Posted by Kerry Godes
Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing & Operations

Open Door Policy is a series on the Openness blog that profiles industry thought leaders and individuals within Microsoft who are leading efforts to collaborate more openly, promoting interoperability and making it easier to develop and manage mixed IT environments.

Today there are nearly five billion people with access to television, billions of mobile phone users, and hundreds of millions around the globe using various satellite services – all generating massive amounts of data about usage and preferences.

How can the telecommunications industry keep pace with the unique challenges and opportunities presented by Big Data? We were fortunate to speak with Chaesub Lee, Chairman of the ITU-T Study Group, and a thought leader on how Big Data and industry standards play a role in the future of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Read on to learn more about Chaesub’s perspectives on Big Data, cloud computing, and the “smarter” devices of the future.

Welcome Chaesub to Microsoft’s Openness Blog and thank you for joining us to discuss your perspectives on Big Data, cloud computing, information technology (IT), and communications technology (CT). Before we get started, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a Korean senior Information and Communications Technology (ICT) consultant based in Switzerland and the Chairman of the ITU-T Study Group 13, which deals with the standardization of Future Networks, including cloud computing, mobile and next-generation networks. As one of many clients, Microsoft asked me to help them think through the implications of Big Data in the convergence of information technology and telecommunications, as well as the role of cloud computing in this scenario.

To start, what are your views on Big Data and the role industry standards play in addressing this trend?

I think about Big Data in terms of the three V’s: volume, velocity, and variety. There is an unprecedented volume of raw data being collected today and with each new wave of technology, it is expected to grow exponentially. Regarding velocity, the data is also coming at us too fast for traditional methods of management and analysis to keep up. And finally, the massively expanded data sets are disparate and disconnected, which means that the variety of databases and access mechanism are highly diverse.

According to this new reality, a smarter way to cope with the three V’s of Big Data is needed so that multiple users of a given Big Data set can analyze it in a timely manner, yielding accurate, consistent, and meaningful information. I believe that global software, services and devices companies, like Microsoft, will play a critical role in the convergence of IT and CT as it relates to how Big Data is addressed.

Standards form the basic building blocks of interoperability, which will be essential for information to be effectively shared across the boundaries of technologies, industries, and countries. They will contribute to the development of advanced platforms that are able to efficiently process Big Data by sharing relevant resources and information across these boundaries.

One example of the need for interoperability is the collaborative use of Big Data processing and analytics with cloud computing in efforts to discover and respond to cyber incidents. In this case, the ability to process large amounts of data that could exist worldwide over a short period is critical to an efficient and effective analysis of a cyber-event.

Many people are talking about the convergence of information technology (IT) and communications technology (CT). What do you think will be the most challenging factors for the technology community as this trend continues?

There are many factors to consider. Today I’ll highlight the two most challenging factors: platform and vertical.

Regarding platform, IT industries have their own software-based platforms built with their technologies. Similarly, CT industries also have their unique network-based platforms. Under a legacy environment, such as a telephone network, there was a very clear distinction between a communication service and the processing of information. But today these lines are blurred, creating a big challenge in defining what types of platforms and standards should be developed to efficiently and effectively support the integration of information and communication services.

This challenge becomes even harder across vertical industries. Because the convergence of IT and CT create new opportunities across verticals, the traditional boundaries between different business domains are blurring further and becoming more difficult to separate from each other.

For example, advanced home automation services can provide information for healthcare services. Or, massive scientific computing capabilities can instantaneously be applied in the banking and financial sectors. Therefore the challenge for the ICT industry is to be able to support technical requirements from different verticals while business domains are becoming less distinct. In summary, the challenge is to help data emerge from the current information silos, so that it can be translated into actionable knowledge and insights.

How do you think telecom operators can leverage the advances in Big Data computing, while preserving the privacy of the subscribers from whom the Big Data is collected?

The most valuable assets the telecom operators own are the physical connectivity to the devices (and objects) and the network resources. The devices are essential for collecting data and the network resources are necessary for managing and transporting Big Data. Providing this connectivity with appropriate secure access control is critical to the safe use and operation of Big Data computing over public networks.

This access control needs to not only support the secure transport of information, but also the protection of privacy related information, such as identity attributes, preferences and other personally identifiable information (PII). I believe capabilities such as data anomymization or the act of permanently and completely removing personal identifiers from data are essential to the protection of PII and this aspect of Big Data processing will be important in the future.

What are some of the Big Data opportunities for the telecommunications industry specifically?

Sources of information have become more complicated and, as I mentioned earlier, effected by the factors of volume, velocity and variety. Traditionally, telcos have proposed using business models based on the value of their networks and then built added service offerings from there. In addition, they have years of experience in delivering and managing services that are dependent upon rich layers of data – data about the network, data about customers, data about services, etc.

This implies that the telcos have an inherent appreciation for the challenges and opportunities surrounding Big Data. One of the opportunities that interests me is the layering of traditional strengths of the IT industry on top of the CT world. The IT companies have the advantage of extremely advanced technologies for the capture, creation, management, and processing of data.

I believe the telcos have a unique opportunity to collaborate with the IT industry in a way that will result in a value-added extension of their network-based solutions, especially in the areas of cloud computing services and Big Data.

You mentioned cloud computing, how can telecom operators leverage the Cloud for their Big Data opportunities?

Cloud computing plays an essential role in Big Data. Because of the enormous size of the raw data that is available, tradition ICT data storage and analytics tools are currently insufficient. However, unlike legacy ICT systems, the cloud is scalable and allows organizations to increase their storage and computing resources as needed. In some scenarios, multiple data consumers within an enterprise will want to access the Big Data simultaneously in order to perform analysis and generate useful reports.

For these activities to be useful, the Big Data accessed must be up-to-date. Furthermore, legacy systems cannot accommodate the enormous size of Big Data sets, making migration to traditional ICT systems and sharing among enterprise Big Data users difficult and inefficient.

Using the Cloud to manage resources for storing and computing Big Data can overcome some of these issues. The goal should be to encourage an environment where data consumers within an enterprise will have access to the same up-to-date data sets for analysis via a richly diverse set of tools.

What other important trends are you focused on?

At this stage, “Smartness” is another key concept that has my attention. Because of the convergence of IT and CT, there is an extensive amount of information available. At the same time, high-end devices introduce more and more functions, raising the complexity for the user.

“Smartness” is how to enhance the networks and computing environment in a way that builds true knowledge while doing it in a way that is both easy and intuitive. This concept could lead to entirely new business models and revenue opportunities for both the IT and CT industries.