Editor's Corner—Royston is winning the 2021 prediction race, to the chagrin of IBM

This time of the year always leads to a massive influx of predictions for the following year in ye olde email inbox, but Danielle Royston is the frontrunner so far.

While a big chunk of the year-ending predictions for 2021 have revolved around support for a vendor's or service provider's business model, Royston's were much more blunt. Royston who is the former CEO of Optiva, was particularly harsh on IBM's cloud for telcos announcement.

"You thought the claws of Oracle were bad? In 2021, you’ll see it’s IBM that has the real talons," Royston wrote. "This is not cloud. It was fake news. It’s #fakecloud. In 2021 we’ll see the results from the poor suckers who’ve invested and we’ll hopefully see a greater realization that a hybrid strategy and a half-assed move to the cloud will never work."

(FierceTelecom reached out to IBM for comment on Royston's take but hasn't heard back from it so far. Update: IBM declined to comment.)

RELATED: Big Blue reaches for hybrid cloud to target 5G telcos; creates partner ecosystem

Color me blue (or is it red?) in the face for believing in Big Blue's IBM Cloud for Telecommunications initiative, which was announced in November. Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure also announced telco-based platforms and ecosystems this year, but they escaped Royston's wrathful keyboard.

"At launch, IBM tried to persuade telco to keep things on-premise," Royston said. "If you do move to the BFCs (big effing clouds), then IBM can manage it all for you. What they didn’t mention was that this would happen at a cost, and it’d be a massive waste of time. Telcos that fell for this trap last year will be adding five more years to their public cloud journey, by which time they’ll be way behind competitors that saved time and money, and whose customers love the service they offer. 

"Be wary of IBM, my telco children. Do not fall for the trap!"


Danielle Royston (Source: TelcoDR)

Royston also predicted that in 2021: "A telco will figure out how to really use the public cloud and save 50% on its IT costs – or more." Given the cloud-related announcements that AT&T has done with Microsoft, IBM and Google Cloud, it would seem to be a good candidate to meet Royston's prediction. Think again.

"Who’ll be the bold telco? Definitely not a company in the U.S. Sorry America," she said. "It’ll likely be based in Asia, which has moved on from dumb private cloud, and we’ve already seen examples of successful moves to public cloud in this region (take a bow, M1)."

"How will it happen? It’ll move a ton of software to the cloud and prove: 1) it works; 2) it’ll save a ton of money (the company that embraces the software of the public cloud will see a 50% savings on IT costs); 3) life is sweet! (And way sweeter than it ever was before. I’m talking about taking the oldest, suckiest, super unsexy legacy applications and refactoring them for 90% savings.)

Royston said 2021 could be the year that telcos go back to their "1981-style boldness" to make a huge move forward towards modernizing the telco industry.

"A bold telco will successfully transition to the public cloud and show everyone else how it’s done," she said. "Note to everyone else: be prepared, this change will require all hands on deck."

Royston said that along with public cloud success next year, there would also be a public cloud failure in 2021. Without a proper understanding of what "cloud native" means, telcos are headed for some spectacular screw-ups, at which point Royston touted a blog in January where she plans to clarify cloud language and how each part of the telco business can benefit from the cloud.

"It’s common sense to move to the public cloud, but there are still so many misconceptions that telcos will get bound in," Royston said. "It’s not just about infrastructure and IT, for instance. It requires a top-down, organization-wide cultural change. It requires clear communication.

"Wrong moves will result in failure. Or, if not complete failure, then a load of back-tracking, additional costs and tails between legs. No one wants to hear ‘I told you so.’"

Royston also said that Open RAN would explode next year, which will impact vendors such as Ericsson, as service providers like Rakuten move to best-of-breed solutions.

Royston cited Verizon, which bought Terrmark's data centers for $1.4 billion in 2011 before selling them to Equinix for nearly $3.5 billion four years ago, as an example that service providers shouldn't build their own clouds.

"Only the foolish would add to that capex pressure by building their own cloud – remove that headache by using the BFCs! Telcos simply can’t afford NOT to move to the public cloud, helping them to further enrich their offerings, as well as cut time and costs with reduced latency," she said.

All of which makes for interesting reading as hope springs eternal for 2021.

Editor's Corners are opinion columns written by a member of the Fierce editorial team. They are edited for balance and accuracy.