In networking, the biggest conundrum you're likely to face is understanding what connectivity services you need for your business. Answering that starts with understanding who you're talking to, the market they operate in, the market they want to target, and the services they want to sell.
Retail Service Providers (RSPs), as the aggregators and intermediaries between end-users and wholesale infrastructure providers, have to make careful decisions about the bandwidth, network capacity headroom, core network speeds, and any other number of factors.
The decisions combine to create a complex, multifaceted end-point that might go any number of directions.
A bit like a recipe.
And it's occurred to me that, at a stretch, this is a little like making an Irish stew… Bear with me on this.
I'm originally from Drogheda, about 50km north of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, and the Irish are known throughout the world for cooking wonderful stews. In fact, Irish stew is a traditional dish and one that we take a great deal of pride in cooking.
At the risk of stretching the metaphor, deciding the configuration of your network is a bit like deciding how to cook an Irish stew - your choice of recipe, who you turn to for advice if it burns, the pot you choose to cook it in.
If the RSP is targeting the consumer market and selling to targets in the consumer space, the flavour of their stew will be different from those who are targeting small-to-medium sized enterprises or larger enterprises. The strength and the flavours of the stew might well be stronger and more complex than those for consumers.
What I mean by complex is that RSPs are going to be creating and delivering different services for different purposes. Consumers generally want speed at an affordable cost. Businesses will want harder guarantees for speed and uptime, probably built into service level agreements. They might want lit or dark services. And they will likely want the ability to scale or change services depending on their business needs.
The same stew won't cut it for these two extremes of taste, as it were.
Your choice of what you prepare and cook the stew is the other major factor (as I start to stretch the metaphor beyond breaking point). This equates broadly to the bandwidth you want, which in turn is influenced by the customers you have to service within that bandwidth. (How many people do you hope to serve, how many are you cooking for, how big a pot do you need?)
In the past you basically had to choose your pot or casserole dish, and you were then stuck with what you had (or you had to have different pots).
If you're in the enterprise space, you will likely want a very large casserole pot. If you're in the consumer space, a ramekin dish is perhaps all you need.
Either way, your initial choice has left you constrained. Either your pot (network provider or network choice) was too large for the services you had, or too small with no capacity to grow or to change or add to those services.
My family recently bought a Thermomix here in Hong Kong. Some would say that it's sacrilegious of us to use such a device to make stew, but that's what my daughter is doing, and the stews, I must say, are phenomenal.
In our analogy, the Thermomix is a modern, digital platform much like Superloop Connect which delivers a network to customers, unencumbered by legacy, that automates the cooking of a stew, and that allows you to mix and match your ingredients to suit.
Alongside it is the alternative of your tried and trusted cast iron cooking pot. It works, but you can only put it in the oven, it takes hours to cook the stew, it eventually get old and rusty, difficult to handle, it's heavy, and most certainly cannot be used to make smoothies, cakes or anything else (as you can with the Thermomix).
And while the metaphor has, no doubt, now exploded, it serves to remind us that, to answer the connectivity conundrum, you start with your choice of cooking implement, move to the ingredients you want to add, consider your condiments in light of the guests you want to entertain, and consider how flexible you want to be about using your equipment to prepare other meals in the future.
Stick with the pan, or upgrade to the Thermomix? That's the first question to be considered and answered.