Tuesday Nov 17, 2009

Telcos and "On Demand" Computing

Ten years ago, while employed by Oracle, I worked on a project where we tried to convince the large North American telcos to act as Application Service Providers (ASP) and host Oracle applications for their customers.  We proposed that the combination of existing telco data centers, network connectivity, business customer base and billing infrastructure provided an ideal foundation for such services.  At that time, we didn’t get much traction with the telcos, but Oracle went ahead and launched their own ASP service, now known as "Oracle On Demand.”

Now, as Sun awaits acquisition by Oracle, it is interesting to see telco participation in what we now term “Cloud Computing.”  On Monday, AT&T announcedSynaptic Compute as a Service(SM), its latest innovative global cloud-based service, designed to give companies of all sizes simple on-demand access to scalable computing capacity.”  Ironically, the press release was entitled, “AT&T Unveils Network-Based 'On Demand' Computing for Companies of All Sizes.”  I’m not sure what Oracle might think of AT&T’s use of the “On Demand” term.

AT&T is working closely with Sun to use the Sun Cloud Open Cloud Platform, Sun Cloud APIs, cloud reference architecture and design expertise to create an environment to make it easy for developers to build and deploy value-added services.

"Sun is committed to helping our customers and partners deliver public and private clouds that are cost effective, open and interoperable," said Dave Douglas, senior vice president, Cloud Computing, Sun Microsystems. "AT&T's network and operational excellence coupled with Sun's Open Cloud Platform and Sun Cloud APIs delivers a revolutionary cloud offering. We're excited to be working with AT&T to bring an enterprise-class, highly scalable offering that delivers choice and flexibility to market."

The trend towards cloud computing marches on.  I think we will see more telco participation in this market. We have long accepted utility telephony services from telecom operators.  Offering computing utility services is a logical next step.

Monday Mar 09, 2009

Classic Cell Phones - Remember These?

Do you remember when a mobile phone was too heavy to carry?  Take a look at this nostalgic series of classic cell phone photos.

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Monday Sep 01, 2008

Colbert on AT&T

When I was growing up, AT&T was affectionately (or disparagingly, depending on your point of view) called "Ma Bell." Over the past several years, it has been interesting to see the court-supervised breakup of Ma Bell into the "Baby Bells", followed progressively by recombination of several of these entitites, along with some new business units, into the "new" AT&T. Perhaps Stephen Colbert explains it best in this video from http://schomer.vox.com/:

Note 1: Sorry, but this video seems to have disappeared from cyberspace. I'm still looking. Perhaps AT&T didn't like the publicity! :)

Note 2: I found a YouTube link that seems to work. However embedding has been disabled "by request."

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Tuesday Aug 05, 2008

It's the Relationship that Matters

Last night I had a stimulating conversation with a colleague, Shawn Malaney, about the importance of relationships (or the lack thereof) between telephone companies and their customers. An AT&T customer for over 25 years, Shawn currently has three separate accounts with AT&T. Even though he enjoys their service and faithfully pays three bills each month, he knows that AT&T has no idea that the three bills represent a relationship with just one Shawn Malaney.

This highlights a major problem and huge opportunity for telecommunications carriers and their subscribers. I recounted to Shawn the presentation about relationships that Bob Blakley gave at the Catalyst Conference in June. In response to a question I posed, Bob responded, "Companies that succeed online will have close billing relationship with customers. Telcos are there now. Startups are seeking to build such relationships" (paraphrased).

It is true that telcos could have the upper hand in online relationships because they do have such long-term, trusted relationships. However, such relationships could be so much better than they are.

Suppose that AT&T really took advantage (in the good sense of the word) of the fact that Shawn had multiple accounts and a 25 year history of faithful payments. AT&T could offer Shawn premium, preferred services that spanned his multiple accounts, confident that this would provide additional benefit to both Shawn and themselves. This would give Shawn financial reward and access to better services, plus the incentive to stick around for several more years. AT&T would benefit from additional customer loyalty, plus additional revenue from a satisfied subscriber.

So, it is clear to me in this case that Shawn's Identity, while vitally important, is less important that the Relationship he has with AT&T. Leveraging Identity information more effectively to strengthen the Relationship benefits both customer and service provider.

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Monday Mar 03, 2008

Convenience for our Customers

Convenience: "anything that saves or simplifies work or adds to one's ease or comfort."

In a meeting at Sun's Executive Briefing Center last Friday, one of our telco customers volunteered the mantra driving their implementation of Identity Management to enable delivery of online services. "It's all about convenience for our customers," remarked one executive.

Convenience implies making life easier, simpler or more comfortable. Identity Management principles and technology can indeed simplify the process a subscriber uses to interact with an online service provider. While the visible process is simplified, people can also be more comfortable they are interacting in a safe way, with privacy and security concerns appropriately addressed.

An interesting thing about Identity Management is that if it really works, it is almost completely hidden. The building blocks that operate behind the scenes just go about their work without users even being aware of the complex protocols and processes required. But it is that very real, but unseen "magic" that really delivers value to a company whose mission is "Convenience for our Customers."

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Thursday Feb 28, 2008

Be a Destination, Not a Gateway

Well, the cat is out of the bag. I can now blog about the major initiative that has been monopolizing my time for the past six months.

This morning, Slashdot picked up the post by BobB-nw: "Telecommunication companies need to go beyond just providing bandwidth and look into acquiring Internet destination sites that are heavily trafficked, says Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy. "I have explained to every telco that either you become a destination site, or the destination site will become a telco," McNealy said at a news conference at Sun Microsystems' Worldwide Education and Research Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday."

I am the guy in Sun's Americas Software Practice tabbed with leading the effort to make Scott's vision a reality for our large telecom customers. If you were here with me at Sun's Immersion Week today, you could attend my class for Sun systems engineers on the topic of Project Destination.

Project Destination is a Sun Microsystems initiative to give reality to Scott's vision that: Telcos must become "Destination Brands" or they will be only "Network Gateways" to companies that are Destination Brands (note that I said "Brand", not "Site." The term "site" is too limiting. We are talking about services delivered across the spectrum of online devices - phones, TVs and web browsers.)

A Destination Brand will:

  • Attract and retain subscribers to a brand
    • High perceived value: what subscribers want, when they want it
    • On demand information, media and online participation
  • Deliver rich user experience
    • Easy to use, responsive, innovative
    • Highly personalized - context based
    • Visually and aurally stimulating
    • Blend media types - photo/video/sound/music/text
  • Integrate user experience across three screens
    • Mobile device, desktop/laptop and TV
  • Enable new business models
    • Subscription, personalized advertising, transactions, service aggregation, managed services ...

What in the world does this have to do with Identity? Identity is at the very heart of delivering highly personalized, context aware services to subscribers on their choice of device. I like to call it "Identity-enabled Service Orchestration." Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I discuss issues and solutions in more detail.

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Wednesday Dec 19, 2007

Love/Hate Relationship with Google

I recently had an interesting discussion with a telecommunications executive about Google. He loves the way Google creates demand that increases the percentage of potential subscribers who buy his broadband Internet services; he hates Google's penchant for giving away services for free. Most of all, he hates Google's avowed ambition for "world domination."

"Will Google get into the wireless telephony business?" I asked.

"No, the high cost of installing and operating a mobile phone business is far too expensive," he said, "even for a cash-rich company like Google."

But he was quick to point out that Google's bluffs in that direction have already caused Verizon and AT&T to announce they are opening their networks to non-proprietary phones. The Open Handset Alliance and Google's intention to bid in the 700 mHz spectrum auction next month has the big carriers churning.

Isn't competition interesting?

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Discovering Identity was founded on blogs.sun.com in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at DiscoveringIdentity.com. In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Oracle Corporation, or any other person or organization.


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