Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, @CloudExpo, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Uber Taxis and New Business Models

In a world of NFV we cannot easily map the businesses & business models of today onto the possible business models of tomorrow

A recent post by John Wilmes on the TM Forum website caught my eye for drawing a parallel between the Uber car service business model and the telecom service provider business model as network functions virtualization (NFV) becomes a reality. Wilmes uses this metaphor to remind us of the potential value of dynamic pricing as a tool in carrier efforts to match supply to demand. He also cautions service providers to be careful how they sell the message of dynamic pricing to their customers. So far, so good.

However, this gave me pause: "NFV will let them [operators] create more of almost any part of their infrastructure on the fly, and turn it off when no longer needed, but that too comes at a price - one that is proportionately much higher than what Uber faces. While Uber needs only to make minimal investments in drivers who furnish their own cars, operators also have to buy the ‘cars' up front, or at least reserve them from infrastructure providers."

The message seems to be that customers may face a future of higher prices, supply shortages or both, if surge pricing takes over thanks to NFV. This rather surprised me for two reasons. First, taxis and buses are more efficient in their use of road and energy resources than cars are, even if we still like to drive our own cars sometimes. Similarly, MetraTech became actively involved in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV program mainly because we believe that NFV would result in a dramatically more efficient deployment of network resources and efficient resource allocation should, overall, reduce costs. Services would now be deployed in a cloud-like fashion, making customers happy and providing service providers with new revenue streams. Secondly, my experience is that, despite the small commotion over Uber's surge pricing plans, those of us who use Uber recognize that the system has made it easier and cheaper to get a cab in some locations. According to the drivers I have spoken to, they're driving more and waiting less, so they're more productive. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Wilmes' Uber metaphor suggests we think of Uber, the company, as the service provider, and the car owner and drivers who are contracted to Uber as being the equivalent of network elements, providing transportation from location to location. We could recast the metaphor, and perhaps come to a different conclusion. The car owner and drivers are in fact the service providers, and Uber is an agency that links potential customers to service providers more efficiently. The drivers, in fact, may not own their vehicles, and for some, the optimal business model is to lease a vehicle and set up a maintenance contract with the leasing company, just like bus companies and airlines do.

Perhaps in an NFV-driven world there could be many service providers - both small and large companies - that operate geographically, similar to taxi drivers in the Uber model. The service providers lease the technology from other businesses, whose job is to invest in the infrastructure, build it and run it, selling space in the system to all-comers who can then repurpose the technology at will, according to changing end-customer demands. And where is the future equivalent of Uber in this scenario? We need to think of Uber, not so much as a service provider to end users, but as an agent - a service provider to the service providers who serve the end customers.

Since we are talking about agents, let's remember that as the Internet of Things evolves, agents will effectively be apps that serve both humans and machines. Now, there's a coincidence. What is Uber? It's actually an application that allows end users and service providers to connect. Uber, the company, makes money when people use their app, which represents an old and comfortingly familiar business model.

There is a pleasing symmetry here. Just as chunks of technology in an NFV-driven network can have transient lives in different roles, end users and their service providers will have transient relationships that will last just as long as they are needed. This uber-flexibility, not just of hardware, but of business relationships, will create a competitive market that should benefit customers greatly. On the other hand, perhaps service providers will have a tough time for a period, just as traditional taxi companies stumbled for a time, attempting to use regulation to preserve their old business models instead of embracing the new.

The fun of thinking of the future in this way is that when we try to connect the dots from the present to the future, we can easily come up with something of a tangle. In a world of NFV (and software-defined networking [SDN] too, of course) we cannot easily map the businesses and business models of today onto the possible business models of tomorrow. Whatever we dream up could be wrong. But the biggest mistake of all is to assume that things stay unchanged.

Wilmes follows up his gloomy prediction with this thought: "And the business and technical agility that they need to amortize those costs more quickly with dynamic pricing is also expensive to acquire and maintain."

Perhaps this is what underpins his gloom: keeping track of NFV is going to be difficult and expensive. I have good news for him. Billing systems that enable dynamic pricing across a web of complex business relationships are already here, and when NFV is widely deployed, those systems, including MetraNet will have the industrial power, precision and scalability to handle whatever financial transactions NFV can throw at us. None of this will be trivially easy, but NFV itself is not a trivial exercise. If it were, we would have done it years ago, just like we would've developed Uber back when we still had horse-drawn cabs - if only we'd also had giant data centers, ubiquitous mobile data connectivity, smartphones, journey planning algorithms, GPS and flexible billing and settlement.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
To Really Work for Enterprises, MultiCloud Adoption Requires Far Better and Inclusive Cloud Monitoring and Cost Management … But How? Overwhelmingly, even as enterprises have adopted cloud computing and are expanding to multi-cloud computing, IT leaders remain concerned about how to monitor, manage and control costs across hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It’s clear that traditional IT monitoring and management approaches, designed after all for on-premises data centers, are falling short in ...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...