Two weeks ago, as he announced his company’s own acquisition, Empirix’s CEO John D’Anna told TMN that the service assurance and optimisation space as ripe for consolidation, predicting that a host of smaller optimisation players were liable to be rolled into companies that are trying
Empirix is a “stable mate” of Infovista at private equity house Thoma Bravo. Infovista already has history in this space, having acquired Mentum just under a year ago itself. D’Anna would neither confirm or deny that there is a strategic goal of mashing together his company with InfoVista, although he said it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
You can add to these deals the likes of JDSU buying Arieso, Amdocs buying Actix, and going back a bit Ericsson taking out Optimi. Cisco adding Intucell and Ubiquisys also falls under the heading of “requiring smarts for added network intelligence.
In the same ballpark you could also point to Ixia buying Anue, NetScout buying Accanto Systems, and getting even further towards the CEM/Big Data realm, you could cite IBM buying The Now Factory earlier this month.
So what’s going on? Well, the ability to “see” as closely as possible what’s going on in the RF domain, and then tie that activity to location, users, services and applications will give operators the ability to view their network sliced up by any of those signifiers.
Up till now, a lot of the radio network optimisation has been done on a standalone basis, almost like a separate fiefdom within operators. Now, and it may sound like a truism, there is a desire for more joined up solutions that give an operator the chance to optimise across different domains.
Partly this is a “cost out” move as systems are consolidated and operating departments cut, but it’s also about “revenue in”. If you don’t want to be a dumb pipe, be an smart pipe. If you want to be a smart pipe, you better start adding some smarts to the pipes.
So radio network optimisation becomes an important part of overall network assurance capabilities. Allied to this, operators are aware that they are going to need some level of automisation to deal with their multi-layer networks – requiring a “SON” piece to achieve that vision. You want one view of the network, not a bunch of different systems feeding in alarms and KPIs in different formats and meeting different requirements. Once you have that, you need to do something with it in your network. Ideally, you do this by feeding your SON engines to make processes as light touch as possible in terms of human resources.
InfoVista puts it like this: “The combination of subscriber intelligence, network performance and infrastructure behaviour data will generate strong innovation at InfoVista. It reinforces our SelfOptimizing Network (SON) positioning as well, which was already enriched last year with the Mentum acquisition.”
But it then goes further than that. Network assurance itself becomes a critical part of an operators’ CEM strategy – a strategy that relies on “Big Data” to inform the operator as it makes decisions about network optimisation that are based on customer stats, and also to make customer offers and develop the capability to enhance third party services are based on a really clear and dynamic view of its network.
So we’ve seen innovation in the centralised SON space be rewarded with a series of acquisitions. We’re also seeing the “fragmented” (D’Anna’s word) assurance space be consolidated. These companies are heading to large parents – the likes of IBM, Amdocs, JDSU and Tektronix, the major NEPs such as Cisco and Ericsson, or are seemingly being aggregated by private capital companies with a strategic exit in mind.
Who will be next to buy, or be bought?