Europe 2008: TeleManagement World

The telecom management market is both huge and dominated by a small group of companies. One of our friends at QinetiQ said that the OSS software market was US$70 billion a year, and 60% of that spending was focused on 30 companies.


It’s been an interesting conference, but I have been really unimpressed with the sessions I’ve attended. I’m a geek and very interested in the content, but the speakers have had the most dry and monotone manner of delivery (at least the ones I saw).

While I was dozing in the comfy chair provided for one of these talks, I came up with a vision of this market. I saw it as two enormous sumo wrestlers. One represented the “service provider” companies, and the other represented the “solutions provider” companies. The ring literally became the planet, as many of these companies can comfortably reach across it. I saw them moving slowly around each other, constantly trying to find a better position and to implement a better strategy, and often they would clash together.

Incumbent solutions providers can be almost as big as their customers. The customers would like solutions that are easy to deploy, adapt quickly to changing technology, and interact at a high level. The solutions providers may make a lot of speeches about interactivity, but they thrive on vendor lock-in, as the amounts involved are staggering, and once a client has adopted a solution it is very hard for them to change. This makes them (the solutions providers) very reluctant to implement interfaces that would make it easier for their clients to move to another vendor’s solution.

I think that open source software can play a huge role here. Open source communities tend to be able to react to changing needs more quickly than monolithic commercial companies, and only by having open solutions incorporating the proposed standards will the solutions providers finally step up to support them as well.

But there is a long way to go before that even starts to happen.

David and I are wearing slacks and OpenNMS polo shirts, and we feel underdressed. I would say that 95% of the male attendees are wearing suits and ties. The politics of this event rival the UN, and even the presentations of a technical nature often include a “marketing plan” to get people to adopt the proposed standards. One talk brought up cooperation between the TMF and the DMTF in a fashion that suggested détente.

So it’s been an eye-opening experience if not necessarily a fun one, although I have had some fun and met some great people.

Tomorrow I hope to spend a little time actually wandering around Nice before the flight to Paris.