Uncommon Wisdom

Oct 6 2011   4:58PM GMT

Steve’s legacy: Don’t lose sight of the service layer

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

There’s no way that any blogger in technology could not, today, offer a tribute to the greatest innovator that the technology industry has ever known. Steve Jobs was a true giant in a world of pretenders, a man who understood the technology and buyer sides of the coin when others simply flipped it. His genius was to drive the market and not just respond to it, which made him all the more a standout at a time when it’s hard to find companies that can even keep up with change. Steve produced it, and loved that role.

Apple — and Steve — gave us the current market revolution. By marrying portable power with ubiquitous broadband he ushered in a new era where the average teen can have, literally at their fingertips, computing power that dwarfs what was the world’s computational supply just a few years ago. We’ve yet to see where this can take us, and I’m personally saddened that we’re not going to have Steve to help guide us in the journey.

The Carrier Cloud Forum at Interop New York this week is grappling with some of the issues that Steve Jobs created. Appliances demand back-end services to support them, and the way those services are created and the identity of those who offer them may well be one of the major issues in networking. I’ve noted that operators in my surveys have been steadily promoting the cloud services opportunity among the monetization projects they have been running, and it looks like it could be the top of the list this fall. It’s not that the cloud offers operators the largest opportunity — mobile/behavioral services and content both outstrip it — but cloud infrastructure is what’s likely to host those content services and mobile/behavioral services. Appliances have coalesced all of the opportunities of the future into one delivery point—what the user is holding. The cloud coalesces all the technology options into one, admittedly fuzzy, vision.

I think CCF demonstrates that we’re still shadowboxing with the issues, though. The fundamental truths of cloud computing remain as they always have been. SaaS displaces the most cost and therefore offers the greatest benefit to buyers and profit to sellers. IaaS is the most flexible, but it presents both benefit-case and profit barriers to wide adoption. All the “-aaS’s” will face a common issue of service- and application-level integration, which is something nobody is really looking at. That integration will likely set the pace for the question of how clouds and networks get along, because the general solution at the service layer would produce a flexible solution at the service/network boundary. We’re not looking for this in the cloud computing space, but operators are looking at it in their own service-layer projects, which include both mobile/behavioral and content. Can all of this stuff be combined?  Not yet.

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