Buy versus build

Buy versus  build  is a false dichotomy.

A best of breed / best of suite oriented technology model, the idea that a software product commodity ( appliance),  at the center of operations, with an associated long term, ROI based pricing model,and technology lock-in,  does not always  “stack” up.

There are insufficient grounds for excluding alternatives,  given that a typical increasingly relevant , open source system, has hundreds of  programmers working on it, and is often better managed than an equivalent vendor supplied product.

Programming is the commodity, not the box, and given software availability, and good programmers, its a matter of structuring and managing product, and disciplining delivery  from a software engineering perspective. Respective  costs between a vendor offering ROI, and  an equivalent accelerated development set-up based on open-source may be quantified and compared, although much of the medium term gains are not immediately apparent.

Saving hundreds of thousands in the process, and gaining competitive advantage through on-demand innovation is an objective worthy of pursuit.

Investing in skills and capability may be an outlier  for operators and business in general, but it is a powerful and efficient way of working, if managed well. Not long ago it was business as usual for Service providers, who brought in R&D  in-house while leveraging development partners.They retained an intimate knowledge of the business and worked closely with partners through the development cycle.

An  equivalent  approach of building on  increasingly relevant  community efforts ( ECOMP, TIP), and creating own capability makes sense, and is a step up from having to reinvent the wheel.

Why are major service providers  as AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, Telefonica,  and OTT players engaging in these initiatives  with a view of gaining control and flexibility  over innovation (in creating revenue),  and reducing their costs?

Each have mutually complementary reasons for doing so, highlighting the fact that a service provider needs more control over software and an OTT provider such as FB more control over the network.

They believe that they can scale up quicker and get to market faster, through participating in an ecosystem, which differentiates  in terms of the services which are being offered. Or are they simply keeping an eye on the competition?

In turn vendors are changing their development model  taking advantage of competition, partnerships, and an alternative ecosystem, noting that they have, in turn, understandably, embraced the open source proposition, they are essentially  assuming the role of integrator, reselling to operators, with value gained in customization, engineering and management components.

Both  approaches are relevant, it is  a matter of assessing costs, versus  technical capability and market drivers,  over an immediate to medium term time-frame, and having the will and interest to make it happen. Certain areas such as those of system management support in the line of MANO stand out as opportunities, directly  competing with  traditional vendor options.

However when all is said and done the issue of accountability has to be taken into account – who carries the responsibility for the decision making process leading to procurement, and subsequent risk in in-house development?

Given the high percentage of failure and loss of value evidenced in multiple package deployments it would appear that software is only one part of the risk factor.

For the moment vendor partners guaranteeing the required level of support while retaining flexibility, and capability over time, appear to lead in preference. We shall see, whether   “a la carte”  prevails over the “best of breed” fixed menu. .