Skin in the Game: Why we developed a bold, new service exclusively for service providers

Published March 25, 2019

For much of my career, I’ve worked in and around Service Provider Operations teams across the world, including as General Manager of Global Network Operations for a Tier 1 telecommunications company. As such, I have experienced—first hand—the demands to cut budgets and staff, to launch new services without the people to manage them, and to keep the network running without the expert support that I knew we required. And I’ve been the one who had to stand up at 7am in front of the Chief Technology Officer and a room full of terrified GMs to explain why—during the previous 24 hours—some part of the network I managed had fallen over.

I’ve witnessed the commercial side of being an SP become ever-more constrained, with margins on the landline business shrinking 2-5% a year and new data services revenue streams not able to fully compensate for this loss. As a GM of Operations, I was asked to cut my budgets by 5% every year. Simply put, this meant I lost one to two highly skilled staff members each year. Due to this shortage of expertise, I increasingly relied on vendor support services. But enterprise-level network vendors only provided very basic maintenance services that couldn’t handle the demands of the core areas they were being asked to touch, nor could they adequately fill the skills gap with which I was faced. Of course, they all offered some form of advanced services, but this came with an additional price tag. Every time I tried to convince my own procurement department why I needed to have these services, that line item on the vendor service quote would be scratched off. The response from Procurement started to sound like a broken record: “You can only have maintenance services,” I was continually told.

Having also spent many years on the network equipment vendor side of the equation, it occurred to me that vendors are either natively born in the old Class-5 analog switch SP world or they come from the enterprise space. While the old SP analog equipment vendors have been used to the demands and needs of global SPs, typical enterprise vendors act as if there’s no difference between the two worlds. While that was probably accurate for many years, since enterprise vendors where largely selling to the internal IT side of an SP, in the modern world—especially where security is concerned—enterprise vendors are touching more and more of the SP core networks, thus making their roles increasingly important and high risk to SP operations. During this gradual shift over the last decade, I haven’t seen enterprise vendors change their stance on their service and support model much.

When I came to F5, I was determined to help SPs get the unique support they need. Our team took a bold step forward by developing a new service exclusively for Service Providers. Our objective was to combine high-quality, SP-specific technical assistance with a range of new deliverables to help SPs successfully manage the complexities they face, every single day.

We really believe this new service, called F5 Service Provider Essentials, achieves the goal of providing SP Operations teams with the specialized support they need to effectively manage their F5 application delivery estate. Some features of this new service include a dedicated SP network support team, consulting hours inside the maintenance contract, and high-urgency incident management.

We hope SPs around the world, whose reality resonates with my story, will explore our new service.

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