MWC is not just about smartphones and IoT. Behind the scenes, much of the networking relies on big data, and using machine learning to make sense of it all.
I was at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this past week, and the sheer scale of the event makes it difficult to identify any sort of unifying trend. The first impression that emerges, beyond the vast numbers of people attending and exhibiting, is the incredible proliferation of smartphone manufacturers, both well-known and completely unknown (to me at least).
Moving beyond the huge booths where the latest phones are being demonstrated, there are a whole lot of much quieter booths where people are talking about the equipment and software that is required to make the smartphones actually do anything very useful. A phone without its network connection is very limited in its functionality, constrained only to accessing content that is already stored on the device itself — a very substantial limitation in these days of streaming media.
Smartphones And IoT Devices — Neither Does Much Without Connectivity
In these more infrastructure-oriented booths, the conversation is rather different. Much of the hardware is designed for Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and as such is tuned completely differently than the flashy smartphones — not for performance, but for durability and efficiency. Also, even more than the phones, these devices rely on connectivity for their functionality, both to each other and to central systems which gather and process data.
The complexity of these extended systems is orders of magnitude beyond what operators are used to. This means that their existing systems and processes are unable to take on the sheer scale and the vastly accelerated rate of change of these networks.
The applications are simply endless. There were drones adapted for all sorts of purposes. There were self-driving cars. There were various different financial applications, not to mention the usual IoT suspects: smart meters and other devices designed to support “smart city” projects.
All of these networks deployed in the field need to be kept operating, and there is a whole other set of booths dedicated to doing just that. Here it is possible to find various types of testing and monitoring hardware and software, designed to let operators see what is happening in their networks.
Unfolding And Accelerating Complexity
There is one further level of abstraction which is starting to show up at these events as the networks get more complex, both the dedicated IoT networks and the public telecommunications networks that they piggyback on. The complexity of these extended systems is orders of magnitude beyond what operators are used to. This means that their existing systems and processes are unable to take on the sheer scale and the vastly accelerated rate of change of these networks.
Assumptions that used to hold true are no longer applicable. The idea of fixed, or at least knowable, numbers of devices, has been invalidated by rapid proliferation, combined with the introduction of virtualization and high levels of automation in the back-end networks. In addition, the networks can no longer be assumed to be reliable. Devices that live out in the field, perhaps moving around, drop out of signal range and pop back up all the time. When a device in your data center does that, you know that you have a problem. When thousands of devices in the field are doing that all the time — well, maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. Finally, you are reliant on complex chains of third-party suppliers (and their suppliers, and so on) to keep things working, and when something breaks, it’s not always obvious in whose area the problem lies.
All these changes mean that new ways of working are required. AI is the acronym on everyone’s lips; algorithms that can understand this constantly-changing, rapidly evolving ecosystem of devices, distinguish between a real problem and just the constant low-level churn of data, and present useful information in context to the right people when they need it.
Even within that domain there are all sorts of specializations, but people are excited to talk about the promise of AIOps, and even more so when they hear that, unlike many promising ideas you overhear pitches for in the aisles of MWC, Moogsoft has been delivering AIOps in production for many years now. We have proven results with telcos, banks, utilities, and online business of all sorts. Once you have digested all the news from Barcelona, and started wondering how all of these wonderful promises can actually be delivered in practice, come talk to us, or to our customers. They’ll be happy to tell you.
About the author
Dominic Wellington is the Director of Strategic Architecture at Moogsoft. He has been involved in IT operations for a number of years, working in fields as diverse as SecOps, cloud computing, and data center automation.