July 23rd, 2014

Paper or Plastic? Changing Paradigms & How Service Providers Can Thrive in the App Economy

Paper or PlasticPaper or plastic? It used to be a question that was a source of discussion, debate and dilemma for grocery shoppers. In a relatively short time, at least where I live, that question simply went away. For me and most folks I see at the market now, the small fee for disposable bags had a big impact on behavior. Now, it’s a matter of getting into the habit of bringing reusable bags along. For manufacturers of disposable bags, whether paper or plastic, the world changed pretty quickly.

For service providers, I’d argue a similarly fast and fundamental change is taking place, one that’s best described as “the application economy”. If you’re working for a service provider that’s still focusing on the questions of a few years ago, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be providing answers that are relevant to your customers.

Today, applications sit at the confluence of some pretty major trends – mobility, cloud and social, for starters – and these applications are becoming increasingly vital, from a strategic point of view. The quality, innovation and value that get realized through applications will play an increasingly central role in the trajectory of a business and ultimately whether there’s any future at all for that organization. While this is true in enterprises, the stakes may be even higher for service providers.

In the application economy – and our emerging world of crowdsourcing, cloud, DevOps and wearables – what role will the service provider play? I’d argue that having a well-conceived, compelling answer to that question is one of the most vital challenges confronting service providers right now.

Whether you’re working for a telecommunications service provider, managed service provider or cloud service provider, success will hinge on how you adapt to today’s new realities. Deliver services that help your customers thrive in the application economy and your business will thrive. Fail to adapt and you’ll stand to lose business, market share and relevance.

For example, if you work for a telco, the application economy can present a clear fork in the road. One path is the status quo and while mobile traffic is growing more essential, the delivery of that service is increasingly being relegated to the status of plumbing and becoming highly commoditized. The other approach is to build on your unique advantages – to deliver the APIs and integrations that put your organization at the center of application innovation.

More and more, the best way to deliver value to customers is through applications. Harness the innovations of application developers to bring value-added services to customers. Publish the APIs that enable not only internal teams but also a range of external developers to accelerate application innovation. Further, by using APIs to provide self-service access to your service offerings, your organization can boost both recurring revenues and margins.

The battle to avoid commoditization isn’t solely a challenge for telcos either. Managed service providers and cloud providers will also find themselves in an increasingly tenuous position. If they can’t deliver a compelling application-level value proposition, they will be forced to duke it out on who can offer the lowest prices. To compete, these service providers will need to deliver more value. And applications increasingly represent the lens through which customers see and define value.

If a managed service provider only focuses on a server infrastructure but can’t help customers track the actual end user experience for core business applications, its service value will be limited. For customers, differentiators like application quality, innovation and availability will grow ever more significant. Meet this demand with high-value monitoring services and your business will be well positioned to maximize its growth potential.

For cloud providers, there is a huge opportunity in helping customers get new, higher-quality applications to market – and doing so faster and more cost effectively. Application-focused offerings will empower cloud providers to move up the value chain, become increasingly interconnected with their customers and gain stronger competitive differentiation.

To learn more about the application economy – and the threats and opportunities it presents for service providers – be sure to download the white paper How the Application Economy will Make & Break Service Provider Businesses.

December 10th, 2012

Top 5 Resources from Layer 7 in 2012

Top Layer 7 ResourcesThis year has seen incredible growth in the API economy, particularly as it relates to the proliferating mobile app ecosystem. At Layer 7 technologies, we are committed to helping enterprises understand these issues through a range of thought leadership activities. As a part of this, we’ve published a great deal of content in our Resource Library during 2012. With the year drawing to a close, it seems like a great opportunity to review some of the most popular pieces.

We tackled issues around mobile and BYOD head-on in a white paper called Secure Mobile Access for Enterprise Employees, which describes how enterprises can securely open their data and application functionality to mobile devices via custom-made apps. Another popular white paper was Federated Identity & Single Sign-On, which explores identity federation for API, mobile, SOA and cloud.

Our webinars featuring input from Forrester Research also drew a lot of interest, especially A Practical Guide to API Security & OAuth for the Enterprise, which provided real-world insight into deploying OAuth as the access control component of a complete API Management solution. Forrester also helped us explore enterprise mobile enablement in another webinar, How to Make Your Enterprise Applications Mobile Ready, Fast.

Looking to the future, Layer 7 will be publishing a series of eBooks, outlining essentials for addressing key issues around API Management and Mobile Access. We got a great reaction from the first of these, called 5 Ways to Get Top Mobile App Developer Talent for Your Open APIs. Over the coming months, we’ll also be publishing eBooks talking about mobile enablement and OAuth. Be sure to watch out for those!

December 5th, 2012

APIs & the Business of Telecoms

APIs and the Business of TelcosAPIs are the foundation of modern business. Everything we do, from buying a coffee to checking the weather or booking a flight, is supported by a robust API architecture in the background. Businesses likewise assume that they can exchange information and build compelling new services based on APIs.

This is causing disruption across industry sectors but also opportunity and it is having a particularly marked impact on the telecommunications industry. With the proliferation of next-generation communication services, consumers and enterprises alike are looking beyond their network service providers and finding exciting new ways to consume content, engage with businesses and communicate with friends or colleagues.

Telcos haven’t been ignoring this by any means, yet several iterations of failed API strategy have led not only to lost revenue opportunities but – in many cases – huge expense as well. However, now is not the time to cast aside these investments or ignore the exploding API economy – and in fact, we’ve heard plenty of success stories from companies that took the correct approach. Telcos must participate and open up more and more services to keep pace with this economy. And they must do so without compromising data and network security.

Layer 7’s new white paper, APIs & the Business of Telecoms, written by independent telecommunications thought leader Alan Quayle, aims to help telcos understand how they can quickly address the functional and non-functional requirements of a successful API exposure program. This is essential reading for all telcos – APIs really are the future!

March 16th, 2012

Mobile World Congress: It’s All App-ening!

Layer 7 at Mobile World CongressMobile World Congress 2012, which took place in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, attracted over 60,000 attendees from across the planet. Proving just how pervasive mobile technology has become, the keynote speakers included not just telecom leaders but also senior executives from Best Buy, eBay, Facebook, Ford, Google and Visa. Oh and Layer 7 was there too, of course!

Here are some takeaways from the conference:

  • It’s all about apps… – The hottest exhibition hall at MWC was the “App Planet”, which was primarily populated by app development companies. It’s clear that mobile apps are the draw when it comes to this era of mobile dominance we are entering and this hall emphasized that point clearly and gave a view into the future.
  • …and APIs – App Planet also had a lot of API enablers, such as Neustar, on display. Also, three of the keynote speakers — China Mobile, AT&T and Ford — all emphasized the importance of using APIs as a foundation for their mobile strategies. With apps driving mobile adoption, it’s evident that APIs are a fundamental enabler.
  • Increasing focus on enterprise – Although much of the focus in the app space was on the consumer market, there is a marked increase in enterprise options. Vendors like Roambi were showcasing their business apps and a number of exhibitors were emphasizing solutions for mobile device management and mobile identity.

All these trends and issues are discussed in Layer 7’s new white paper Secure Mobile Access for Enterprise Employees. The white paper explores how enterprises can use APIs to open internal information assets to mobile developers, to enable the creation of mission-critical apps that maximize employee productivity and availability.

I look forward to following up with all of the people I met in Barcelona and to injecting the lessons I learned into our product suite.

Download the white paper: Secure Mobile Access for Enterprise Employees.

February 3rd, 2012

New White Paper: Federated Identity & Single Sign-On Using Layer 7

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Identity Federation White PaperIncreasingly, enterprise IT is characterized by SaaS, Cloud, SOA and all sorts of other technologies that bridge organizational boundaries and – consequently – identity domains. When users from various domains have diverse collections of credentials for systems spanning the extended enterprise and Cloud, management and security concerns inevitably arise.

Identity federation is the key to addressing these concerns. A lot of people assume identity federation is the same thing as Single Sign-On (SSO), where a single identity is used to authenticate a user across multiple services, applications and platforms. In fact, SSO is just one piece of the identity federation puzzle, albeit an important one.

Our new white paper, Federated Identity & Single Sign-On Using Layer 7, examines all the key pieces of this puzzle. It takes a detailed overview of the technologies that can be used to merge separate “identity silos” into a centralized, authoritative identity store (SAML, STS, OAuth etc.) It also explains how our products can be used to implement these technologies.

For more information, read Federated Identity & Single Sign-On Using Layer 7