Industry Leaders Contemplate Future at T8 Summit

By Tim McElligott Comments
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Being part of the delivery and support infrastructure for the new digital economy and communications playground has been like being at a party without name tags — or maybe an eighth-grade social where the most significant exchange is a furtive glance. Either way, the atmosphere is starting to change and the coolest people at the party have begun to notice each other and drift off to their own corner to liven things up.

The host of this particular party is the TM Forum. It’s their fourth annual, known as the T8 Summit. Location: Management World in Nice. By invitation only.

At this party, everyone’s a geek so everyone is cool, although some deference was paid to the newest names on the guest list such as Amazon and Google and Ogilvy. The theme of the party is collaboration and C-level executives from these companies joined those from AT&T, Augere, BT, Cosmote Group, Etisalat UAE, Front Porch Inc, iBasis Inc., Hutchison 3G, Amobee Inc., JMA , SOA Software Inc., STC, Telco 2.0, Telecom Austria, Telecom Italia, Telus, 2020 Ventures, Vodafone and Virgin Entertainment to discuss ways they can help each other make the future a reality — a profitable one.

Begun four years ago, the 2009 Summit was by far the largest. “Despite the credit crunch, people moved their diaries around to come here. That they made it a point to be here means they see it as the place to be to begin solving our common problems,” said Phil Dance, CIO for Technology at BT Group.

The summit was chaired by TM Forum chairman, Keith Willetts, and sessions were led by Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon.com — leader of Amazon’s evolution to provide cloud services; Hossein Eslambolchi, ex-CTO of AT&T and currently chairman and CEO of 2020 Venture Partners; and entrepreneur Eric Pulier.

Dance said organizers tried not to constrain the discussion in order to let ideas flow, but some of the topics discussed were market (not technology) convergence; advances in service oriented software, cloud-based computing and storage, SaaS and mobile advertising.

“When you get 30 of the world’s leaders in telecom and media in a room talking about what they think will happen, there’s a good chance it’s going to happen,” Dance said.

Amazon’s Vogels set the stage using his company as an example of how opening up its business platform to third party providers has been successful and how cloud computing can be a viable service, thereby planting the seed that operators should be more willing to open theirs. Discussions around open platforms included cloud computing, virtual billing, customer care, authentication, advertising and other enabling services.

There was general agreement that similar business models such as platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service can be equally applied to communications, Web, cable, media or online retail businesses with relatively small adjustments to meet the respective industry needs.

However, the meeting was not just a brain drain from new players; service providers and the TM Forum have their own success stories to share.

“Others can learn a lot from telecom too,” said Keith Willetts, chairman of the TM Forum. Referring to things such as the forum’s SLA handbook and common protocols for trouble-ticketing, he said, “We forget sometimes that we’re very rich with a 100-year history of delivering Five-9s of reliability. These emerging service providers have never delivered services at this level.”

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