Features and Analysis

New TM Forum API advances end-to-end provisioning

Imagine you’re a network operator with a media company customer when terrorists strike multiple locations within a region simultaneously. To get critical information to subscribers and viewers, your customer needs to be able to stream and broadcast live video from various locations in real time, which significantly increases demand on your network and requires you to partner with other service providers.

Today, the only way to plan for such a scenario is to over-provision the network so that the bandwidth is available in case it’s needed, and set up pre-defined agreements and interfaces with partners for end-to-end provisioning and management. TM Forum’s new Entity Provisioning API automates this process and makes it much easier.

The Forum’s Zero-touch Orchestration, Operations and Management (ZOOM) team has developed the new API using lessons learned from several Catalyst proof-of-concept projects.

“This is a very important API,” says Milind Bhagwat, Enterprise Architect, BT, who has been active in the API’s development and is championing one of the Catalysts called Real Virtuality.

The Catalyst will use the new API during a demonstration at TM Forum Live! 2017, which will be held May 15-18 in Nice, France.

In previous demonstrations, the Real Virtuality Catalyst team presented a terrorist attack scenario as a use case showing how analytics and policy can be combined to flex bandwidth on demand.

“All we have to do is make the customer a ‘platinum’ customer for a short duration and as soon as that happens, the policies that are applicable to their service change,” Bhagwat explains. “Traditionally this would have taken days; but now we can achieve it in seconds or minutes.”

The next phase of the project will use the Entity Provisioning API in a new scenario, likely an Olympics broadcasting example, which adds end-to-end provisioning of bandwidth on demand across partners’ networks. NTT is championing the project along with BT, and participants include Tech Mahindra, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, TierOne and TEOCO, with Ericsson and Red Hat providing the cloud infrastructure and cloud SDN control.

Why is end-to-end provisioning so difficult?

Implementing end-to-end management is one of the biggest challenges operators face as they adopt network functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN). Today, if they want to provision and manage a cloud-based service end to end across partners’ boundaries, service providers must predefine the service, making sure everyone ‘speaks’ the same language and uses the same service definitions. In proofs of concept, they have used a master service orchestrator that has visibility into all the networks and operational and business support systems involved.

This won’t scale in the real world because operators don’t want to allow partners visibility or control of their networks. A better approach is for operators to agree to use the same information and data models along with APIs like the Entity Provisioning API to allow orchestrators in different domains to communicate with each other. This, combined with intent-based management, is how service providers will automate service provisioning and management end to end. The intent-based management abstracts the complexity of the network at a high level, then uses a customer’s intent and policy to manage it.

“Right now, there is no standard way of provisioning and managing lifecycle of network services,” Bhagwat explains. “Every VNF has a different way of doing it. We need to standardize this.”

Participants in the Real Virtuality Catalyst will implement the Entity Provisioning API and will explore the need for other APIs like a policy API as well.

“These APIs are at the specification stage, which means they haven’t been implemented by any vendor,” Bhagwat says. “Using them in the Catalyst to dynamically provision and manage the lifecycle of network services and functions will give us a lot of feedback. There will be a lot of learning that can go back into development of the next stage of the APIs.”



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    About The Author

    Managing Editor

    Dawn Bushaus began her career in technology journalism in 1989 at Telephony magazine, which means she’s been writing about networking for a quarter century. (She wishes she didn’t have to admit that because it probably gives you a good idea of how old she really is.) In 1996, Dawn joined a team of journalists to start a McGraw-Hill publication called tele.com, and in 2000, she helped a team at Ziff-Davis launch The Net Economy, where she held senior writing and editing positions. Prior to joining TM Forum, she worked as a freelance analyst for Heavy Reading.

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