April 10th, 2013

It’s All Over-the-Top with Amdocs

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Category Mobile Access, Telco
 

Layer 7 and AmdocsOver-the-top (OTT) applications have long been seen as a threat to telco service providers, who are obliged to deliver on insatiable bandwidth demands without realizing any commercial benefit from either the consumer/enterprise or the third-party app. This needn’t be the case and the limited participation from service providers in recent years really stems from a shortsighted view of partnerships.

Arguing about “who owns the customer” or that “our customers expect a certain level of service” is so far behind the curve it’s laughable and service providers simply can’t derail innovation by imposing expensive and exhausting procedures. But to be clear, this is a competitive market and service providers will lose more ground unless a contemporary model for collaboration is adopted.

The Amdocs OTT Monetization Solution allows service providers to leverage network assets to create value for OTT providers and monetize service collaborations. Layer 7’s API Management Suite of products defines a new methodology for telco APIs, bringing interface, identity and developer management together in a cohesive platform that can serve mobile, enterprise and internal applications equally. Layer 7 and Amdocs will be working together to deliver a best-of-breed solution, addressing the full lifecycle of telco API needs.

This new approach will yield great results. We have already seen Spotify implement a flat-rate service with T-Mobile Germany. Also, network-enhanced enterprise tools (e.g. AT&T Business Services) are becoming commonplace as LTE networks expand. APIs are the fabric that ensures these collaborations are possible and can be brought to market quickly and efficiently.

April 4th, 2013

Focusing on the Byte-Sized Tree: The IoT Conundrum

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Data Lens for IoTYesterday, we introduced the concept of a Data Lens for aggregating and sharing data. Today, I want to talk about why this concept matters to organizations concerned with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Simply put: “things” generate petabytes of data. Putting sensors on everything, as both Cisco and GE propose, creates a data nightmare. Hadoop has made analyzing big volumes of data much easier but what happens when you want to share a small sliver of that information with a customer or partner? After all, the purpose of “Big Data” collection is not altruism – it’s about monetization. In many situations, this will only be possible if data can be shared easily.

A Data Lens gives IoT data owners – such as manufactures or telco carriers – an easy and secure way to share a focused and billable data set with their customers and partners. Anything outside of the scope of a Data Lens cannot be accessed, whereas anything inside the lens is  “in focus”. The data in focus can be raw or aggregated. There can be any number of Data Lenses on a data set. They can be used internally or shared securely with external partners and customers. Data access through individual Data Lenses can be governed by service level agreements and – through metering – monetized.

For manufacturers and network operators looking at ways to share focused data slices from their Big Data, a Data Lens solves a big problem. By leveraging the Layer 7 API Gateway’s unique ability to focus on small data sets inside larger ones and to present these data sets as secure APIs, customized to specific customers or partners, it’s possible for IoT operators to drive new revenue from their Big Data.

April 3rd, 2013

Getting Perspective on Your Big Data

Data LensAs we see it here at Layer 7, there are two big problems with Big Data:

1. There’s just so much of it that it’s easy to lose sight of the byte-sized trees in the petabyte-sized forest

2. It’s locked away in every recess of the enterprise – from applications to relational databases, to non-relational databases, to in-memory caches, public clouds, Hadoop clusters etc.

Data growth and diversity have made data access harder. But data access is the foundation of mobile app development, anything to do with the Internet of Things (IoT) and all kinds of Big Data analytics. Given this need for data in the face of access complexity, it didn’t come as a total surprise to see some of the most innovative Layer 7 customers start using our API Gateway technology as a novel data access, aggregation and presentation solution. As our resident IoT expert Holger Reinhardt pointed out to me: they are using our products to build highly-customized “lenses” across their distributed data backends. To me, this characterization is perfect because what these customers are looking for is perspective on their data. A lens gives perspective with focus.

Now, a Layer 7 API Gateway is more than just a data integration solution. Our technology has several unique features that make it ideal for collecting, composing and presenting data. First, we can talk to all kinds of data sources natively. That wasn’t easy to achieve and it’s something we developed over many years. Second, we can represent the source data as a RESTful API. Even better, we can dynamically generate a virtual API view for a specific user, app, partner etc. The API then becomes the entry point for accessing the aggregated data. Third, we can add fine-grained access and protection policies that ensure only authorized consumers get visibility to specific slices of data, while also protecting the data sources from attack and misuse. When combined, these capabilities give organizations a way to focus on just the information that is relevant to a particular mobile, IoT or Big Data analytics project and then share selectively with an app, cloud service, developer or partner.

A data lens is born!

If you want to learn more about our Data Lens solution, have a read of this new solution brief. Also, feel free to reach out to us with any questions.

April 2nd, 2013

Mobile World Congress One Month On

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IoT CompaniesIt’s has been over a month since the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and it seems like a good time to review what I learned there. First, I was amazed by the prominence of mobile accessory vendors: from tablet bags to smart phone covers. Second, while IoT and M2M were mentioned, they were relegated to a narrow strip in the back of Hall 2. Taking both of these facts together, it appears that the mobile accessory business is for real and IoT is all hype.

So, are all these news stories about trillion-dollar business opportunities in IoT just stories? Most likely the truth is that no one has yet figured out how to make money with IoT but everyone wants to make sure that they are at least seen to have a plan – just in case it does take off. As if to prove this point, ZDnet made a very different assessment of M2M at MWC. I went into more detail on these issues during my recent interview with DeviceLine Radio.

Personally, I firmly believe in the disruptive potential for IoT. It will be disruptive because it will break down the separation between manufacturing industry on one side and IT industry on the other. Manufacturing companies like GE, Bosch and Siemens will increasingly see IT – and Big Data in particular – as a core competency they will need to master in order to sustain a competitive advantage. Simply outsourcing to IT companies will no longer suffice.

We can clearly see this developing as, for example, Bosch is readying its Internet Application Platform and GE is aggressively building out its Silicon Valley presence. At the same time IT companies are trying to position themselves as natural partners for manufactures or as integrators of smart things. Credit has to go to IBM, which has been pushing this trend as part of its Smarter Planet campaign, way ahead of other players.

Meanwhile, telecom carriers are also struggling to decide what IoT will mean for them. It’s easy to see how telecom’s core business can be seen as just a set of “dumb” data pipes. The challenge for this sector will be figuring out how to leverage its considerable assets, like cellular networks, global roaming and integrated billing, to create M2M business platforms. I think that Big Data analytics on the data piped through their network will have to be part of it.

April 1st, 2013

Apigee Announced an API Exchange Friday – Somewhere a UN Agency Shed a Tear

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Apigee API ExchangeA decade ago, during the first wave of Internet innovation, countless business plans began with the breathless promise of becoming the UN of this or that information exchange. ECommerce and communications would be transformed through the mediation of a neutral “man in the middle”. Here’s what happened: the communitarian exchanges failed; businesses that went direct to consumers succeeded; the hope for communal mediation was left to overreaching consortia grasping after fading relevance.

Why did  the “disintermediated” direct-to-buyer model win? Simple: it was simplicity. The problem with multilateral exchanges is complexity. They require members to buy in completely and never hedge with alternative paths to consumers; they require the exchanges to always be subservient to the members; and they require 100% participation and 100% consensus. That’s why they keep failing despite the best efforts of organizations like GSMA, the UN, OASIS and others. They require a rigid web of multilateral agreements, subjugation of individual corporate needs to ephemeral collective goals and universality. Just because the broker is a for-profit entity like Apigee doesn’t change anything so long as success or failure depends on universal cooperation and comity. To repeat an oft-used metaphor: putting lipstick on failed efforts like WAC and OneAPI won’t make them any more attractive. They will never have the agility and directness of an over-the-top direct-to-buyer/consumer/developer service. That’s why giant operators keep getting beat by three-person Y Combinator start-ups.

Does this mean aggregation is dead? Of course not! Aggregation models can work but only if the “broker” has the independence and freedom to go off and negotiate unilateral agreements as needed. The aggregator must have the freedom to be run like a self-interested business where the wishes and hopes of the underlying providers don’t factor in. As evidence look at the growing disparity between Netflix and Hulu. The latter emerged as a deliberately-crippled response to the growing power of Netflix. However, the need to accommodate multilateral interests has made it irrelevant. ISIS is fairing no better in the payments arena.

For operators, there is a similar lesson. Be the broker or sell to the broker. Each model has clear economics and places success or failure in the hands of the operator. If an operator wants to offer non-geo-specific services to buyers, it should partner with over-the-top providers or get the capacity from other operators one-to-one. If an operator would rather wholesale its services, be promiscuous and enable every broker/aggregator to consume its services, fine. Then let them be your buyers. The beauty of both models is that they are non-exclusive and don’t require consensus, universality or other impracticalities.

I give Apigee credit, the API Exchange is an improvement over the failed WAC. However the problem was never just technology. Some business models just don’t work in practice.