It might not be the answer anyone wanted to hear, but it is probably the one they are least surprised to hear.
The question of what the next generation of OSS should be was the discussion at the ‘OSS in the Era of SDN & NFV’ event in London, but there isn’t really much of an answer to offer. This isn’t necessarily a massive issue though. When you consider the number of moving parts in the telecoms and technology industries, a right answer will always be an old answer before too long.
So perhaps we should be asking different questions. Finding a specific answer might be a maze to madness, but looking at whether we have made any progress is certainly an area which will offer more encouragement.
“OSS and telco transformation is like trying to change the wheels of a car while driving down the motorway,” said Heavy Reading’s James Crawshaw.
Some might call that a cop-out, but it is very true. Transformation in any sense of the world is complicated because you not only have to make sure the wheels are tightly bolted on, the oil is topped up, the engine is configured correctly and your passengers are safe and comfortable, while also keeping an eye on whether the car is pointing the right direction. And don’t forget, you can’t spend too much.
Extending the metaphor, OSS is getting lost in a growing traffic jam of buzzwords, acronyms and breakthrough technologies. SDN and NFV may no longer be the most prominent conversations in the telco space anymore, though they still are important. But what about cloud native? Microservices? Containers? How can DevOps be coherently integrated? And who is keeping an eye on 5G and the IoT trends which are emerging?
“There is a lot of noise right now, and OSS is the bottleneck in the telco transformation journey,” said Crawshaw.
This might not sound that encouraging, but we picked up on a couple of underlying comments throughout the morning presentations which do offer a glimmer of hope.
Firstly, telcos seem to have recognised the problem. The problem is not the messaging platforms which destroyed SMS revenues, or the OTT businesses which are capitalizing on the network investments. The problem is the fact telcos were stood still while the rest of the world moved on.
There has been an attitude of superiority from the telcos over the last couple of years, because they used to be the guys who bossed business. Through the mobile revolution, the telcos were the guys to invest in, and the dictators of the technology world. But now they aren’t. They have been relegated to the role of utility, and the need to search for new ideas is apparent.
Part of searching for new ideas is an inward process as well. It is the need to evolve and compete. Right now the telcos are the ones who are facilitating the massive surge in internet traffic, but not capitalizing on it. The OTTs are at the top of the pyramid collecting the lion’s share of the revenues and the telcos are at the bottom collecting the scraps.
After a period of denial, the talks at the event seem to have accepted this new world order. And more importantly, there does seem to be a plan to tackle it. Part of this is new ideas, and part of this is transformation of various areas of the business, including OSS.
The second change which was noted across the morning sessions was around those who are contributing to these decisions and evolutions of the business. Whereas this has previously been a bottom up approach, there are more board members and commercially orientated individuals getting involved.
This is quite an important shift, as it is no-longer just a technology decision, but more commercial considerations need to be taken into consideration. While this might sound like a simple development, the importance should not be devalued. More people understand business than they do technology. It makes these projects more accessible and more relatable, and because of this, these projects are now instantly more respectable.
The final talking point which was brought up was to do with the mindset which is taken when looking at technologies like OSS. In its early days, OSS transformation was thought of as a cost saving process, which is all well and good, but it does run the risk of being shuffled to the side. Saving £2 million a year (or however much it is) won’t make you a leader in your field, but creating a product which generates an extra £2 million a year will start to turn heads.
Views on OSS have started to shift away from cost efficiencies and more towards the idea of creating new services, and therefore additional revenues. Business leaders in general, especially in the telco space, will also be more turned on by the idea of making money than saving it. The idea an OSS transformation can more quickly or easily bring an offering to market, will ensure such projects are taken more seriously.
The last two are critically important not only in the OSS space, but the telco industry on the whole. It shows a definite shift in attitude; these are no-longer reactive discussions, fighting back the waves of challenges, but a proactive one, searching for the calmer and richer waters. Because of this more commercially orientated approach, these projects are more likely to succeed. Appeal to the basic human nature of constantly wanting more.
Perhaps the discussions at the event were what many people were hoping for. There is no simple answer for OSS in next generation era of SDN and NFV right now. But we’re heading in the right direction.