This year has seen real movement from desktop to cloud by the big IT vendors. In our most recent Main Agenda Interactive, we asked: is this another inflection point? A fresh round of drinks on offer at the Last Chance Saloon to get telcos into money-making apps and services? Yes, our panelists said, if telcos play their cards right. By Ian Scales.
The core starter question we asked was: in what might be seen as a world increasingly 'locked down' by the large device and software vendors, are applications being opened up again by the growing adoption of open technologies on the underlying platforms - particularly HTML5 which is famously being used by the big ebook players to avoid the Apple Appstore. Instead of paying Apple its 30 per cent cut, the reader (and payer) apps can become Web Apps and sit happily in an HTML5 browser. Elegant and - possibly - profound.
Could this sort of trick be repeated right across the piece, not just for payment services but perhaps for network features like QoS. And if that were to be the case could this be one of those 'big chance' opportunities for telcos? In a nutshell - is this where telcos can join in and contribute to the "mash ups" which underlie many of the best applications on the Web. Could they, effectively, mash in?
They're helpful, perhaps, but not sufficient, according to Vodafone's developer relations chief, Hemant Madan, in Part 1 of our panel session. "It opens up the field a lot, but it won't be the platform that actually replaces native," he says. High performance business and gaming apps tend to be too demanding to be undertaken in the browser, but he does think that HTML5 and its companion technologies will make a big difference by helping open up the around 75 per cent of apps that could play happily there.
The consensus appeared to be that HTML5 might be more of a herald for 'hybrid' apps, rather than pure Web Apps, but its big role will be to enable the same content to be viewed and manipulated on different devices - it can be an effective glue, not just across different vendor platforms, but also 'between' the vendors' disparate platforms as they move towards 'cloud'. Again, it won't work for all apps, but for the vast majority (which are more like content place-holders than anything else), HTML5 and cross-compiling tools will play their part in diminishing the importance of the native platform and the underlying OS and open up the silos.
So what can telcos do to intercept the opportunity? In Part 2
, Dor Skuler, VP of Cloud Enablement at Alcatel-Lucent, explains that what we're really talking about here from a telco perspective is an opportunity to present telco capabilities as cloud services.
The way to make cloud service really fly is to leverage the network. "[Telcos have to] learn from what the IT vendors (like Amazon, with its cloud storage) did in making this complicated compute very, very simple by abstracting it. The user just goes to a website and orders it per application. We need to do the same for the network," he says.
What should come out the other end as usable telco-enabled cloud services are things like easy-to-hook VPNs and low latency services, and it needs to be done in a simple and standard way, he says. The telco cloud service should offer, not the dreaded dumb pipe, but the blended pipe that offers data, compute and storage.
So what are the boat anchors? In Part 3
Robert Kenny discusses telcos' mode of innovation. The telco mindset, he says, is always focussed on 5 nines reliability around the network and that must continue. But at the same time that makes it difficult for telcos to innovate rapidly around apps and to dare to fail at the services level. It's hard, but it just has to be done.
Also important: net neutrality fears shouldn't stop telcos from innovating around quality of service, says Robert. There should be no problem there if telcos are clear about how specific quality-of-service features work and who is paying for them. At the same time, though, most of neutrality fears expressed by users and online service providers alike, tend to be focused on the access network - the last mile. In fact, adds Dor, much of the opportunity for QoS-underpinned services are back in the core network in the mash-up between online providers, and this is the area that holds out the most promise for telcos.
Click on Part 1, below.
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The Main Agenda: Is HTML5 your new best friend? Part 1. Opening up platforms so that telcos can get at them