“As an industry we talk a lot about agility, flexibility and enabling customer focus; but it’s not often that we hear so many of the right words come together in one industry discussion.”

Both we as Appledore, and “we” as the industry talk a lot about agility, flexibility and enabling customer focus.  We are about to publish major research linking service abstraction, well-structured intent, and automation – successfully.  But it’s not often that we hear so many of the right words come together in one industry discussion.  We believe that CenturyLink‘s story is one of many that illustrate that the industry is turn a corner in virtualization/modernization, and is well worth watching to see how it plays out – from the perspectives of commitment, implementation and metrics.

CenturyLink is making a large capital investment in transformation

CenturyLink is making large (as a percentage of revenues) capital investments to truly transform their business, and especially the enterprise and global networking business, reporting that they will have spent between $3.5 and 3.9B USD on capital in 2019 on revenues of $23.4B.  This marks a major bet on the future, both in terms of revenue acquisition and operational streamlining.  So what are they doing and why?  Spoiler alert: the “how” comes later.  Success metrics come even later, but we look forward to reporting on their success.

The network is big, and it’s global.

The scope of their global network is impressive.  CenturyLink offers SDWAN  in over 100 countries, and can connect customers to network services in over 100 countries, and, more practically, over 6000 cities.  They also have more than 150 Tbps of global network capacity — and critically — 48 Tbps of peering, which is often the bottleneck in many services.  So the network is big, and it’s global.

The need to “De-tech” services

The story gets really interesting as CenturyLink talks about their operational and commercial approach:  they want to “de-tech” their services.  This might seem strange for a company spending $3.5B out (decide how you want to adjust this revenue item so as to not overstate capex spending as a % of revenue) $5.6B in revenues on shiny new tech, but they have a worthwhile goal in mind: techies will call it loose coupling, businessmen will call it giving the customer quick, painless control and flexibility.  In a nutshell CenturyLink wants to allow:

  • Services to ride on whatever infrastructure is available
  • Customers to change, grow and modify those services on the fly

Abstraction yields significant benefits

Good goals.  By providing customer’s lots of flexibility they ought to lower barriers to adoption and retention, and encourage up scope.  By abstracting services from tech (resources) they ought to speed delivery intervals, lower costs and increase win rates.  This has been CenturyLink’s goal for a decade; we hope to see soon not only if, but how it is being brought to fruition.

Structured properly, such abstraction yields secondary benefits, which are significant. First, it reduces maintenance, since there are fewer top-to-bottom stacks of code.  Second it reduces integration costs and ongoing re-integration, since there are fewer “point to point” hard mappings, and rather well defined abstractions and exposures that remain stable even when internal details (like a tech upgrade or addition) change.  Investments in proper end-to-end process and systems structuring are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Look to our research library for more in-depth coverage in profiles, and to this blog for the “how”, as we dig deeper into our survey of real-world next generation management deployments across leading CSPs from around the globe.

Our thanks to CenturyLink for excellent discussions.


Image courtesy of Francis Haysom