video, how it’s delivered, how it’s streamed, and how it’s personalized.
It can be a private CDN product, which we have deployed for the last seven years, and we have a cloud digital video recorder (DVR) product, which is all about moving the storage capacity into the network. We also have a systems integration part, which brings a lot of technology together and allows operators to combine vendors and partners from the ecosystem into a complete end-to-end solution.
How to acquire, pay for
And use IT
Gardner: With HPE being a major supplier for a lot of the hardware and infrastructure, how does the new cost model change from the old model of pay up-front?
Flexible financial formats
Larbey: I would not classify HPE as a supplier; I think they are our partner. We work very closely together. We use HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 Servers, the HPE Apollo platform, and the HPE Moonshot platform, which are, as you know, world-leading compute-storage platforms that deliver these services cost-effectively. We have had a long-term technical relationship.
We are now moving toward how we advance the commercial relationship. We are working with the HPE Financial Services team to look at how we can get additional flexibility. There are a lot of pay-as-you-go-type financial IT models that have been in existence for some time -- but these don’t necessarily work for my applications from a financial perspective.
In the private CDN and the video applications, our goal is to use 100 percent of the storage all of the time to maximize the cache hit-rate. With the traditional IT payment model for storage, my application fundamentally breaks that. So having a partner like HPE that was flexible and could understand the application is really important.
We also needed flexibility of compute scaling. We needed to be able to deploy for the peak, but not pay for that peak at all times. That’s easy from the software technology side, but we needed it from the commercial side as well.
And thirdly, we have been trying to enter a new market and be focused on the programmers and broadcasters, which is not our traditional segment. We have been deploying our CDN to the largest telcos and cable operators in the world, but now, selling to that programmers and broadcasters segment -- they are used to buying a service from the Internet and they work in a different way and they have different requirements.
So we needed a financial model that allowed us to address that, but also a partner who would take some of the risk, too, because we didn’t know if it was going to be successful. Thankfully it has, and we have grown incredibly well, but it was a risk at the start. Finding a partner like HPE Financial Services who could share some of that risk was really important.
Gardner: These video delivery organizations are increasingly operating on subscription basis, so they would like to have their costs be incurred on a similar basis, so it all makes sense across the services ecosystem.
Larbey: Yes, absolutely. That is becoming more and more important. If you go back to the very first the Internet video, you watched of a cat falling off a chair on YouTube. It didn’t matter if it was buffering, that wasn't relevant. Now, our tolerance just doesn’t exist anymore for buffering and we demand and expect the highest-quality video.
If TV in 2027 is going to be purely IP, then clearly that has to deliver exactly the same quality of experience as the broadcasting technologies. And that creates challenges. The biggest obvious example is if you go to any IP TV operator and look at their streamed video channel that is live versus the one on broadcast, there is a big delay.
So there is a lag between the live event and what you are seeing on your IP stream, which is 30 to 40 seconds. If you are in an apartment block, watching a live sporting event, and your neighbor sees it 30 to 40 seconds before you, that creates a big issue. A lot of the innovations we’re now doing with streaming technologies are to deliver that same broadcast experience.
How to acquire, pay for
And use IT
Gardner: We now also have to think about 4K, the intelligent edge, no latency, and all with managed costs. Fortunately at this time HPE is also working on a lot of edge technologies, like Edgeline and Universal IoT, and so forth. There’s a lot more technology being driven to the edge for storage, for large memory processing, and so forth. How are these advances affecting your organization?
Larbey: There are two elements. The compute, the edge, is absolutely critical. We are going to move all the intelligence into the network, and clearly you need to reduce the latency, and you need to able to scale that functionality. This functionality was scaled in millions of households, and now it has to be done in the network. The only way you can effectively build the network to handle that scale is to put as much functionality as you can at the edge of the network.
The HPE platforms will allow you to deploy that computer storage deep into the network, and they are absolutely critical for our success. We will run our CDN, our ad insertion, and all that capability as deeply into the network as an operator wants to go -- and certainly the deeper, the better.
The other thing we try to optimize all of the time is storage. One of the challenges with network-based recording -- especially in the US due to the content-use regulations compliance -- is that you have to store a copy per user. If, for example, both of us record the same program, there are two versions of that program in the cloud. That’s clearly very inefficient.
The question is how do you optimize that, and also support just-in-time transcoding techniques that have been talked about for some time. That would create the right quality of bitrate on the fly, so you don’t have to store all the different formats. It would dramatically reduce storage costs.
The challenge has always been that the computing processing units (CPUs) needed to do that, and that’s where HPE and the Moonshot platform, which has great compute density, come in. We have the Intel media library for doing the transcoding. It’s a really nice storage platform. But we still wanted to get even more out of it, so at our Bell Labs research facility we developed a capability called skim storage, which for a slight increase in storage, allows us to double the number of transcodes we can do on a single CPU.
That approach takes a really, really efficient hardware platform with nice technology and doubles the density we can get from it -- and that’s a big change for the business case.
Gardner: It’s astonishing to think that that much encoding would need to happen on the fly for a mass market; that’s a tremendous amount of compute, and an intense compute requirement.
Larbey: Absolutely, and you have to be intelligent about it. At the end of the day, human behavior works in our favor. If you look at most programs that people record, if they do not watch within the first seven days, they are probably not going to watch that recording. That content in particular then can be optimized from a storage perspective. You still need the ability to recreate it on the fly, but it improves the scale model.
Gardner: So the more intelligent you can be about what the users’ behavior and/or their use patterns, the more efficient you can be. Intelligence seems to be the real key here.
Larbey: Yes, we have a number of algorithms even within the CDN itself today that predict content popularity. We want to maximize the disk usage. We want the popular content on the disk, so what’s the point of us deleting a piece of a popular content just because a piece of long-tail content has been requested. We do a lot of algorithms looking at and trying to predict the content popularity so that we can make sure we are optimizing the hardware platform accordingly.
Gardner: Perhaps we can deepen our knowledge about this all through some examples. Do have some examples that demonstrate how your clients and customers are taking these new technologies and making better business decisions that help them in their cost structure -- but also deliver a far better user experience?
Larbey: One of our largest customers is Liberty Global, with a large number of cable operators in a variety of countries across Europe. They were enhancing an IP service. They started with an Internet-based CDN and that’s how they were delivering their service. But recognizing the importance of gaining more control over costs and the quality experience, they wanted to take that in-house and put the content on a private CDN.
We worked with them to deliver that technology. One of things that they noticed very quickly, which I don’t think they were expecting, was a dramatic reduction in the number of people calling in to complain because the stream had stopped or buffered. They enjoyed a big decrease in call-center calls as soon as they switched on our new CDN technology, which is quite an interesting use-case benefit.
We do a lot with Sky in the UK, which was also looking to migrate away from an Internet-based CDN service into something in-house so they could take more control over it and improve the users’ quality of experience.
One of our customers in Canada, TELUS, when they deployed a private CDN, they reached costs payback in less than 12 months in terms of both the network savings and the Internet CDN costs savings.
Gardner: Before we close out, perhaps a look to the future and thinking about some of the requirements on business models as we leverage edge intelligence. What about personalization services, or even inserting ads in different ways? Can there be more of a two-way relationship, or a one-to-one interaction with the end consumers? What are the increased benefits from that high-performing, high-efficiency edge architecture?
VR vision and beyond
Larbey: All of that generates more traffic -- moving from standard-definition to high-definition to 4K, to beyond 4K -- it all generates more network traffic. You then take into account a 360-degree-video capability and virtual reality (VR) services, which is a focus for Nokia with our Ozo camera, and it’s clear that the data is just going to explode.
So being able to optimize, and continue to optimize that, in terms of new codec technology and new streaming technologies -- to be able to constrain the growth of video demands on the network – is essential, otherwise the traffic would just explode.
There is lot of innovation going on to optimize the content experience. People may not want to watch all their TV through VR headsets. That may not become the way you want to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. However, maybe there will be a uniquely created piece of content that’s an add-on in 360, and the real serious fans can go and look for it. I think we will see new types of content being created to address these different use-cases.
Gardner: I look forward to that. I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. We have been examining how Nokia is refactoring the video delivery business. And we have heard about new video-delivery architectures and creative ways that media companies are paying for them. It all adds up to a very auspicious future for providers of content and consumers as well.
So please join me in thanking our guest, Paul Larbey, Head of the Video Business Unit at Nokia, based in Cambridge, UK. Thank you, Paul.
Larbey: Thanks, it was great to chat.
Gardner: And thanks as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer digital transformation success story. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of Hewlett Packard Enterprise-sponsored interviews. Thanks again for listening, and please come back next time.
Transcript of a discussion on new video delivery architectures and the creative ways that media companies are paying for the technology that supports IP video streaming. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2017. All rights reserved.
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