IP transformation is all about making new connections

Sean BuckleyYesterday, I asked Kelly Ahuja, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Service Provider Routing Technology Group at Cisco (NasdaqGS: CSCO), about what's been driving demand for the mighty routing giant's edge and core products.

His answer was that Cisco is trying help its service provider customers deal with the increasing number of endpoints being connected to their respective networks.

"The number of things that are being connected to the network is increasing, and the speed at which they are connecting to the network is also increasing," he said. "Those fundamental attributes have not changed much over the last decade. What has changed is that the number of things before being connected over the network was only homes and now it's becoming the Internet for connecting people or things."

During the good old PSTN-only days, the only connection that was made to the network was well, the telephone, for making voice-only calls. With a hundred plus years of innovation, the PSTN continues to serve customers well. However, the IP network (both wireless and wireline) has implications for both consumers and businesses that go far beyond the voice call.

On the consumer side, that device could be anything from getting the much-heralded iPad computing device to connect with the device of their choice, to getting any kind of content and applications that can simultaneously run and interact with one another. This could be anything from enabling a consumer to conduct a voice calling session with streaming video capabilities, or catching Junior taking his first steps and then sending instant message comments about the video at the same time via a smartphone or a PC.   

Taking it up another level, Chris Ebert, director of 4G strategic marketing for Nokia Siemens Networks, said a recent ATIS webinar The Transformation to All-IP - What Does it Really Mean for Carriers and the End User? is the evolution of the ‘Body Aware Network.'  

"Today, our networks are really moving beyond just what we thought of wide area and wireless networks down to the body-aware network, and using technologies to have multiple devices sharing one connection," he said. "A good example of these trends are new Nike running shoes" that could track the performance of each individual runner in a running club.

At the same time, vertical industries such as electrical utilities are integrating IP-based elements into what has largely been a proprietary closed network to communications elements to monitor not only their backbone networks (substations), but also, at the customer premise, to monitor energy usage with smart meters.

This so-called "Internet of things" sentiment has not fallen on deaf ears at large incumbent service providers like Canada's Telus (Toronto: T.TO). For Telus, IP is not only the service provider's future, but its current reality for both its wireline and wireless network.

Of course, Telus' IP transition did not happen overnight. Jocelyn Syme King, director of Technology Strategy at Telus, says the IP transformation posed both technology and internal cultural challenges.  

"When you take the legacy services over to IP or as you scale up the network, one of the key things is to retire the legacy stuff that goes along with it and get the people moved over with both the skillset and the mindset to deal with a converged network," she said. "Initially there's a lot of 'I am used to doing it this way,' but when people get together and work through it and look to the end goal they find new ways of doing things together."

At the end of the day, the IP evolution--while a long and arduous process for service providers--is not about pushing the theoretical limits of technology, but creating a platform that enables this veritable Internet of things. --Sean  

P.S. The FierceTelecom team is taking a break on Monday to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday. We'll be back on Tuesday bringing you up-to-date news on the telecommunications industry.

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