Role reversal as Ericsson plays customer to vendor AT&T

In case you weren’t aware AT&T has its own line in on-demand network services and the latest customer is none other than giant networking vendor Ericsson.

The specific product is AT&T FlexWare and the client is Ericsson’s own global corporate network. The benefits being attributed to FlexWare are pretty much the standard ones associated with virtualization – speed, agility, lower opex, etc – but the remarkable part of this news is that it’s being provided by an operator to a networking vendor.

Since it became generally accepted that the telecoms industry needs to virtualize to survive, vendors like Ericsson have all been preoccupied with the business of providing the software and services needed by operators to take this journey. This has not happened at all quickly, thanks in part to the enormous complexity of the task, and announcements such as this reveal that many operators are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.

“We share with Ericsson a passion and vision for transformative and innovative technology,” said John Vladimir Slamecka, region president-Global Business-EMEA, AT&T. “AT&T FlexWare streamlines global network transformation, and helps protect the network investment against future changes. For today’s digital business world, that’s crucial; it helps makes innovation happen.”

While networking vendors are doubtless trying to remain significant in the virtualized era you can’t help feeling they do so with a heavy heart. For decades they profited from selling proprietary, hardware-led networking gear that locked operators into their products and maintenance contracts for entire generations of technology.

Now those same vendors are being pushed towards a software-based world where much of the development is happening in the open-source community, thus massively diluting their traditional unique selling points. Furthermore there are now plenty of new competitors for whom software is more of a core competence. You can read further analysis of this issue at Light Reading here.

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