Sponsored by: Ericsson
I spoke to Alvise Carlon, Head of Digital Services, Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania, India about some of the challenges of digital transformation, Ericsson’s extensive involvement in the digital transformation journey and how telcos can prosper.
MN: What are the biggest business challenges telcos face in deploying network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN)?
AC: NFV and NFV are a paradigm shift for telcos. Their challenges include, the business case to manage both the native and virtual infrastructure, technology choices as well as organizational maturity and willingness to embrace this change.
Telcos need to reconsider the whole lifecycle of how their products are planned, deployed, managed, optimized and subsequently retired on virtual infrastructure. Today these ‘processes’ are often silo-based and take up extended periods of time. Within NFV and SDN, the ‘processes’ take less than a day or even minutes. Hence, despite the challenges, we see telcos embracing this change more strongly than ever.
MN: What are the biggest technological/operational challenges in deploying NFV and SDN?
AC: Maturity of solution and resource skills. While virtualization has been prevalent within the broader IT industry for many years, for telcos’ core services, it is still relatively new. NFV and SDN are young and thus there is an element of risk in embracing new technology versus the tried and tested routes. This new technology coupled with the shortage of skilled resources available to actually deploy and manage this technology, means the ask for a business is to embrace the risk. This risk element is a component of the business case that can make it unpalatable.
MN: Service providers are recognizing that they need to completely rethink operations support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS) and move to something far more agile. How will tomorrow’s OSS/BSS architecture be different?
AC: Tomorrow’s architecture will need to be highly adaptable and flexible. The architecture needs to be able to supply real-time services to meet demand. To meet this demand, the OSS/BSS will need to become hardware agnostic and more software driven.
IT industry trends of elastic scaling, containerization, cloudification, etc. will drive tomorrow’s architecture. For example, OSS/BSS still needs to enable the service provider to manage resources that are a part of the products that they sell to customers and provide care services for. The difference comes in in how OSS/BSS works in the future, and Ericsson is enabling end-to-end and real-time management of OSS/BSS for providers.
Another difference is how analytics, machine learning and AI will remove most of the manual processes and human intensive activities enabling end-to-end and real-time OSS/BSS. As mentioned in the first question above, this does require a change in ways of working, and this has a bearing on the organizational structure and competence profiles of traditional service providers, to fully embrace what future OSS/BSS would enable.
MN: Ericsson has been involved in several important TM Forum Catalyst projects focusing on digital transformation and end-to-end orchestration of services delivered to end customers. What have you learned from these projects? Are there other case studies you can point to?
AC: Ericsson was involved in two catalyst projects as part of this year’s TM Forum Live Asia, Unified Digital Infrastructure and Open APIs for IoT Platforms.
The key learnings from Unified Digital Infrastructure are:
- Successfully demonstration that multi-vendor integration is possible at every layer of the cloud infrastructure thereby providing guidance on the future of the openness of the industry
- First time demonstration of ONAP, orchestrating both telco and IT workloads
- True validation for multi-vendor/multi-workload/multi-VIM
- True collaborative approach lead to first integrations between vendors and platforms.
- Use any combination of orchestrator, VIM, hypervisor and hardware products to manage the lifecycle of virtualized workloads
- Fulfillment of virtualized enterprise, IT and network workloads as defined in the service catalog with zero-touch orchestration throughout the Unified Digital Infrastructure
Key learnings from the Open APIs for IoT Platforms are:
Successful demonstration of IoT platforms for specific use cases
Real cross platform device management, multi-platform integration – enabling management of any device through standard interfaces (removing the complexity) is possible
An open platform allows device orchestration across platforms – which shows true interconnectivity. We achieved cross-platform, cross-device which is a precursor to vendor independence
MN: Are there other case studies you can point to?
AC: We have extensive telco case studies from all around the world. Visit here for more information.
Ericsson is the market leader in OSS/BSS and has helped a large number of CSPs with their transformation journeys.
- OSS specific to improve the order-to-service processes or making inventory a key part of the business systems.
- BSS specific to enable digital transformation of the BSS systems focusing on the front-end or the full BSS stack.
- And more end-to-end OSS/BSS transformations.
MN: How important is open source technology to digital transformation? Which communities are you participating in?
AC: The rate of change of available software and features continues to accelerate at a breathtaking pace. It would be naïve to expect that any one organization could develop and maintain every single business use case within its software. To be a cutting-edge organization there is a need to look at the innovation within the open source community.
As digital transformation requires innovation for each organization, be it process, people or technology a good source of this is Open Source. Ericsson participates in a number of open source initiatives, including Linux, Apache Cassandra, CAMEL and Hadoop amongst others. Ericsson is one of only eight platinum members in the Openstack board and we are very active OPNFV, ONAP and OpenDaylight to name a few. We are a large contributor in these forums, and the technologies are core components of our NFVi, NFV, SDN and OSS/BSS portfolios.