Much attention has been paid to what SDN and NFV have done to change the potential of the communications landscape. We know it is revolutionary. We know it will be a long journey.
But what we haven’t talked enough about is where this revolution will intersect with what the customer wants. Because if we don’t think first about why we’re taking something from a hardware- to a software-driven world, then doesn’t virtualisation become more of a science project than a useful transformation?
There’s one thing that defines the intersection of promise and value, and practicality. It captures the spirit of what the customer finds so compelling, and at the same time, if it’s accomplished, could provide broader lessons for how we fully realise NFV.
Today’s enterprises have cloud on the brain. As a result, they want simple, on-demand, self-service network-type services, from ordering and control to end-to-end service assurance and performance monitoring. Oh, and they want these to be priced quickly and with extreme flexibility.
The reason that service providers find this so hard to deliver is not because of the network itself. Rather it’s more because of what does (or doesn’t) happen between business and operations support systems (BSS/OSS) and processes, and SDN/NFV-enabled infrastructure. And the limited process integration with wholesale partners doesn’t help either.
This gap is fundamental to understanding the role that automation and orchestration play in making real progress toward an NFV/SDN-driven communications reality. Now let’s do something about it.
Step 1: Standardise the approach
A holistic, standards-based approach will reduce risk over the long term. Solutions or approaches that simply enable automation with limited agility or those that are silo-orientated often create long term pain.
Industry standards are evolving quickly and making this end-to-end vision real. Collectively, the TM Forum’ ZOOM, the MEF Forum’s Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) and ETSI’s NFV MANO programmes articulate an end-to-end framework, including architecture components, business processes, data models and APIs, for enabling NaaS over hybrid traditional and virtualised infrastructure.
Step 2: Modernise the BSS/OSS
What good is a speedy car that’s stuck in first gear? It’s great to have new agile network technologies to play with, but most service providers are locked with old processes and barely flexible management tools. That’s where a modern BSS/OSS with built-in agile design principles comes in. Here’s what you need to create a contemporary BSS/OSS architecture:
- A configurable metadata-driven solution, where you define, for any domain and service type, specifications and models for product, service and resource layers together with the fulfillment patterns and behavioral policies associated with each
- A layered and dynamic orchestration approach that logically decouples and abstracts the commercial operations, services operations and resource management layers including NFV-based functions and IT resources
- An open architecture that puts the control in the hands of service providers, leveraging industry standards and best practices in both generic and specialised ways, with a high degree of pre-built fulfillment patterns for any domain any service.
Working together, these design principles localise change impacts while maintaining flexibility, allowing service providers to quickly and cost-effectively respond to new market requirements – either at the commercial or network level – significantly increasing their business agility.
Step 3: Take the leap
Transformations are inherently risky. As such, service providers need to adopt a pragmatic, phased approach to the journey. The key is to leverage a multi-layer, dynamic orchestration framework that can do three things: span all business, service and network layers; respect your existing operations environment; and support you in moving toward agile and real-time operations. With this kind of framework, dynamic orchestration can be implemented incrementally for both automated and manual processes, supporting new automation initiatives and providing a home for manual processes as they become increasingly automated over time.
By taking this approach, service providers can move from SDN/NFV pilot projects to deployable market initiatives rightly focused on the bigger picture – making sure that SDN/NFV actually goes somewhere and generates some revenue along the way. When service providers have business and operations agility combined with a dynamic network, within a framework that can quickly monetise new investments and business offerings, they can fundamentally change their business and have a meaningful path forward for capitalising on the rapidly expanding enterprise cloud market opportunity for both on-demand network and IT services.