Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Greg Ness, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Virtualization, Java, Linux, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

Virtualization: Article

Uber Taxis and New Business Models

In a world of NFV we cannot easily map the businesses & business models of today onto the possible business models of tomorrow

A recent post by John Wilmes on the TM Forum website caught my eye for drawing a parallel between the Uber car service business model and the telecom service provider business model as network functions virtualization (NFV) becomes a reality. Wilmes uses this metaphor to remind us of the potential value of dynamic pricing as a tool in carrier efforts to match supply to demand. He also cautions service providers to be careful how they sell the message of dynamic pricing to their customers. So far, so good.

However, this gave me pause: "NFV will let them [operators] create more of almost any part of their infrastructure on the fly, and turn it off when no longer needed, but that too comes at a price - one that is proportionately much higher than what Uber faces. While Uber needs only to make minimal investments in drivers who furnish their own cars, operators also have to buy the ‘cars' up front, or at least reserve them from infrastructure providers."

The message seems to be that customers may face a future of higher prices, supply shortages or both, if surge pricing takes over thanks to NFV. This rather surprised me for two reasons. First, taxis and buses are more efficient in their use of road and energy resources than cars are, even if we still like to drive our own cars sometimes. Similarly, MetraTech became actively involved in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV program mainly because we believe that NFV would result in a dramatically more efficient deployment of network resources and efficient resource allocation should, overall, reduce costs. Services would now be deployed in a cloud-like fashion, making customers happy and providing service providers with new revenue streams. Secondly, my experience is that, despite the small commotion over Uber's surge pricing plans, those of us who use Uber recognize that the system has made it easier and cheaper to get a cab in some locations. According to the drivers I have spoken to, they're driving more and waiting less, so they're more productive. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Wilmes' Uber metaphor suggests we think of Uber, the company, as the service provider, and the car owner and drivers who are contracted to Uber as being the equivalent of network elements, providing transportation from location to location. We could recast the metaphor, and perhaps come to a different conclusion. The car owner and drivers are in fact the service providers, and Uber is an agency that links potential customers to service providers more efficiently. The drivers, in fact, may not own their vehicles, and for some, the optimal business model is to lease a vehicle and set up a maintenance contract with the leasing company, just like bus companies and airlines do.

Perhaps in an NFV-driven world there could be many service providers - both small and large companies - that operate geographically, similar to taxi drivers in the Uber model. The service providers lease the technology from other businesses, whose job is to invest in the infrastructure, build it and run it, selling space in the system to all-comers who can then repurpose the technology at will, according to changing end-customer demands. And where is the future equivalent of Uber in this scenario? We need to think of Uber, not so much as a service provider to end users, but as an agent - a service provider to the service providers who serve the end customers.

Since we are talking about agents, let's remember that as the Internet of Things evolves, agents will effectively be apps that serve both humans and machines. Now, there's a coincidence. What is Uber? It's actually an application that allows end users and service providers to connect. Uber, the company, makes money when people use their app, which represents an old and comfortingly familiar business model.

There is a pleasing symmetry here. Just as chunks of technology in an NFV-driven network can have transient lives in different roles, end users and their service providers will have transient relationships that will last just as long as they are needed. This uber-flexibility, not just of hardware, but of business relationships, will create a competitive market that should benefit customers greatly. On the other hand, perhaps service providers will have a tough time for a period, just as traditional taxi companies stumbled for a time, attempting to use regulation to preserve their old business models instead of embracing the new.

The fun of thinking of the future in this way is that when we try to connect the dots from the present to the future, we can easily come up with something of a tangle. In a world of NFV (and software-defined networking [SDN] too, of course) we cannot easily map the businesses and business models of today onto the possible business models of tomorrow. Whatever we dream up could be wrong. But the biggest mistake of all is to assume that things stay unchanged.

Wilmes follows up his gloomy prediction with this thought: "And the business and technical agility that they need to amortize those costs more quickly with dynamic pricing is also expensive to acquire and maintain."

Perhaps this is what underpins his gloom: keeping track of NFV is going to be difficult and expensive. I have good news for him. Billing systems that enable dynamic pricing across a web of complex business relationships are already here, and when NFV is widely deployed, those systems, including MetraNet will have the industrial power, precision and scalability to handle whatever financial transactions NFV can throw at us. None of this will be trivially easy, but NFV itself is not a trivial exercise. If it were, we would have done it years ago, just like we would've developed Uber back when we still had horse-drawn cabs - if only we'd also had giant data centers, ubiquitous mobile data connectivity, smartphones, journey planning algorithms, GPS and flexible billing and settlement.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of OSS software, now part of Extreme Networks (Nasdaq:EXTR). At Avici Systems (Nasdaq:AVCI), Esmeralda was Vice President of Marketing for the networking pioneer from startup through its successful IPO. Early in her career, she was a Director at IDC, where she led the network consulting practice and worked with startup and leading software and hardware companies, and Wall Street clients on product and market strategies. Esmeralda holds a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Marketing and International Business from Northeastern University.

You can view her other blogs at www.metratech.com/blog.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMCnet has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) is the world's leading business to business and integrated marketing media company, servicing niche markets within the communications and technology industries.
As cloud gives an opportunity to businesses to buy services externally - how is cloud impacting your customers? In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Fabio Gori, Director of Worldwide Cloud Marketing at Cisco, will provide answers to big questions: Do you see hybrid cloud as where the world is going? What benefits does it bring? And how does Cisco connect all of these clouds? He will also tell us everything about Intercloud and Cisco investment on it.
Can we look to the paradigm of cloud computing from a completely different perspective? In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Gundars Kulups, Sales Director at DEAC, will discuss what we can learn from our dining habits when choosing a cloud solution. Gundars Kulups is Sales Director at DEAC, full service data center operator. An IT expert, he specializes in European countries and has worked in the IT industry since 1992. He graduated from Riga Technical University (RTU) in Latvia and com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customiz...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Parasoft will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 27 years, Parasoft has researched and developed software solutions that help organizations deliver defect-free software efficiently. By integrating Development Testing, API/cloud/SOA/composite app testing, and service virtualization, we reduce the time, effort, and cost of delivering secur...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, will describe an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-devic...
Until recently, many organizations required specialized departments to perform mapping and geospatial analysis, and they used Esri on-premise solutions for that work. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dave Peters, author of the Esri Press book Building a GIS, System Architecture Design Strategies for Managers, will discuss how Esri has successfully included the cloud as a fully integrated SaaS expansion of the ArcGIS mapping platform. Organizations that have incorporated Esri cloud-based appl...
Dyn solutions are at the core of Internet Performance. Through traffic management, message management and performance assurance, Dyn is connecting people through the Internet and ensuring information gets where it needs to go, faster and more reliably than ever before. Founded in 2001 at WPI, Dyn’s global presence services more than four million enterprise, small business and personal customers.
Once the decision has been made to move part or all of a workload to the cloud, a methodology for selecting that workload needs to be established. How do you move to the cloud? What does the discovery, assessment and planning look like? What workloads make sense? Which cloud model makes sense for each workload? What are the considerations for how to select the right cloud model? And how does that fit in with the overall IT tranformation? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, John Hatem, head of V...
IBM and Tencent Cloud signed a business cooperation memorandum to collaborate on providing public cloud with Software-as-a-Service solutions for industries. Both parties agreed to focus on emerging small and medium enterprises in the smarter cities and smarter healthcare industries as well as other fields. This will enable these industries to utilize mobile, cloud computing and big data tools to transform internal processes and operations, thus achieving cloud transformation in the era of mobili...
SimpleECM is the only platform to offer a powerful combination of enterprise content management (ECM) services, capture solutions, and third-party business services providing simplified integrations and workflow development for solution providers. SimpleECM is opening the market to businesses of all sizes by reinventing the delivery of ECM services. Our APIs make the development of ECM services simple with the use of familiar technologies for a frictionless integration directly into web applicat...
European data center operator DEAC is the largest in the Baltics. The activities are orientated to provide data center services and IT outsourcing on Eurasia and America scale in order to create the primary or backup or additional data center for customer in the EU, to protect its business and, most importantly, reduce costs up to 40% within 3-5 years. DEAC is an IT outsourcing services and solutions company whose highly experienced and qualified employees offer various groups of services and...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: ...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: S...
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Ashar Baig, Research ...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
When an enterprise builds a hybrid IaaS cloud connecting its data center to one or more public clouds, security is often a major topic along with the other challenges involved. Security is closely intertwined with the networking choices made for the hybrid cloud. Traditional networking approaches for building a hybrid cloud try to kludge together the enterprise infrastructure with the public cloud. Consequently this approach requires risky, deep "surgery" including changes to firewalls, subnets...
Ixia develops amazing products so its customers can connect the world. Ixia helps its customers provide an always-on user experience through fast, secure delivery of dynamic connected technologies and services. Through actionable insights that accelerate and secure application and service delivery, Ixia's customers benefit from faster time to market, optimized application performance and higher-quality deployments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratogent will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Stratogent is a custom managed services organization based in San Mateo, California. We design, implement, and support mission critical infrastructure 24x7 on premises, in datacenters and in the Cloud. Since 2005, we have acted as an extension of internal IT teams, achieving a customer reten...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will con...