Colt CEO Carl Grivner: Industry needs to push forward on MEF APIs

Multi-tenant office buildings. Image: Pixabay
Colt Technology Services CEO Carl Grivner says his company is working on more AI and blockchain services and applications for Colt's customers. (Pixabay)

Last week Colt Technology Services and AT&T announced that they were the first carriers in the telecom industry to implement MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Sonata Application Programming Interfaces (APIs.)

While that was an industry milestone, Colt CEO Carl Grivner said he will be pushing to get more of those carrier-to-carrier deployments in place using the LSO Sonata API. In order for LSO Sonata to be truly revolutionary, and not just evolutionary, many more service providers need to spin up services—mainly Ethernet at this point—between them.

Grivner took a recent swing through the United States to touch base with some of the company's largest U.S. customers. Colt launched its services in the U.S. just over a year ago in 13 cities across 30 data centers. In May, Colt announced that its On Demand services were available in the U.S., Hong Kong, Portugal, and Austria.

Carl Grivner, Colt Technology Services

Also last week, the ITW Global Leaders Forum (GLF) announced that it was launching a blockchain platform to improve inter-service provider settlements, which Colt is also participating in.

In this Q&A with FierceTelecom, which was edited for clarity and length, Grivner talks about the LSO Sonata API, how Colt delivers on customer experience, and what's on the roadmap for the rest of the year.

FierceTelecom: It's been a year since Colt launched its services in the U.S. What have you learned so far?

Carl Grivner: It's not so much the deployment. I think it has been the very positive receptivity from the market overall. Our intention when we went into the U.S market was to connect the U.S. to Asia or to Europe, where we have the strongest set of assets. What we found that was probably surprising was we had a lot of U.S. interest as well. So not just New York to London, we found New York to San Francisco or Chicago, or whatever the combination happened to be. So there was a lot more intra-U.S. interest. That goes back to the continued interest on our part to build out the U.S. market over time because of the fact that that from a business market perspective, I think there's still a of bit of under-serving by some of our competitors in the market right now.

FierceTelecom: What's on the roadmap for the rest of this year here in the U.S. or globally in terms of launching more services?

Grivner: We're going to continue to build out the On Demand platform. We will continue to work with other carriers on, the blockchain initiatives that we announced at ITW. I think the biggest thing though coming up for us, for the industry, was the announcement that we made with AT&T in of terms of the first API that that follows the MEF standards. Now that we've got Colt and AT&T, our goal for this year, and certainly into next year, is to get as many carriers—on a global  basis—to join  that API capability because that'll speed up everything for not only the carriers but the for customers as well.

I also think that that's another major step along the way for SDN (software-defined networking.) We'll continue to build out SDN, but the API plays a critical role in that scenario as well. For this year and next year, we will be building out that API capability with other carriers.

FierceTelecom: Does using the LSO Sonata API require that both carriers have SDN in place?

Grivner: Not necessarily. It could be something as simple as placing an order, although that's not exactly the most sexy kind of arrangement. Obviously, being able to have an API, having the SDN capability and being able to provision on each other's networks is ultimately the goal of where we want to take this.

You're seeing more and more that network providers, such as ourselves, are becoming very software-driven, software-like companies. We're going to be spending more time and more resources in the areas of software development.

FierceTelecom: When Colt announced its U.S. deployment last year, it said it would be adding more data centers. Is there a target number for data centers in the U.S. this year?

Grivner: There isn't a specific target. We're customer-driven as we go forward now. So, if a customer says, "Well, we really need you in this particular data center in Los Angeles, or in Phoenix," or whatever it happens to be, we will build out on a success basis for those data centers. So, there's no overarching roadmap to say we're going to take it from 30 to 120. I think we'll get there, but we'll do it more on a success basis.

FierceTelecom: As you compete with other carriers globally, how important is the customer experience?

Grivner: I think that's an interesting question. I see a lot of carriers as customers or as competitors or as vendors to us and also end user customers at the same time. I think the things that we have done, or continue to do, from a customer experience perspective is we have shown a differentiation in the marketplace, not only with the enterprise customers, but certainly with wholesale customers.

The buzz that we got back from ITW (Global Leaders Forum) is "You guys at Colt are continuing to push envelope forward in terms of the customers," but I think there's a lot more work to be done there. We are going to get very, very focused here on innovation relative to artificial intelligence and blockchain on more of a commercial level and, as I mentioned, the API. It goes back to becoming more of a software-driven company and getting more focused on innovation from a customer experience perspective. So, when we talk about competing with some of the large incumbents, they come outside of their zone, so to speak, they're not as competitive or not as strong from an overall customer experience perspective as we are.  I've seen that over and over again.

FierceTelecom: Over the past year, we've seen increased collaboration between open source communities and standards bodies. What else does the industry need to do moving forward?

Grivner: It goes back to how we started this conversation; the API. I'm going to stay on that bandwagon internally as well as externally. The AT&T and Colt interfaces are great, but that's just the beginning. We've got to get others that are abiding by the standards that have been developed. Once we do that, then I think the industry can accelerate in many forms as we talked about in terms of customer provisioning, SDN and all these benefits that customers will reap internally as well. My focus for the next 18 months or so will be on APIs, and getting more people to use the standard APIs.