The war for talent is heating up as service providers virtualize their networks, executives from several carriers said during a session at the TM Forum’s Digital Disruption conference earlier this week.
The reason is increased competition from the outside. “It’s pretty easy for large entities in oil and gas to pretty much become their own MVNOs,” said Brian Baird, CIO of cloud infrastructure for startup Anera and former CTO of Canadian service provider Sasktel. “The barrier to entry is gone.”
In other words, oil companies can start running their own cellular networks, and to do that, they would need the same kinds of employees that carriers will be looking for.
It’s a side effect of virtualization and the rise of DevOps in networking. As Baird and other panelists noted at the event in San Jose, carriers are already reportedly battling for developers who can help run virtualized networks. Many of those people are already departing for the likes of Google and Facebook, at least according to industry anecdotes, and their list of options is only growing.
“If you talk to the utilities that want to do smart grid, they can’t find people either,” said Ray Bariso, vice president of OSS/BSS at Ericsson.
The panel was devoted the concept of the software-defined service provider. While talent was one concern raised, panelists also decried the attitudes of executives in adopting technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
Top executives have to embrace the shift to virtualized networks, Ixia CEO Bethany Mayer said, because their attitude affects everything “from who you hire to how you transform an organization.”
“This is reality, and if they don’t do this, they’re going to lose,” she said.
Virtualization isn’t the same as dumping things into a cloud. “You need to get down to fully clustered micro-elements, where if you want to swap out parts of your PCRF [policy and charging rules function], you can do that,” Baird said.
Virtualization should also be seen as a chance to specialize, panelists said. Up until now, all carrier networks have been broadly similar. “Potentially with this new technology, you can spend less and be more efficient and have a better network with respect to your competitors,” said Luigi Licciardi, head of standards for Telecom Italia Group.
“In the end, you can have a network that is more efficient and less expensive — if you have the capacity, the knowhow, the good relationships, and the good ecosystems,” he said.
(Photo: Mayer, Bariso, and Baird.)