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Cloud of Networks

Cloud telephony and Software Defined Networking

The use of the internet for telephony applications combined with a cloud computing services orientation promises many opportunities. The recent emergence of Software Defined Networking (SDN), when added to this mix of technologies ushers in, potentially, a completely new era communications oriented applications.

In order to master all the available opportunities it is, as always, necessary to master the fundamentals. This will, especially be the case when SDN starts to be more widely deployed.

"The telecomms network is dead" - "Long live the telecomms network". What a crazy sounding thing to say, yet, very very true. The cost of bandwidth is plummeting and the era of classical telephony (so called POTS (Plain Old Telephony Services)) is drawing to an end. Not only has most of analog telephony been replaced with digital telephony, but, the distinction between web based networks and telephony systems based networks is becoming ever more blurred. The large "teir 1" telcomms companies are working frantically to transform their lucrative near monopolies into service provider based businesses that can compete with web services providers. Conversely, traditional web service providers are venturing more and more into providers of telephony services.

In this brave new world of "Lego Communications Systems" it is becoming ever simpler and ever cheaper to move any kind of data from anywhere to anywhere over a variety of different communications media. VoIP and media convergence are an indicator of "things to come", as the main revenue streams become more and more service oriented, data collection and analysis and advertising oriented. This "brave new technology" holds the promise of many jobs and business opportunities. There has never been a better time to invest in learning and mastering VoIP and its associated technologies.

Before Introducing FTT's VoIP and Media Convergence curriculum a "motivational", and, possibly ,"inspirational" overview seems appropriate. The theme, not as fanciful as you might think is : "How to get anything that can be digitised from anywhere to anywhere over any network or combination of networks reliably, economically and securely."

The distinction between computer networking, mobile networking and telephony networking is beginning to disappear. Developments in hardware and software make it possible to exchange information be it voice, video, data, SMS from , essentially, any computing device to any other computing device whether it be a client - server peer to peer or many to many communication session, and whether it be the sending of a discrete message or streaming e.g. a tv program or a video stream. Of course someone has to install configure and manage all this "clever technology". As with all things "magical" ease of use comes at a price and that price is setting up, correctly configuring and managing all the complex hardware and software that makes it happen.

For the next 10 years or so this will involve "stitching together" several distinct technologies. Vast global communications networks cannot be transformed overnight. Also, some of the component technologies, e.g. the backbone links maintained by tier 1 networking and telecommunications companies will be accessed "as a service" by other companies that will provide their own distinct services on top of these underlying services. Different stakeholders will have different perspectives on these various technologies. However, to a greater or lesser extent, they will need to understand how these technologies fit together and how they can be monitored and managed. In addition there are various highly specialised components such as e.g. security infrastructures, perceived needs by various agencies to be able to monitor and intercept a variety of communications and access billing systems, (which, to the surprise of some), are extremely complicated systems to install, configure and administer.

Superimposed on all of this are the various services and products involving data analytic techniques for monitoring usage and behaviour patterns, and exploiting such patterns commercially, which, as 'The Economist' (which I read both as for penance (some of its views are a bit too capitalist for my tastes) and as a pleasure (some of its articles are outstandingly good and thought provoking)), points out is a 'necessary and fruitful economic activity'.

These are exciting times, but also times in which "perpetual vigilance" by organisations protecting civil liberties and privacy need to understand and monitor these new services and technologies with unremitting vigour. Some societies take such issues very seriously and are to be commended as examples of what all should stive for. For example, one of FTT's senior instructors, when delivering a data warehousing seminar for a major Norwegian telecoms company was very agreeably surprised by the fact that about one third of the class was made up of members of various Norwegian government agencies tasked with understanding this technology and assessing its risks and benefits from the perspective of protecting privacy and civil liberties. A unique experience, but a very heart warming and inspiring one.

The courses that make up this section of FTT's training curriculum are aimed at a variety of potential delegates Those manning help desks - whether in house facing or customer facing who need to understand the myriad technical concepts and issues to provide an effective first level of support. Systems designers, implementors and installers without whom there would be no services and no functioning networks Technical managers and investors who need a sufficiently accurate knowledge of the underlying technologies and "how they can be combined together" to guide immediate short term management issues as well as longer term management and strategic management issues.

The underlying ethos and approach is a "puzzle" and "problem" solving approach e.g.

  • Why were particular technologies and protocols designed the way they were ?
  • How can different technologies and protocols be interfaced with one another, or adapted to "play nicely" together with one another.
  • How can a structured knowledge of the various components, layers and interacting protocols be applied effectively to troubleshoot and optimize network resource usage and maximise the quality and value of the services provided.

Cloudyappstraining is an associate company of First Technology Transfer Limited (FTT).