After 14 years at CenturyLink and roughly 60 days at F5 Networks, James Feger knows a thing or two about providing value to both service provider and enterprise customers.
Speaking during a keynote address at Light Reading's NFV and SDN event in Denver this week, Feger said that one of his goals since joining F5 this summer was to help service providers and enterprises reduce the complexities around their services and applications.
"We've created a bunch of complexity, and complexity kills," said Feger, vice president and general manager of F5's service provider business. "We thought making it easy was virtualizing. Now we realize that virtualizing was hard. Then we realized that virtualizing created a cultural impact that we weren't expecting. Then we realized that virtualization created a customer confusion point that we weren't expecting. And now we're playing catch up.
"One of the reasons I was really excited to become part of the F5 team was to try to take some of this complexity out. Taking out the complexity allows us to focus on time to market."
In order to provide a "win-win" for service providers and their customers, Feger said that operators need to focus on packaged service models and operational savings.
"What does SDN and NFV really bring? Does it bring you revenue? Sure, potentially. Does it create operational savings, I absolutely believe it does," Feger said. "Does it bring you customers? Maybe, but remember the customers are still trying to figure out what this actually means for their business, so, they don't really care if it's virtual or physical as long as their problems are being solved for an economical price.
"The operational savings, I'm very passionate about that and I have been for a while, and that comes through automation. That comes through simplified infrastructures. That comes through making things easier to change. So the idea here is, help with the savings model, help with the revenue model and have a commercial licensing structure that's flexible."
While service providers and vendors each have their own services and applications that compete against each other, Feger said it was also important to remember that everyone was part of the same ecosystem.
"Get into the top three or four services, create a model around it from an economics perspective that allows you to have faster procurements, faster time to revenue, easier deployments for your customer, through self-service catalogs. And then be able to easily and immediately add new and different VNFs (virtual network functions) to these packages," Feger said. "Take the service integration aspect off of the shoulders of your operations team.
"If you look at it from packaged services, packaged commercial offers, and the flexibility to actually change those packages both technologically, and commercially, it's a win-win. If you have that in your arsenal, it gets you closer to your customer.
"So one of the things that I am also very passionate about is you have to have the voice of the customer. Showing up and talking about virtualized services and talking about ease of use but not actually delivering on it alienates the customer."
Service providers should talk to their customers about packages that include analytics that help them run their businesses more intelligently. Those customer conversations should also include a discussion about simplification of the customer's infrastructure.
"I promise you, they are looking to move their stuff to the cloud," Feger said. "They're looking to move their stuff to the network clouds, if they haven't already. I also promise you that they're looking for ways to monetize their own services more so than they already have. And you sit in the middle of all of that data, whether you're a wireline provider, a wireless provider, a traditional cable provider, you sit in the middle of all of that data. And this allows them to build a trust in that relationship with you."
Service providers need to show up at customers' doorstep with honest assessments of their services and show that they are working on plans to help customers run their infrastructures more efficiently.
"They're going to love you for that," Feger said. "So far I think as an industry, we have not delivered on that promise. We have some great plans, don't get me wrong. We've had some really cool wins. We've had some great technological advances, but we all know we've also introduced a lot of complexity, and if you talk to your customer and you ask them what is it that they're looking for, I would take a bet with anybody that they're going to say 'We want it to be more simple, we want it to be more cost effective. We want to be more cloud-like.'
"Then the other one is just leveraging those consumption models. I think that is probably one of the most powerful things that SDN and NFV have yet to deliver, and we're just now getting there. So we've talked about lasting technology, now we're talking about lasting money. The services are virtual but the money is real."