The SDN & NFV world: Things not to lose sight of!
Natural human tendency is to focus more on things that affects our present rather than the future. Coming to things that affect us for which there is a lack of awareness about the “extent” of issue caused, there would be little or no attention from us to resolve them.
Let us look at the priority with which investment decisions are made by telecom service provider on the software systems that they wish to have. Before a service provider can go live with a product offer for their end customers, they need to have the network in place to support the product. The priority for the software systems they should have to support their products are:
- The first and most important is the billing software. They do not want go wrong in the billing as it would directly affect their revenues.
- Second is the assurance software to make sure the network and the services are up and running.
- The fulfillment software to automate as much as possible the order to activation process
- A software which will help in strategic decision making like a planning software.
Above are the verticals, now let us look at the horizontals which are the domain.
- The first and most important aspect that is recorded well is that of the end customer. The entire lifecycle of a customer, right from acquisition to end of service to the customer in most operator environments is maintained well.
- The second would be product life cycle management. This is important to know what needs to be billed based on the product that the customer is using.
- The next important aspect is the maintenance of service life cycle.
- By the time Telecom service provider gets all of the above going and fully operational, it is already a mammoth task for them and they tend to lose focus on Resource lifecycle management.
A recent survey that was conducted by TMForum led by Subex revealed the following findings:
- 1 in 3 operators do not measure returns on CAPEX investment
- 77% of the respondents believed that inadequate asset utilization leads to increase in costs
- 55% of the respondents believed that network planning is based on guesses
- 64% believed that capex planning is driven by technology and not business objectives
From the above findings it is clear that getting the right business process and tools around resource life cycle management is extremely critical for the long term health and efficient operations of a telecom service provider.
In this blog, I would like to discuss about the exciting new world of SDN, NFV and cloud technologies and the relevance of resource lifecycle management in this new world. While a part of the telecom operator community is very aggressively embracing the concepts of SDN and NFV already into their network, there are others who are waiting and watching to see how things progress. I strongly believe, for the telecom industry to break the shackles of “reducing margins” and “increase in the need of CAPEX/OPEX investments” that it is currently facing, the key answers can be provided by SDN, NFV and cloud technologies.
It is obvious that maximum energy is spent by telecom service providers, vendor community and standards bodies like ONF, ETSI, IETF, OPNFV etc. on how the network will work in this new world. Also, what I observed is that a bulk of the energy is being spent on defining standards around next gen BSS and OSS by TMForum, ETSI and ONF are in the following areas:
- VNF Manager
- VI (Virtualized Infrastructure) Manager
- SDN controllers
- Network and Application adapters
- Protocols used for communication with the devices and applications
- Policy engine
- APIs etc.
As we go about defining the standards, let us look at covering the life cycles of all the domains starting from Customer life cycle, product life cycle, service life cycle all the way to resource life cycle. In this new world, resources can be physical compute, storage and network resources or virtual resources like software licenses. Let us not restrict ourselves in defining standards only on the operational aspects of resource life cycle management (OSS inventory) which was done in the eTOM model of TM Forum. Some work is being done by one group under the ZOOM initiate of TM Forum to define standards on onboarding of the software resource. This is definitely good, but we need to cover all aspects of the life cycle right from onboarding till end of life.
So what if we do not do it, the systems will work, be operational and deliver services to the end customer. But we will probably end up being in the same state that we are in today, i.e. not being able to monitor how the CAPEX decisions of the past have fared, optimize on the investments already made, learn and improve in order to make better CAPEX decisions going forward.
I would like to leave you with the following thought before I end my blog. If we ask any telecom service provider on the number of database or web server licenses they currently have deployed in their data centers, they may or may not have an answer. But if we go to the extent of asking how many of these licenses are in use and in how many cases we have a compliance issue, I am pretty certain that almost all of them will not have a precise answer to the question. Going forward, if all the network functions are going to be software running on COTs hardware, the need to have answers to the above questions will be even more important.
Join the webinar on ” Telecom Asset Management in SDN & NFV world” to discuss more.
“Avinash is a seasoned professional with over 13 years of experience in the Telecommunication B/OSS space. Avinash is a graduate from Illinois Institute of Technology with a masters in Telecommunications and Software engineering. He currently heads Product Management for the Network Analytics suit of Products at Subex. Avinash has experience defining strategy and roadmap for products ranging from products which have been in the market for over a decade to launching a brand new product to the Market. Prior to moving into the Product ownership role, Avinash has played multiple roles within the product engineering, delivery and pre-sales organizations like Product Architect, Solutions Architect, Technical Sales etc. An active member of TM Forum, he is working closely with the Asset Management group of TM Forum in defining business process standards for Asset Management and assurance practices of Telecom Service Providers.”