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The MENA region is one of the most progressive regions when it comes to adopting the latest emerging technologies. For 5G adoption, it is important for it to be elevated not only as just one of the higher speed networks, but it should be more about how the region manages to adopt it and reap the benefits that come from it. It is of the essence to ensure that the money being put into the deployment of 5G, among others, is not wasted.

Digital transformation is a process which many companies in the region are undergoing at the moment, however, it has been a challenge for Telcos to plan their transformation and reinvention as they are stuck between building on their existing infrastructure and completely re-engineering it.

Sterlite is a global data network solutions company which has developed DAWN, a technology framework, which helps CSPs bring digital closer to their customers. 

In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Sterlite Software CTO, Shrirang Bapat, a seasoned industry professional, spoke about the ways in which the company has been helping Telcos tackle their digital transformation challenges by ensuring greater progress and efficiency.

Could you shed some light on Sterlite’s latest work in the field of digital transformation?

At Sterlite, we like to use the term d-telco. We believe that Telcos are no longer just infrastructure providers. They have become social providers as opposed to just network providers. With 5G coming in, it tends to be easier and more important to actually take that role within any given society.

We are working on a platform which is based upon data and that data is then used to grow and run the business and both of these circles run parallel.

In terms of growing the business, we use the data to give our customers more services, to enable them to run their operations more efficiently through our unified platform. We are packaging out as d-telco which means that we are now living in a world of 0s and 1s. For me, being a part of this world, the 0s and 1s actually mean zero-time deployment and the 1s mean that there is one single customer focus. The whole world we are working upon is based on 0s and 1s.

With this view, we believe that digital transformation will be more successful and will happen a lot faster if Telcos adopt real-time services and if they are able to provide specific services to an audience of one. By ‘audience of one’, I mean that each of us should be treated differently rather than being classed into boxes, levels or slots. All this is only possible with data, if it is used appropriately.

Now the data and d-telco is possible when we adopt technologies like DAWN, which is essentially an abbreviation which stands for DevOps, Analytics, Webscale and Network Software, these are the four main things that define reinvention. All of these functionalities must be adopted to create a successful network.

DevOps offers three-speed agile delivery for faster deployment of business critical applications. Analytics offers up to 9 times reduction in query time, webscale enables 50 percent reduction in hardware TCO with zero downtime upgrade and zero touch deployment while our network software enables 5G rollouts and IoT monetization. DAWN offers unlimited scalability, agility and accelerates time-to-market for new services.

For network reinvention and transformation, DevOps is something that Silicon Valley companies have been using for quite some time and they have been widely successful in doing so. This success stemmed from the use of DevOps as a culture and the platform that went along with it.

We’ve got a platform called DevOps on Tap so it’s easier for businesses to deploy DevOps which also makes it very easy for us to work with legacy infrastructure and allows us to work in a two-speed, three-speed volume.

Oftentimes, there is one part of the company that is running at DevOps speed, their deployments are happening every 2-3 days. Then there’s another group working on technology from the middle ages and another one from the stone ages. Consumers don’t care about how they are receiving their data, it could be done through a fiber optic cable or Wi-Fi. Just as long as you, as a customer, are able to watch your favorite movies on Netflix, you are happy. Understanding our ability to work in a multispeed model is something we have mastered through the DevOps on Tap service.

Indeed, DevOps has become a very important component for our digital reinvention story.

Data is at the very core and the heart of everything companies will be doing in the future. Data doesn’t necessarily mean data on the pipe, it’s not only about the data that is getting uploaded or downloaded. It is more about the data on what we do and download, how fast we do it and how we can offer more services to our customers; it’s all the data about usage by the customers of the services.

Data on its own is not enough. Take football for instance; the first World Cup in 1930 collected 50- 100 data points which essentially highlighted who won, who lost and who got a red card. The last World Cup had 25 million plus data points. The game didn’t change, but the amount of data that we capture is huge and what has changed is our ability to capture, analyze and use that data for the benefits that it initiates; this is essentially what digitalized companies do.

We are helping companies capture this data more effectively and in turn, use it to grow and run the businesses. Capturing data at the speed of 50 million transactions per second was impossible a few years ago, but our software is webscale enabled which means that I am able to do this in a much easier and faster way, at the lowest possible cost because if I don’t need something, I can just shut it down.

It is not necessarily that I am provisioning so much that the cost goes up. Webscale allows us to be agile in the market and help Telcos be as lean as possible in order for us to provide the software solutions.

What challenges do you face when it comes to legacy infrastructure?

We do encounter a lot of challenges when it comes to legacy infrastructure especially because the systems are monolithic and are unable to change or adapt so that is where our DevOps on Tap model comes into play. I don’t believe in a ‘rip off and replace’ model; we believe that it is better to extend, embrace and change the system slowly, over time.

It is quite difficult for a Telco to change a system that has been working well for the past 25 years. I mean, why change what is working?

What we do is we allow the system to work in the same way and with our three speed agile model, we are able to use the information from that system and adapt it into the outside world.

The second challenge is, and I think that is where the DevOps on tap idea came in, the people who have written the code are not visible. Some of them may even be dead or retired. We’re talking about codes that are 40 or 50 years old; so this becomes problematic. One of the challenges about understanding what and how the system works, that’s where we are using some of the re-engineering AI tools to be able to re-engineer the code.

Most of the time what happens is the Telcos are reluctant to touch what’s already working. The challenge is to convince them to make some changes to their systems even though they are working well. We have got two options: to re-engineer their infrastructure or deploy multispeed architecture. From what we have seen, people tend to prefer the multispeed architecture.

We are constantly using and generating data. It’s not only for marketing or targeting purposes, we are now using it to help manage networks better and our being a fiber optic cable provider, we are using the data that comes to predict the fault in the network itself. We can decipher predictions such as when will the cable fail? Or in some situations, someone may be digging a piece of land where some cables may be underground, we are able to even give them a warning before the cable gets cut or damaged.

These innovations that we are doing for not only using data for the customer side, but also the operations side.

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