- Ericsson has been doing two code drops per month in new 5G networks
- It is a significant departure from a history of two drops per year
- New generations of technology are an opportunity to explore many other adjacent technologies, approaches, and cultures
Call to Action
- Every software supplier to CSPs should examine if there is a need for continuous development, integration, and deployment in the customer segments they serve
For over a year, Ericsson has been touting is continuous delivery and deployment approach from 5G networks in Switzerland to South Korea. Public statements indicate in South Korean deployments, they are systematically doing two code drops a month.
Two code drops a month would hardly be impressive if Ericsson was competing with FAANG, but for a telecom equipment supplier, this is a significant change, relative to historical norms. That Ericsson is doing this on 5G networks where the subscriber base is small, is probably helpful as any teething problems will have a limited impact. Likewise, doing it on a technology that is immature and probably needs frequent updates just to get it working probably is also different than some other telecom deployment scenarios.
However, it does highlight that 5G is not just about faster speeds. It is also about an architecture transition that provides the opportunity to integrate the latest approaches in information technology, antenna technology, edge computing, and more. Once a generation of wireless technology is working, CSPs tend not to make radical changes, they wait until the next generation of technology to explore a range of new approaches and technologies. This is a tendency everywhere. Even in the cloud world, once a POD is up and running, does it make sense to introduce significant change, or does it make more sense to experiment with significant change on a new POD? Human nature, if it is not broken, don’t fix it.
There are plenty of solution providers supplying communication service providers (CSPs) who are not currently providing two software drops per month. Still stuck in a waterfall world of long certification, deployment, and lifetime cycles that match their customer’s historical behavior patterns. Will this change? As software and cloud services-based capabilities become the focus of competitive advantage, chances are this will change.
This will be a rude shock for some solution providers. For others, it will be an opportunity to change the game. To be sure there are many CSPs who are not prepared to take the leap into this world either. Suppliers are a reflection of their customers, in many significant ways. When dealing with national infrastructure, a pinch of caution is more than justified, it may even be legally required, and it certainly would be encouraged by any regulatory panic attacks.
In cloud, there is a recognition that velocity has taken priority over quality, and there is a discussion about how to get the balance right. In telecom, it could equally be argued that quality has taken priority over velocity, and there is also a need to get the balance right. There is a big difference between 2 times a year, 2 times a month and hundreds of times a day. A broad spectrum in which to explore the right balance between velocity and quality, even in telecom infrastructure.