Frenemies

The idea of frenemies – or co-competition – isn’t new to the IT industry as we are in this period that we’ve called the tectonic shifts that are underway. All of us need to be somewhat careful about who’s our friends and who’s our enemies as we go through that period and be as nice as we can to everybody because who’s our friends and who’s our enemies in six months or twelve months could change a whole lot.”
Pat Gelsinger
as quote in an article by Paul Wallbank on SmartCompany.com.

Frenemy Model 1 – Not Invented Here Syndrome (NIHS) had been rife at some of the large carriers that I’d worked with, so I’ve been very interested to notice a change in perspective in recent years (As an aside, I’ve also noticed a stronger customer focus recently too. I’m sure you have too). For example, as some carriers realised that they couldn’t innovate fast enough on certain types of Unified Comms services, they’ve formed partnerships with third-party providers, allowing them to “keep” the customer and “clip the ticket” (ie take a margin on the value-add services provided by the third-parties). This Frenemy model also generally sees a majority of the OSS integration work reside with the third-party, with the aim of reducing time to market. It’s another instance of the air-craft carrier analogy.

Frenemy Model 2 – In any CSP that has a best-of-breed approach, there are multiple vendors providing each of the best-of-breed components. Naturally there will need to be collaboration between vendors to integrate components together, with the integrations having a network effect of sharing information to deliver a better overall outcome. Chances are that most of the vendors will be taking a Land and Expand approach though.

Frenemy Model 3 – This is where things get really interesting. Virtualised networking techniques like SDN are built upon open-source frameworks like OpenStack. Frenemies abound. Cisco, VM Ware, Microsoft, etc. Each of these, and many others, are contributing to parts of a rapidly evolving ecosystem. A friend today may become an enemy tomorrow as new or revised products/services come to market. Value fabrics are changing quickly as a means of gaining strategic advantages. At the moment, traditional OSS still seem to have a major, albeit modified, role to play in SDN / NFV. But do OpenStack or other un-named technologies threaten the position of OSS in the platform/network management hierarchy?

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