The "operations silo" problem has been troubling telcos for some time. Some telcos recognized the problem but hoped there was an easy way out. This has meant slightly different things to different operators. But what they all have in common is a desire for protection while the problem gets fixed in the background.
The hope has been that the solution could be included in a regular (or a series of regular) procurements, comprehensive standards as requirements in tenders. Unfortunately, that is not working. Because vendors, motivated by a desire to differentiate their products and maintain margins, tend to limit standards to 30% to 40% of their interfaces, making systems 60% to 70% proprietary. So now telcos must face the problem head on. The first step in doing that is to develop business cases that clearly show what is at stake, then fund real solutions based on those business cases.
Business Cases Will Generate Sales & Profits
Telcos must develop business cases that clearly show what is at stake, then fund real solutions based on those business cases, argues Mark Cummings.
Some telcos tried to get their conventional vendors to include a solution to the silo problem wrapped up in the small print of a large "normal" procurement. In order to do this, they hoped to get standards promulgated by the existing standard organizations that could be referenced in standard documents used in such procurements. The Next Generation Converged Requirements (NGCOR) project of Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) was a strong effort in this direction. It produced helpful results, but not a solution. The intent was to publish requirements that would force 3GPP and TMF to create such standards. The effort did result in the very valuable creation of the Umbrella Information Model (UIM), but fell short of the ultimate goal. But here again, motivated by a desire to avoid commodity pricing to retain the ability to value price and maintain margins, traditional vendors successfully limited standardization to 30% to 40%.
The next major push occurred in the network functions virtualization (NFV) arena. NFV has a certain sense of inevitability based on the sense that data centers full of appliances rather than cloud-based platforms will be difficult to staff in the future. Good work has come out of the NFV effort. Maybe most significantly, the multiple standard development organizations (MultiSDO) effort to build a high level Information model (possibly an extension of the UIM) across nine of the significant SDOs and open source organizations. Although originally positioned as a fast track, standards efforts in this area are entering their fourth year and appear to be headed in the same 30% to 40% standard solutions, with vendors offering vendor-specific solutions. This again leaves systems with 60% to 70% proprietary interfaces leading to ongoing operations data silo's very problematic costs, and negative QoS/new service impacts. (See Capturing the Promise of Virtualization.)
Along the way, there were some who hoped open source projects would deliver "free software" solutions. Unfortunately, although open source provides many advantages, its results cannot be deployed or supported without cost. The next big push is likely to be "wait for 5G," with the same 30% to 40% result.
What has become clear is that although they have value, these approaches leave telcos with the silo problem. Thus another approach is necessary. This new approach must confront the problem head-on. To do so, telcos must create budgets for solving the silo problem. The benefits of solving the problem in specific telcos must be documented. This means telcos must develop business cases based on clear use cases.
There has been some reticence in the telco community surrounding the development of business cases. Some middle managers worry about revealing to senior management how serious the problems are, while some senior executives worry about how financial analysts will react. So, to attack business cases the fear of exposure must be overcome.
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It appears the telco industry is now overcoming this reticence. For example, ETSI NFV ISG has begun a serious effort on use cases, which complement business cases. This year, industry conferences have started including tracks on use cases and business cases. So now there is an opportunity to attack the serious network operations problems head on. Unfortunately, if telcos don't take advantage of the opportunity to create business cases now, they will have the serious operations data silo problems that leave them vulnerable to another wave of disruptive entrants that could present existential challenges.
— Mark Cummings, CTO, Orchestral Networks, and Jayanta Dey, CTO, Media and Telecom Business Unit, Wipro. Special to The New IP