Modernization of OSS/BSS with Open Source, Part 4: Transforming OSS/BSS from Monoliths to Cloud-Native Applications

This article is sponsored by Red Hat

This is the final article of a four-part series, summarizing a set of four webinars[1]. In the first article, we describe how open-source software can speed the evolution of OSS and BSS to a modern cloud-native microservices-based architecture. In the second article we explain how open source can be used to automate business, network and IT to provide initial quick hits that rapidly bring value to a CSP and, eventually, lead to fully automated operations. In the third article, we describe how open-source integration tools and frameworks can be used to integrate existing and new systems for quick-hit benefits and serve as a basis of the cloud-native architecture of the future. In this article, we share with the developers of OSS/BSS systems, CSPs, ISVs, and SIs how they can move their current monolithic software systems toward modern, containerized cloud-native architectures and automate their overall IT operations.

Introduction

Communications service providers (CSPs) today are transforming into the digital service providers (DSPs) by digitizing their networks, operations and services (see Figure 1). Although these transformations are often parallel efforts, they should align around common business imperatives and should be tightly integrated. Open source is the proven underlying technology that can generate synergies across those transformation efforts.

Figure 1. Open Source Enables Digital Transformation

Becoming a DSP requires modernizing operations support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS). CSPs must work closely with independent software vendors (ISVs) and systems integrators (SIs) to move current OSS/BSS solutions to the cloud-native, common, open-software technology base of the future.

Cloud-Native OSS and BSS is the future

CSPs usually have hundreds, if not thousands, of OSS and BSS. Modernizing those systems should proceed in steps to mitigate business disruption and generate quick wins. ISVs and SIs must keep in lockstep with CSPs to provide the solutions and support they require. It is realistic to expect that some systems will be retired, some will continue in their monolithic form, and others will in some cases evolve to keep up with business imperatives. Still other systems will evolve along a stepwise trajectory and will ultimately become cloud based, or at least synergistic with a cloud-based environment. Figure 2 shows the alternatives for OSS and BSS evolution.

Figure 2. Transitioning to a Cloud-Based OSS and BSS

This transformation will likely be several years in the making. ACG projects that by 2025, approximately 10% of the systems will remain monolithic, while about 60% will be cloud-native based, with the remainder 30% being partially refactored.

OSS/BSS Modernization Strategies

CSPs that develop their own systems and ISVs and SIs that sell these systems to CSPs have a number of strategies to consider for modernizing them. Each approach has business and operational considerations and tradeoffs. Although these options are not unique to OSS and BSS, the level of complexity is compounded for them by the sheer number of such systems (which can reach into the thousands) interwoven at most CSPs.

Figure 3. OSS and BSS Modernization Alternatives

  • Rehost: Also referred to as lift and shift, involves repackaging the existing system and porting it to a new environment, typically a container, with minimal changes. Although this approach is the lowest risk, lowest cost option, it comes up short in delivering the true promise of a cloud-native system in terms of service velocity and elasticity.
  • Replatform: Also known as tinker and shift, requires a larger effort because it may necessitate software modifications to adapt to the operating system, to a portion of or the entirety of the application to optimize it before moving it to the cloud. Although this approach can be more costly and typically requires more time and effort, some cloud optimization can deliver meaningful benefits without the cost and risk of a full repurchase approach. Furthermore, by enabling the reuse of some of the existing resources, replatforming requires less retraining and fewer changes to methods and procedures.
  • Refactor: This approach entails making more significant changes to the application, but provides the most significant benefits, making it the preferred path in many cases. The degree of changes to the application code necessitates that the CSP ensures that this upgrade does not result in business disruption. But it also provides a good opportunity to modernize the existing operational framework, which may necessitate possible changes to the methods and procedures, as well as retraining. This approach can result in the application delivering the true benefits of a cloud-based environment in flexibility, velocity and elasticity. Re-factoring can also be taken in steps or can be done partially.

Given the significant benefits of fully cloud-native software combined with the agility and velocity derived from DevOps for operations and CI/CD, most applications should be refactored over time to reap those full benefits.

OSS/BSS Modernization and Overall Digital Transformation

The strategies recommended for modernizing the OSS and the BSS can also be used to modernize the other pillars of digital transformation: network resources and digital services. Modernizing all software infrastructure using the same underlying technologies and methodologies allows CSPs to migrate to cloud-based architectures and to enable consistent DevOps processes and CI/CD delivery methodologies across the CSP, maximizing their benefits and smoothing the way to digital transformation. The following are some examples of how these enable network and service modernization.

Modernizing network resource provisioning and automation

Until recently, network infrastructure was built using proprietary solutions that had software running on specialized hardware. This infrastructure needed to be created, managed, scaled, and decommissioned as the needs of the business changed. Because of its hardware foundation, it was subject to limitations similar to those we described for OSS and BSS, such as rigidity, long development cycles, and high cost. Today, Network Functions Virtualization network infrastructure is becoming software-based running on off-the-shelf hardware and becoming increasingly agnostic to the particular VMs and containers deployed. Since these virtualized network resources will be managed by the modernized, flexible OSS and BSS, it is essential that they too be implemented, scaled, and continuously audited for compliance with standard implementations using open source tools. They also should be automated for optimal allocation of network resources. Some of the tools that are best for these capabilities:

  • Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform for container selection, instantiation, and implementation of the necessary software for OSS, BSS and network resources.
  • Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform for automating the system configuration and the regular system compliance checks against corporate standards.
  • Red Hat Process Automation Manager, Red Hat Decision Manager and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, for task and process automation.
  • Red Hat Integration for a flexible, distributed approach to integrationand process automation.

Delivering digital services

The services of the future will be software-based. Virtual network functions, delivering software-based enterprise solutions, such as firewall and WAN optimization, are forecast to generate about $7 billion for service providers in 2023, and IoT services will serve both the consumer and business markets. These services require the agility and flexibility that only a software-based infrastructure can deliver. Because these services will be delivered and managed by the same infrastructures (OSS and BSS), it behooves the service provider to use the same underlying technologies and solutions to develop these services or to source them from vendors that have adopted open source as the foundational technology in their solutions.

Conclusion

The transformation of CSPs into DSPs requires multiple, coordinated transformations of the network (from hardware based to cloud-native software based), the operations (from people-based operations supported by OSS and BSS to automated operations using a containerized cloud native software platform), and digital services (provided by a cloud-native microservices-based architecture). Delivering all of these using modern DevOps and CI/CD processes helps achieve the business agility and cost structure critical to competing in the transformed environment. Although, in some cases, it is advantageous to start afresh with the new software architectures and development and delivery processes, it is not necessary. Multiple paths for moving from monolithic systems to cloud-native systems, based on open source, have been proven.

This transformation requires that the network, digital services, and operations processes be automated to the greatest extent possible. Current open-source software tools and platforms, again, have proven to match exactly what is required for this transformation.

The future of networks is open source.

[1] For the webinars, see:
Introduction to modernizing OSS/BSS with microservices-based, cloud-native architectures,
Automate OSS/BSS to drive innovation and reduce operating costs,
Agile integration for OSS/BSS flexibility, reusability and scale,
Transforming OSS/BSS from monoliths to cloud-native applications.

Nokia raises its OSS game

In the build up to MWC 2020 Nokia has got one of its announcements in early, in the form of the ‘cloud-native’ Network Operations Master software.

Turns out 5G is pretty complicated and at times there’s so much going on that you can’t possibly expect flawed, obsolete humans to stay on top of it. That’s why you need greater automation, we’re told, and that has to start with the network operations software, or OSS in old money. Nokia prides itself on its software, so the launch of a new OSS suite is presumably a fairly big deal for them.

“With 5G forcing traditional functions, like revenue management and customer care, to the cloud and helping drive software deeper into the network, communication service providers need a modern approach to performing network operations that is automated, more efficient and scalable,” said Ron Haberman, CTO at Nokia Software. “The Nokia Network Operations Master delivers these capabilities and allows our customers to perform lifecycle operations with ease, efficiency, and confidence.”

Network slicing will make automation and a much higher level of cloudy flexibility critical features of any network software. NOM also covers AI, machine learning, etc and is designed to just take care of all the plumbing, allowing network operations centres to focus on the stuff only people can manage, if such a thing still exists.

“5G networks will require significantly more operations automation than past networks in order to achieve promised levels of efficiency and new service support,” Nokia got Dana Cooperson, Research Director at Analysys Mason, to say. “Nokia’s Network Operations Master is a cloud-native network management system that is underpinned by machine learning and automated actions and provides the types of tools mobile network operations teams need now for 5G.”

Here are a couple of vids that may tell you more.

What we talk about when we talk about digital transformation

Digital transformation is one of the core buzzwords used in the telecoms industry and beyond, right up there with 5G, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. What sets digital transformation apart from the others is the sheer number of different things it can stand for.

Here we are sharing the opening section of this Telecoms.com Intelligence special briefing to look into how the industry practitioners have undertaken the tasks of digitally transforming their businesses, what are the key success factors as well as the main obstacles to the success of these endeavours, and which approaches they prefer to adopt to tackle the challenges.

The full version of the report is available for free to download here.

In its broadest sense, digital transformation has been used in the socio-economic context by organisations like the United Nations. The 2019 Digital Strategy of United Nations Development Programme (“UNDP”) sees in digital transformation the pathways to the UN’s sustainable development goals. Although it heavily relies on the communications industry to help make the strategy happen, e.g. “digitally deliver policy and programme support”, UNDP’s strategy scope goes beyond that.

When it comes to the communications industry, digital transformation is often cited as an overarching theme to encapsulate all the telecom operators’ efforts to expand their role from mere connectivity provider to that of a digital service platform. However, there are so many components in such a context that one would likely get a different definition of digital transformation from every industry person one asked.

To start with, certain quarters of the industry, still occasionally conflate digitisation with digitalisation. It is therefore necessary to clarify the concept from outset. Digitisation refers to the change from analogue to digital. For example, the process can be called digitised when the application form to open a mobile account can be filled out on the computer instead of in paper form. Digitalisation refers to the change of processes, often focusing on automating previously manual processes, using digital technologies. In the example of opening a mobile account, the process can be viewed as digitalised when the whole application process is done online. Digitisation is therefore a prerequisite for digitalisation.

In the mobile telecoms world, digitisation was completed when 2G replaced (the retrospectively named) 1G networks. Digitalisation, on the other hand, is still an ongoing process and by all accounts will be with the industry for a long time, not the least because digital transformation is so much more complex than digitising the radio signal.

Despite that telecom operators may not agree with one another what digital transformation means to them individually, almost all of them agree collectively that they must undertake the transformation. This is both a strategic imperative and a competitive necessity. It is also widely agreed that the main objectives of digital transformation include:

  • To grow top line revenues as a way of sustaining the business, when the income growth from selling voice minutes, text messages, and data packages has stalled
  • To defend bottom line by improving operational efficiency
  • To develop technological and organisational capability to be more future ready

The following chapters of this report will look into the key steps the industry has taken and still needs to take, the major obstacles to overcome and the worst misunderstandings to dispel, to achieve digital transformation objectives. The discussion and analysis will draw heavily on the first-hand insight and experience from the practitioners.

Increase OSS and BSS efficiency with Red Hat agile integration

Disparate operations support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS) lack scalability and limit the value of network and application data. IT teams need federated access to legacy systems and data, while developers and partners need secure, easy access to systems.

An application programming interface (API)-centric approach to integration, secured via API management, addresses these issues for modern, containerized technology and application adoption. Exposing data and functionality using APIs supports reuse and modernization of legacy applications and systems, increases agility and scalability of internal and partner OSS and BSS systems, and reduces maintenance costs.

Red Hat’s API-centric agile integration solution for OSS and BSS processes and systems combines multivendor products with customer-owned systems. This Red Hat solution provides a single security framework that also supports TM Forum API specification standards and an automated, service-oriented approach.

Modernization of OSS/BSS with Open Source: Part 2: Automation

This article is sponsored by Red Hat

This is the second article of a four-part series. In the first, we described how open-source software can speed the evolution of the OSSs and BSSs to a modern cloud-native containerized microservices-based architecture. In this paper and in the companion webinar, we describe how open source can be used to automate business, network and IT to provide initial quick hits that rapidly bring value to a CSP and, eventually, lead to fully automated operations.

INTRODUCTION

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) must transform their service delivery and management infrastructure to remain competitive. At the forefront of this transformation is the modernization of the systems that enable the management of network services, the operations support systems (OSS) and the systems for managing the customer and the overall business operations, the business support systems (BSS). Modernization of these systems is essential for business imperatives today: agility, elastic capacity scaling, and service velocity.

The modernization of the OSS and BSS has three main imperatives:

  • Cloud-native platform for both development and operations
  • Integration architecture to coordinate disparate systems and hybrid environments, thus enabling iterative transformation
  • Automation of the business, network and IT

THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTOMATION IN OSS AND BSS MODERNIZATION

Legacy OSS and BSS are inadequate for the needs of the modern CSP because they were primarily designed to assist the humans in executing the processes that ran the business. To support the modern CSP, these systems need automation and orchestration to operate the business quickly and autonomously under the control and oversight of people. This requires the CSP to define a roadmap to ultimately automate all the processes that run the business and manage the network.

Automation is not new; it has been around since computers were brought into the CSPs’ operations in the 1950s. What is new is the need to automate all the processes end-to-end and to enrich the automation of changes in the systems themselves as they evolve to meet new business needs.

Automating business processes to drive business agility

Basic consumer business operations, where transaction volumes are large and the tasks relatively simple, have already been automated to a great extent. Today, customers expect self-service and a great overall digital experience. To meet these demands, CSPs are introducing and modifying services and operations at an unprecedented speed. Supporting this new normal necessitates increased automation in product life-cycle management and a fundamental redesign of the BSS that manages services and customer experience.

Automating processes for business services is inherently complex because they require human involvement in analyzing needs, mapping to available services, quoting the services during the sales process (taking into account what the business customer already has or will have), and installing, configuring and supporting the services on an ongoing basis. Thus, there is much opportunity for reducing cost, friction, and time in this area.

Automating network management processes to increase agility and reduce cost

Network management processes are very labor intensive. Specialized technicians are needed to plan and order a wide variety of equipment, install it, configure it. They must configure services on the equipment (driven by service orders) and ensure that the configuration information is up to date on an ongoing basis. Technicians usually accomplish this with command line interfaces (CLI), supported by spreadsheets, configuration playbooks, and some automation and orchestration tools either from vendors or purpose-built by the CSP. These processes must be streamlined and eventually replaced by fully automated, intelligent and self-managed processes under the oversight of humans.

Network and OSS/BSS modernization also requires a new type of automation

As digital transformation changes how CSPs deploy and manage network functions and how they deliver services, automation has a new requirement: to automate (or orchestrate) the instantiation of the right software in the right container on the right computing and storage infrastructure at the right time, dynamically connected with other software systems. As software-based functions and services become more ubiquitous, more automation and overall orchestration is needed to control operational costs and to deliver the speed that is essential for the CSP operations.

Journey to a closed-loop automated environment

Re-engineering processes is a long-term journey and must be undertaken in steps to reap short-term benefits but done in the context of a well-defined, adequately thought-out long-term architecture. This iterative process is essential to minimizing business impact and to ensuring that the transformation is adaptable to changing business needs and technology evolution. Furthermore, the automation journey should proceed in steps of increasing complexity, starting with automation at the isolated task level, then at the domain level, and finally, when all domains have been automated, simplifying the domain structure itself. This process, depicted in Figure 1, has been proven most effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1. OSS/BSS Automation Journey

Step 1: Tactical Task Automation

The first step is to find tasks to automate that can bring immediate benefit. Some of these are in the business area (BSS), but many more are in the network management area (OSS). In task automation, existing checklists of manual processes are automated using Robotic Process Automation techniques. Simply put, these are sets of processes with minimal branching and looping that perform repetitive tasks. Red Hat Ansible[1] Automation is an open-source solution that has been shown to be particularly effective in doing this. Examples of quick-hit task automation are shown in Table 1.

Step 2: End-to-End Domain Process AutomationTable 1. Sample Task Automation Use Cases

Once the individual tasks have been automated, CSPs can automate more sophisticated processes end-to-end. This requires automation software that uses business process model and notation, decision model and notation, a complex event processing engine and a constraint-based optimization engine. These can be found in open-source solutions such as the Red Hat Process Automation Manager[2] and the Red Hat Decision Manager[3].

For BSSs, the domains can be customer types, for example, consumer and business. Further breakdowns into service types are customary: for consumers domains can be voice, video, and data and for businesses they can be segment-targeted services, such as SD-WAN for enterprise.

For OSSs, the domains follow technology lines, such as optical transport, radio networks, IP transport, SD-WAN, IP-VPNs, and IoT end-point devices, and sometimes these domains are further broken down into islands for each vendor.[4]

Typical automation use cases at the domain level are shown in Table 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3: Domain Simplification and OptimizationTable 2. Example Process Automation Use Cases

After the major processes have been automated within their domains, CSPs should introduce cross-domain orchestration to coordinate across the boundaries of the domains. When sufficiently in place, the orchestration system can replace the underlying domain management systems, simplifying the operations architecture and reducing the number of systems supported.

CONCLUSION

OSS/BSS modernization is a journey whose benefits make it worth taking. To reap short-term benefits while balancing the overall needs of the business, the CSP should start with quick-hit task automation and ultimately migrate to end-to-end process automation. This enables the CSP to optimize the development costs and benefits on an ongoing basis. This approach has been proven to work better than a big-bang investment with its likely delayed benefits and potential business disruption. This transformation with continuously evolving automation can best be achieved by using open-source technology to ensure that there is no lock-in to proprietary or obsolete technologies. The open-source community is now large enough that technologies that are superseded drive the availability of conversion tools to the next new technology. Thus, open source-based transformation future-proofs the systems.

[1] See https://www.redhat.com/en/technologies/management/ansible.

[2] See https://www.redhat.com/en/technologies/jboss-middleware/process-automation-manager.

[3] See https://developers.redhat.com/products/red-hat-decision-manager/overview.

[4] The domain management is usually accomplished with a mixture of vendor-specific domain managers (the next generation of EMS/NMS systems) and multivendor cross-vendor and cross-domain orchestration systems.

Telecoms had a good 2019 and expects a better 2020 – survey

Our latest industry survey reveals a an optimistic outlook, largely bolstered by the launch of 5G commercial service, but also helped by innovations and progress in other quarters of the industry.

The newly published Telecoms.com 2019 Annual Industry Survey Report, produced based on the responses to the eponymous survey, took an overview of the industry landscape over the last 12 months and projects to 2020 and beyond. There is a perceptible optimism among the respondents. 57% of them think 2019 has either been good or excellent. Meanwhile, more than three quarters of the respondents are looking forward to a positive or very positive 2020.

“The waiting for the commercial launch of 5G finally came to an end this year,” said Scott Bicheno, Editorial Director of Telecoms.com. “Hardly a day would pass without us reporting some kind of 5G news, either new technology breakthrough or new business initiatives. Improved performance of many telecom companies including operators has also helped improve the mood of the industry, so have the exciting continuous innovations both on the technology and business fronts.”

The report also digs deep into the most pertinent topics of the industry, including 5G rollout and its next step prospect, opportunities and challenges of digital transformation, IoT and communication service providers’ role, and the modernisation of operating and business support systems (OSS/BSS).

The single biggest change in the industry landscape over the past year was apparently the launch of commercial 5G service in different parts of the world. Although so far, the most marketed service is high speed internet access, including on mobile and fixed mobile access, B2B services, including 5G serving other vertical industries, will clearly feature much stronger the near future.

“The success of 5G, including end-to-end network slicing, mandates a unified view across layers and domains, built upon understanding network and service topology and relevance to customers and devices,” commented Dr. Konstantinos Stavropoulos, Solution Marketing Lead, EXFO. “5G mandates actionable insights and intelligent automation to detect and resolve or to predict and prevent customer- and device-impacting issues in real time.”

Meanwhile, there is strong consensus among the respondents that telecom companies need to undergo big transformation to unleash the full potential of new technologies, primarily because the old business model, centred on connectivity provision, is losing values.

“The telecoms.com survey has been for several years the annual health check for the industry. It provides the real insight into what the industry really thinks and cuts through any hype and hyperbole. The results show the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly prospects,” said Martin Morgan, VP Marketing, Openet. “Thankfully this year there’s been more good than bad and the outlook is refreshingly positive. As the results showed the industry has turned a corner: digital transformation is well on track, new revenue streams are opening up and 5G is being rolled out.”

IoT is one of those industries that connectivity is only a small piece on the whole value chain, and telecom operators expect, and are expected, to play a much stronger role in the ecosystem.

“The 2019 survey highlights that IoT investments are well advanced today with the majority of respondents having already started to introduce services, and smart cities, utilities and industrial/manufacturing topping the list of prospective verticals,” said Ann Hatchell, CMO of Incognito Software. “Achieving excellent IoT service quality coupled with operational efficiency is clearly top of mind for CSPs and IoT providers. The research reinforced the importance of remote device management in delivering extensive automation in zero-touch provisioning, automated device discovery, and access to data telemetry to improve business intelligence and monetization opportunities,” added Hatchell.

New opportunities, presented by 5G and other new technologies and new business models, require both the network-facing and the customer-facing support networks to catch up with the change. It is encouraging to see that an overwhelming majority of the respondents recognise the demands for modernisation.

“In recent years, B2B enterprise monetisation was overshadowed by the focus on consumer monetisation which demanded digitalisation in a highly price-sensitive and data-focussed market. B2B enterprise monetisation has been allowed to fall behind in terms of service experience, efficiency and personalisation,” commented Gary Bunney, CEO of MDS Global.

“With the advent of 5G, a growing SME market and the exploding IoT market, this has to change. There are increasing requirements for ‘designed-for’ B2B BSS platforms, delivered as a cloud service, which enable cost-efficiencies and dedicated service delivery. Business demands new digital engagement tools designed for efficient and personalised interaction with enterprise markets, resellers and partners.”

Microservices-Based Cloud Native Modernization of OSS/BSS with Open Source

This article is sponsored by Red Hat

Market forces and changes in subscriber needs and expectations are leading Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to transform their entire service delivery and management infrastructure. At the forefront of this transformation is the modernization of the systems that enable the management of network services, the operations support systems (OSS) and systems for managing the customer and the overall business operations, the business support systems (BSS). Current systems were built for a business paradigm that is increasingly outdated; they are rigid, siloed, rely on extensive human involvement and often require esoteric skills. Modernization of these systems enables CSPs to address requirements for becoming the Digital Service Providers (DSPs) of the future: business agility, elastic scale and capacity, service velocity and the ability to continuously reinvent themselves.

CSPs can build a foundation for successful modernization by standardizing on managed open source because it provides tools and services optimal for continuous integration and automation, critical to future-proof the complex digital business transformation.

THE OSS AND BSS MODERNIZATION IMPERATIVES

The modernization of the OSS and BSS systems has three main requirements:

 


Figure 1 OSS/BSS modernization imperatives

In this article, we focus on the evolution to cloud-native containerized microservices, powered by managed open source software.

THE OSS AND BSS MODERNIZATION VISION

CSPs need to drive significantly lower costs and a commensurate increase in agility in their business and operations to survive in today’s competitive environment, Their legacy OSS and BSS systems were designed primarily to support the people who operate the workflows (hence, the names Operations and Business Support Systems). These systems need automation and orchestration to evolve toward operating the business, autonomously, under the control and oversight of people.

The new environment will be microservices based. OSS and BSS functions will be instantiated as containerized microservices interconnected via a service mesh, guided by business policies and governance rules, and ultimately overseen by people. This architecture will eliminate silos and provide the underpinnings for continuous integration and continuous development (CI/CD).


Figure 2. OSS/BSS Modernization Vision

EVOLVING TO A MICROSERVICES ARCHITECTURE

The modernization of the OSS and BSS systems should proceed in steps. Undertaking a massive transformation of OSS and BSS systems could result in business disruption and would likely not succeed. Instead, the service provider should start by identifying discrete tasks and well-defined business processes to automate. This enables the organization to reap quick optimization results with minimal disruption, to prove the new technology, and to give employees the opportunity to work in a microservices-based environment. At the same time, the telco can containerize and enhance old systems with API management wrappers. This will require minimal development and disruption, but will improve the reliability, scalability, and IT operations costs.

As new capabilities are added, they should be added as containerized microservices in a cloud native architecture. Once the operator has a substantial set of microservices, it can proceed to redefine the management domains, collapsing the separate domains into a rationalized cross-domain architecture that is optimized for automated operations, not duplicating the organizational structure of the CSP.


Figure 3. OSS/BSS Modernization Journey

As for “monolithic” legacy systems, they will be re-platformed (“lifted and shifted” into containers for more efficient IT operations) and refactored over time into smaller pieces, which may eventually be further refactored into sets of microservices. This may happen all at once, or in stages, balancing the refactoring of the legacy monolith with building new (and refactored) features and functions on the new cloud native architecture.

ENABLING MICROSERVICES ACROSS THE ORGANIZATION

The migration to microservices should be accompanied by important changes across the organization. In the words of Jez Humble, “Reminder: If you’re building microservices, you’re building a distributed system.” Therefore, along with the modernization journey described above, the operator should carefully introduce organizational changes. For example, to maximize the benefits of the distributed microservices environment, the operator should incentivize collaboration, adopt DevOps principles, and introduce the right organizational capabilities for continuous development, continuous testing and continuous delivery. Only when the service provider has taken this comprehensive approach to modernization will it fully realize its goal to become a digital service provider.

CONCLUSION

The modernization journey will be a long process, but one whose benefits match the continuing investment required. A “big bang” investment would likely only deliver benefits in the outer years and may lead to business disruption. However, this transformation process means that the operator will be operating in a hybrid environment, gradually migrating functionality to the cloud. This ongoing transformation with continuous development and integration can best be achieved by using open source technology to ensure that there is no “lock in” to proprietary or obsolete technologies. The open source community is now large enough that technologies that are superseded drive conversion tools available to the next technology. Thus, open source-based transformation future proofs the systems.

Amdocs launches ‘future ready’ RevenueONE billing system

Telecoms software vendor Amdocs has unveiled its bid to bring billing into the 5G and cloud era, in the form of RevenueONE.

The Amdocs marketing team saw fit to describe it as ‘game-changing’ in the headline of the press release. What game that is, whether it needs changing and whether or not this launch does so, we’ll leave to others to establish. The top line is that this is a billing system designed to help operators exploit all the new revenue opportunities we’re constantly being told have been generated by 5G and the move to the cloud.

To flesh out the press release we spoke to Ron Porter, Product Marketing Manager at Amdocs. He explained that 5G, IoT, connected environments, etc create all sorts of new billing opportunities for operators, but legacy billing systems aren’t geared to exploit them. A lot of this comes down to the kind of speed and flexibility that comes with having virtualized functions in the cloud, especially the edge. He concluded that the ultimate aim was to offer a billing system that is ‘future ready’.

“Amdocs RevenueONE brings together proven scalability and cloud-native architecture to accelerate the launch of new 5G services, while supporting existing products and offers, said Anthony Goonetilleke, Amdocs President of Media, Network and Technology. “At its core, the RevenueONE blueprint was built to scale, and was proven to support 200 million subscribers on a single platform.  This robust architecture allows CSPs to handle the velocity of new service launches, and the variety of new business models, that will come with 5G, while cutting time to market from days to minutes.

“Our goal was to continue to significantly reduce our hardware footprint while scaling to support the influx of new connected devices and services. Utilizing edge-based architecture to reduce network traffic, we believe RevenueONE will grow with our customers as consumers embrace new business models and services.”

The BSS/billion/digital transformation space is pretty competitive at the moment, with various vendors queueing up to giver operators the tools to capitalize on their 5G investments. If products like RevenueONE enable even half of what they promise the onus, as ever, is on operators to adapt the way they do business. 5G is still at an early stage, but the winners of it will surely be those operators that use it as a platform for genuine innovation.

Telecoms industry set to reveal its hopes and fears

It’s that time of the year when Telecoms.com once again conducts the signature Annual Industry Survey. Answering it will not only let us know what you think, but will benefit the telecoms industry as a whole, and in turn, yourselves too.

The 2019 Annual Industry Survey (AIS) has just gone live. True to its mission, this survey is designed to take the pulse of the telecoms industry, in particular of those topics most pertinent to operators, suppliers, technology vendors, analysts, consultants, and everyone else with a stake in the telecoms ecosystem. It’s my job to write collate the responses and present them to you.

This year’s survey covers many of the core technology topics the telecoms decision-makers are most interested in reading about, including Industry Landscape, 5G, Digital Transformation, IoT, and BSS/OSS. Undoubtedly the readers of this story, you, are in the best position to tell us, and the industry, how you see the current status of the industry and where you see it heading for. So, please, click here to answer it.

I was thinking about giving this story a title like “Your Industry Needs You”, but that would be too Kitchener-esque, plus I don’t have the beard to go with it. Instead, I’ll go full Churchillian: I have nothing to offer but a high-quality survey report for free, a sense of contribution, and the chance to win a new Apple Watch.

If this is your first experience with our AIS, or if you’re simply interested in finding out how correct (or incorrect) we have been with our understanding and predictions, feel free to check out last year’s results.

Another Vodafone billing fail hits roaming customers

Vodafone UK suffered yet another billing-related PR disaster as some of its customers piled up huge charges while roaming and were consequently disconnected.

The incidents took place over the weekend, just in time to make it onto mainstream media grateful for something to report on a Monday morning. One of the first Vodafone customers to flag the matter up on Twitter was David Maddison, whose trip to Malta was compromised by him suddenly being hit with five grand in charges that he wasn’t expecting.

After a few hours Vodafone tweeted that it was aware of the problem and promised customers would not be incorrectly billed. This was apparently insufficient for Andy Pearch, also travelling in Malta, who was seriously stressing out about being incorrectly billed. He was eventually placated by Vodafone, but remained unimpressed by the speed with which the problem was addressed.

“We are very sorry that yesterday, some customers could not use data or calling services when roaming abroad,” said Vodafone’s emailed statement. “This was due to a technical error, which we have now fixed. Any affected customer should restart their phone to ensure that services are resumed.

“As a result of the issue, some customers are receiving billing messages in error; we are working through these as an urgent priority and removing any errors from customer accounts. Customers will not be charged and do not need to worry about contacting us as we are proactively checking accounts and fixing any issues.”

Vodafone also explained that The spending limit cap was inadvertently triggered by a software change, which must have brought back bad memories of is major BSS fail three years ago. It added that it affected around 40,000 customers, but it’s now fixed. Hopefully for Vodafone this was an isolated glitch, and it’s bad luck that it happened on a Friday, but it still represents another setback for a company that has historically been criticised for its customer service.