Transitioning to a real-time enterprise customer experience while enabling business agility

Ahead of his participation at TM Forum Live!, Oracle’s Stéphan Pelletier looks at how multi-domain and multi-layer orchestration, network virtualization and SDN, and business-to-business APIs are three critical IT enablers for transforming the enterprise customers’ experience, as they deliver greater business, service, and network agility for the service provider.

The rate of change in IT and networking is accelerating. Both are becoming increasingly virtualized so that service providers and business leaders in all industries achieve the agility and adaptability they need to thrive in a ‘Now Economy’: an economy of instant gratification and on-demand access, visibility and control, and one of highly personalized and context-driven customer experiences.

The real-time customer experience that characterizes the consumer telecom and IT services must also become a reality for the enterprise, despite the inherent complexity of enterprise services. It should no longer take weeks to deliver enterprise services (barring installation of new physical connectivity when required), or days even for simple service changes.

Because manual processes and ecosystems comprising outdated and/or disparate OSS/BSS still plague service providers, it can be hard to get a complex enterprise service like IP VPN or Carrier Ethernet going for an enterprise customer. Even where physical connectivity exists, it often takes weeks to fulfill such orders. It is known to also take an average of five to six days to address a customer’s request for the simplest service configuration changes. That has to change.

Transformation of service providers’ operations ecosystems and practices will take place through IT, cloud, NFV, SDN and orchestration initiatives. There are many underway, with the aim of delivering a real-time experience to enterprise customers and increasing business agility for both customer and service provider.  This requires overhauling the overall ecosystem of order-to-cash and assurance processes. This is to ensure those processes are supported by an agile operations software architecture which fosters rapid introductions or changes to product offerings, services and network technologies.

Service providers will tap into the potential of the Now Economy through three critical steps:

  • Move business toward hybrid IT/Cloud/Telecom paradigms;
  • Employ dynamic order-to-cash orchestration principles and technologies; and
  • Increase real-time partner collaboration via standard APIs.
Moving toward network virtualization, cloud and SDN

The IT world is already agile, so it is not surprising to see IT and cloud technologies being re-purposed for telecoms, to drive innovation and much-needed agility for service providers.

With network virtualization, not only can service providers leverage standard computing hardware for any network function, but the network, paired with the critical NFV orchestration function, can manage its own lifecycle.  This includes scaling up and down without involving network technicians.

From the enterprise customer’s perspective, network virtualization allows rapid availability of new, cloud-based services delivered in near-real-time. Service providers can quickly spin up network functions for their customers, on-demand, to deliver a whole new value proposition and open up untapped revenue streams.

With SDN and network virtualization comes momentum for network as a service (NaaS) bundled with cloud-based value-add services, and new options for subscription and pay-as-you-go models. These appeal to enterprises seeking dynamic ways of deploying and managing IT systems and their business. They want to readily accommodate fluctuations in demand, activity and availability without negative impact on the service experience.

NFV and SDN are facilitating technologies for offering NaaS and other real-time services, but they are not enough on their own. The service provider must operationalize these network technologies, along with the existing network infrastructure, within a broader framework that orchestrates the full order-to-cash and assurance process spectrum.  This should not only address automation requirements but also the ability to rapidly adapt to new and evolving business and technical requirements –  that is, deliver the end goal of business agility.

Multi-layer dynamic orchestration

It takes weeks and months to deliver complex enterprise services because: the processes are complex and difficult to automate; designing such end-to-end services is complex; configuring the network is complex; and there typically is no API between partner providers. All of these factors trigger many, many manual operations that have to be carried out by multiple levels of specialists. It is also worth noting that many attempts to automate the full order-to-cash process spectrum have led to inflexible and stale BSS/OSS environments.

The antidote is multi-layer dynamic orchestration with modular abstractions, which provides a framework for empowering service providers to simplify their processes, even when delivering complex services. This is done by using models and provisioning behaviors (fulfillment patterns, objects mapping, policies, actions and so on), for decoupled order-processing layers. Such decoupled layers include processes related to product offerings, technical services (and micro-services) and network implementations. When a complex enterprise order is received, orchestration plans are dynamically generated and coordinated between the various layers to provide automated service delivery with real-time order visibility and status updates.

Multi-layer dynamic orchestration with modular abstractions is not just about automation. It is also an essential means for driving process and architecture simplicity by localizing change impacts as new products, services and technologies are introduced to keep the service provider’s processes agile and future-proofed.

Standardized B2B APIs

Most enterprise services, such as an IP VPN or Carrier Ethernet, require one or more off-net partners to deliver the service. As such, the time has come for service providers to partner in a more automated way with others (application providers, cloud providers, content providers, access providers, etc.) if they are to deliver the real-time business needs of enterprise customers.

To achieve an on-demand, cloud IT-like ordering experience, orchestration must invoke standard B2B APIs for full automation.  Though standard B2B APIs are nascent, diverse standard defining organizations, such as TM Forum and MEF, are working hard to evolve them. From a domain-agnostic perspective, TM Forum already proposes a set of maturing REST APIs – likely the best starting point for the telecom industry, at least for B2B orchestration.

Many current standard organizations’ efforts are spent defining APIs for use within a single service provider’s ecosystem.  While this is valuable, we likely need to focus more on APIs for linking partners to realize faster and more automated partner ecosystems.

Key takeaways

It is possible to bring a real-time customer experience to the enterprise as well, even for extremely complex enterprise services. As IT, cloud, NFV, SDN and orchestration initiatives are picking up momentum, service providers’ operations ecosystems and practices are increasingly built for agility, flexibility and speed.

Over time, an agile operations software architecture will support more automated order-to-cash and assurance processes for complex services and enable much more rapid introductions or changes to product offerings, services and network technologies.

It cannot be overstated, however, that the B2B APIs, which foster real-time collaboration with partners, will be a critical component. For this reason, service providers should be working vigilantly together to develop those APIs within the various related standard organizations’  initiatives, using maturing REST APIs as the likely foundation for B2B orchestration in the telecom industry.

Join me at TM Forum Live!  for the  Zero Touch, Business-Ready NaaS 4.0 with vCPE over the Elastic Network Catalyst and associated panel discussion to see an automated order-to-cash process involving two service providers and effective B2B interactions and orchestration. See the business value of NaaS over an agile infrastructure that demonstrates how MEF’s Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) and TM Forum’s ZOOM’s programs are aligning over hybrid networks using NFV technologies and principles.

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About The Author

Mr. Pelletier is the Director of Product Management for Service Fulfillment and Orchestration solutions within Oracle’s Global Communications Business Unit. He has worked in the field of Communications Operations Management for over 25 years as part of both network equipment and independent software vendors, with product management and software development roles. Mr. Pelletier is actively engaged on Oracle’s strategy for IP/MPLS, Carrier Ethernet, NaaS, SDN and NFV orchestration, and agile orchestration and control solutions. He is also currently very involved in the MEF Service Operations Committee. Mr. Pelletier holds an M.B.A. degree from the University of Ottawa and a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada

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