I have been running regularly for over 20 years; ever since I realised that the plane, hotel, taxi lifestyle of a telco consultant was not conducive to a healthy body. Increasingly though, I have been experiencing problems with ankles, achilles heal and knees for which the only remedy seems to be less running. As the aches and pains have accumulated I have become very conscious of how I run, with my heal striking the ground first, causing an impact all the way up my leg.

Bare foot running

For some time I have heard of the benefits of bare foot running, particularly its transfer of impact from the heal to the pronation of the sole. Like many runners I have always run in well cushioned supporting training shoes. The idea of losing this cushioning/support and going bare foot at my age always seemed to be a route to worse leg pain, not less. So instead tried to adapt my running style to land more on the sole whilst still using my running shoes. The result, no change, I still heal striked.

Born to run

I recently read a book called “Born to Run”, an exploration of ultra-marathon running. The best runners here are running in sandals, basic gym shoes or even bare foot; they are not running in Nikes and they are not suffering the usual leg problems of running. The book explores how the design of a high end running shoe inherently makes you heal strike with all of the impact issues I was experiencing.

If the shoe don’t fit ….

So I recently took a jump into the unknown. I put on a £10 pair of beach shoes and ran. Instead of stopping after 100m (which was my expectation) I comfortably ran my usual cross country course and did not have pain in my achilles at the end. I’ve continued with this since. It’s early days but I am already noting positive changes; I’m not heal striking (as it hurts and you seek to avoid it) and my luggage is no longer dominated by a pair of size 12 running shoes.

So what has this to do with telco?

For the last five years NFV, SDN, Cloud native and DevOps has promised a revolution in rate of innovation and CAPEX and OPEX savings for the CSP. Yet, if we are honest, the progress is limited. CSPs are not innovating and releasing new products any faster than before. The CAPEX savings of virtualised commodity hardware are not as strong as expected. The OPEX is often increasing as existing operational practice adapts to more complex virtualised networks.

The WebScale players don’t seem to suffer from these problems. Like software “bare foot runners” they innovate rapidly, with optimised CAPEX and massive OPEX savings through automation using exactly the same software concepts.

The present danger is that, just like me and running, the CSPs choose to quietly abandon the full opportunity of software enabled networks because its just too hard. Retreating to a slightly more software based version of their existing physical network and OSS/BSS.

The alternative is that CSPs recognise that it is the “comfortable shoes” of existing operational and business practice, not the software cloud capabilities, that are preventing them achieving the full potential of software enabled networks. The whole industry needs to find ways of enabling the leap of faith required to go “bare foot” Webscale running.

We look forward to exploring this need with the leading lights of the industry at SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague next week. See you there.