Nilay Patel put out an excellent piece today on the Verge discussing carriers in the US. I’m a huge fan of Nilay’s work and I’ve followed him from the days when he was a guest blogger on Engadget covering some of the more technical legal analysis.
The gist of Nilay’s post is that innovation is dying at the hands of America’s carriers, and he’s right. I think I can point to the exact moment when carriers diverged from sanity, and while Nilay’s article focuses on the launch of the iPhone, I focus on the launch of AWS as a service (roughly 2004/05), and the resurgence of the Hypervisor.
<Geek Talk!!!> Hypervisors are a virtual layer above the normal supervisory functions of an operating system. Hypervisors allow you to abstract the controls of the system away from the kernel which in turn enabled Virtualization. By using Hypervisors, users could run multiple operating systems on a single machine, or perhaps more importantly, operate upon multiple machines through a set of commands (generally APIs). </Geek Talk!!!>
The hypervisor allowed Amazon to build a massive cloud infrastructure, but it also allowed them to open this infrastructure to the world in a controlled systematic fashion. By enabling control planes instead of giving clients direct access to servers, Amazon could maintain the overall integrity of their infrastructure while still granting admin-level control to its users. This, in a nutshell, was the exact innovation required to build a massive, accessible cloud, and the same innovation that might’ve powered a carrier ecosystem were it not for a number of factors.
A carrier Hypervisor would allow for provisioning of equipment and services to a carrier network through the use of APIs. Instead of calling your favorite Telecom every time you need to make an account change, you could send a command, or better still, use a GUI to control your services. Innovation is stifled by a lack of access, and the ultimate solution would be to create true carrier APIs.
Personally, I think a carrier with an Open-API for setting up, provisioning and managing services would be a real hit in Silicon Valley. I think every engineer I know would love to summon connections using APIs instead of sitting on hold for hours, wouldn’t you?
In short, Carriers need to open the network because open-ness drives utilization. The reality is that carriers are divorced from a world where using their networks more makes them more profitable. In fact, the more you pay and the less you use is more profitable for the carrier right now and the opposite should be true
TL;DR: Carriers hate open-ness, utilization is bad, what can be done? Introduction of hypervisors is a win-win for big Telco: Usage up, more apps, more devs.