Sameh Yamany from Viavi Solutions talks hybrid IT, data loads and his favourite Apple devices
Tell us about your company and your areas of expertise?
Viavi provides network testing, monitoring assurance and optimisation technologies for enterprises and service providers such as mobile operators. While having rebranded to Viavi last year, we’ve actually been in business for 35 years. During this time we have worked with thousands of customers and been heavily involved in development of standards for the next generation of networking technology. My personal areas of expertise include telecommunications networking, monitoring and assurance, and artificial intelligence.
What’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?
In 2007, I worked for a vendor to AT&T and was responsible for a project to monitor and assure traffic hitting the first-ever iPhone. In the US, that device was exclusive to AT&T at the time, and nothing like it had ever been on the market. Despite our effort to plan and project the volume of data the iPhone would bring to the network, traffic far outstripped our wildest imaginations. As you know, this has been a trend that has yet to let up.
What technologies were you involved with 10 years ago?
I was involved in the development of probes that are deployed to monitor signaling and data traffic on mobile networks. Back then, we were seeing networks across the world transition to 3G and at the same time, our customers starting to evaluate the potential of 4G. It was clear that in order to assure a good customer experience through this evolution, monitoring had to move beyond the network layer toward an entire ecosystem of services and applications.
This was important because as the services and applications we take for granted today became more prominent, the traditional network layer monitoring would not have been able to effectively detect potential problems. As a smartphone user, you would have found Facebook or business app not working but the operator having no idea how to address this. Thanks to our work over a decade ago, this problem has in many ways been prevented.
What do you expect to be using in 10 years’ time?
It’s less about what I expect to use and more to do with how I expect to be using technology in 10 years’ time. For example, as a consumer, the interface or screen on my smartphone should move seamlessly between the dashboard of my car and the TV in my living room. This would happen through some sort of unified cloud-based profile. I would expect that I never have to worry about the quality of the connection or a data cap, because these experiences would have become standard rather than a nice-to-have.
This seamless experience will be achieved through the deployment of a number of different approaches and technologies from enterprise and mobile networks. This includes the use of new spectrum to expand data capacity, technologies such as Wi-Fi to offload traffic from mobile network and networks that are basically able to self-improve through machine-learning.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
There are three: there’s the age old stealth IT, so it becomes more difficult to implement centralised control and security of the IT infrastructure; adoption of hybrid IT, which poses big challenges to gaining an understanding of performance and problems as they happen in real-time across physical, virtual and cloud environments; and increasingly creative external threats from cyber-attacks.
To cloud or not to cloud?
I don’t think there is any question. In various publicly reported surveys, over 80 percent of enterprises have embraced the public cloud. But what’s more interesting is that about the same percentage are pursuing hybrid IT strategies, which means that they will always have a combination of physical, private-cloud or public-cloud infrastructure. Why is that? They see the benefit of flexibility and scalability in the public cloud; they are concerned about security and reliability of access, so need the assurance of private cloud; and every organisation has legacy infrastructure that cannot simply be ripped out and decommissioned.
Who is your tech hero?
Larry Page, co-founder of Google and now CEO of parent company Alphabet. I admire him because he created something that was not necessarily new but fundamentally different and kept improving and adding innovation into a technology platform. Yet his driving principle is so simple it’s elegant: to develop technologies and services that billions of people use twice a day. In other words, as technical as the company is, it is trying to help improve society.
What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?
I have to say my MacBook. It’s sleek, has a beautiful interface, is remarkably productive, and I can transition from it to my other devices and pick up where I left off. I have started using the iPad Pro, and believe it could be the best replacement for a laptop.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
My father is a physician and he inspired me to be a surgeon: a brain surgeon to be specific. But one of his friends was a famous U.K. heart surgeon and he looked at my hands and told me I don’t have the hands of a good surgeon. . I went to school to become a biomedical engineer and I have a patent in non-invasive surgery techniques and 3D medical imaging. But then I changed careers later to become the CEO of a telecoms AI Company. The funny thing is that science behind both is the same!
Sameh Yamany is chief technology officer at Viavi Solutions