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It has been noticeable over the last few months how many telecoms-focused vendors are pitching their DevOps, agile development, and delivery capabilities. This may not sound like anything remarkable to those from an IT background, but to hear a succession of network equipment providers (NEPs) such as Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia promoting their DevOps capabilities shows how fast things are changing.

In the telecoms vertical, agile processes have a crucial role to play in transforming communications service providers (CSPs) into digital service providers (DSPs) by helping them to build and launch faster and smarter services and applications. DevOps in particular has the ability to speed up the process of services and applications development and delivery through improved collaboration between previously siloed parts of the organization. However, DevOps requires not just new tools but also new skill sets, team structures, and processes.

Over the last year NEPs have been seeking to up their game to assist CSPs with becoming more agile. These changes are driven by network vendors' increasing aspirations in the IT services space. These are often specifically targeted at helping CSPs with their telco cloud evolution, but of course the messaging often goes beyond that as NEPs seek to convince CSPs that they possess "end-to-end" capabilities.

Huawei, for example, is increasingly positioning itself not just as a company that can simplify and converge IT and network operations, but also support new service enablement models, including process transformation. To support this transformation, Huawei has been strengthening its capabilities around organizational change and process remodeling and investing in new skill sets to support cloud enablement and DevOps. Nokia is also expanding design and delivery capabilities to include a new Cloud Design Center in the UK and a Delivery Center in Hungary. It has embarked on a recruitment drive to expand consulting, IT, and DevOps capabilities. Ericsson, meanwhile, recently restructured its global services business to focus on key segments that now include IT and cloud services. To support its IT and cloud services offering, Ericsson is expanding skill sets through recruitment and retraining in areas such as data skills, cloud service management, systems integration, and process re-engineering while boosting its DevOps capabilities.

Much of the investment in IT services capabilities being made by NEPs – in training, recruitment, and targeted acquisitions – is intended to strengthen their positioning against established IT services companies and vendors such as Accenture, Amdocs, HPE, and IBM as well as the India-based integrators such as Wipro or Infosys.

But NEPs are not just concerned about the impact that the shift to agile, DevOps, and (over time) cloud-native approaches may have on helping IT services companies and vendors to increase their hold over CSPs. They also worry to what extent the larger CSPs may decide to go it alone. AT&T, for example, with the help of a dedicated training program, has been retraining its staff in digital skills such as cloud-based computing, data science, and coding. It has been transforming work practices and processes to deliver much shorter product-development cycles and accelerate time to market. Clearly, the NEPs cannot afford to be left behind in the journey to DevOps and beyond.

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