As 5G promises to catalyze a new wave of service innovation, communications service providers (CSPs) are seeking to make service delivery much simpler for customers, partners and themselves. In two new TM Forum collaboration projects members are looking at the role of marketplaces and connectivity-as-a-service (CaaS) in facilitating service innovation. The teams recently published white papers laying out the challenges and strategies for handling these.
CaaS, marketplaces and zero-touch partnering aim for innovation and automation
As 5G promises to catalyze a new wave of service innovation, communications service providers (CSPs) are seeking to make service delivery much simpler for customers, partners and themselves. In two new TM Forum collaboration projects members are looking at the role of marketplaces and connectivity-as-a-service (CaaS) in facilitating service innovation. The teams recently published white papers laying out the challenges and strategies for handling these. CSPs are investing in change to deliver services that meet customers’ exact needs and are simple to understand, order and pay for. This includes enabling greater programmability to address demands for low latency, high throughput and reliability, and security by creating new network architectures that encompass 5G, edge, cloud, IoT, AI and machine learning as part of a digital ecosystem. Within TM Forum, CSPs are cooperating with other technology and service companies to develop and facilitate connectivity-as-a-service (CaaS), marketplace platforms and zero-touch partnering (ZTP). All three share a customer-centric approach to simplifying service delivery and usage that relies on automation to enable self-service.
Read the new Connectivity-as-a-Service and Software Marketplace white papers
Take the example of an enterprise that wants to buy a cost-effective connectivity service with a firewall supporting 1,000 sessions per minute for a specified office site. The process for customers should be as simple as requesting the service and having it delivered, says Joann O’Brien, Vice President, 5G Digital Ecosystems at TM Forum. Instead, the complexity of the typical CSP’s ordering and fulfillment flow means enterprises have to employ someone with enough technical knowledge to provide detailed information such as network configurations and system parameter choices, she explains. “As an industry we have not made it simple enough to consume connectivity and value-added services such as security, guaranteed bandwidth and priority routing,” says O’Brien. “And the traditional processes for providing connectivity – covering ordering, fulfillment, orchestration and assurance – will not continue to satisfy consumer needs in a hyper-connected world.” CaaS sets out to reduce service management complexity and improve service quality, while standardizing how customers consume services, so they can easily access precisely what they need from a CSP, wherever they are in the world, explains O’Brien. In their white paper, the collaboration team defines CaaS as “the delivery of connectivity/IP presence solutions to meet the specific demands of different applications and users, defined programmatically.” “CaaS is fundamentally about reducing the barriers to consumption of connectivity and in turn driving up revenues. In doing so building the foundation of trust with enterprise customer towards the next step of growth beyond connectivity,” says O’Brien.
TM Forum’s work on software marketplaces recognizes the role of marketplaces in the evolving ecosystem dynamic, the published paper helps to create a deeper understanding of the different types of marketplaces ((B2C) vs (B2B2X)) and explores the architectural differences between these. Software marketplaces are increasingly being used by enterprises. By building on the capability of a flexible architecture and exposing capabilities through standardized APIs, software marketplaces give CSPs the potential to reach new audiences and grow business. TM Forum’s marketplace Catalyst proofs of concept set out to help CSPs protect and grow the value of their network and services amid a profound shift in how enterprises buy and use online business solutions. Amazon Marketplace demonstrates the popularity and profitability of giving customers a choice of a huge number of sellers in a single place, coupled with rapid and efficient service fulfillment. Today’s most famous digital platform operators such as Amazon provide what are known as Type 1 marketplaces, explains O’Brien. These are controlled B2C ecosystems where the marketplace owner’s platform displays everything for sale and processes purchases. But other forms of marketplaces are taking shape, as the recent TM Forum report Exploring marketplaces for software and service explains. In the TMF white paper on Software Marketplaces, Geoffrey Parker, Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth College, Fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and author of “Platform Revolution” predicts that the digital platforms approach would gradually be adopted by traditional businesses: “Firms are likely to deploy ‘platform enabling platform’ technologies that help to create horizontal linkages across their vertical businesses. We can expect to see more and more businesses adopting such technology as they seek to digitize their global business operations.” A Type 2 marketplace is designed to open new ways to create, partner and deliver services that reflect how businesses and governments negotiate, purchase and consume services. They may be operating across geographies, languages and currencies, using physical and virtual products from a range of suppliers. For example, Type 2 marketplaces make it easier for CSPs to play flexible roles in orchestration or aggregation, which will become particularly important as enterprises and governments deploy 5G, edge and cloud-based solutions. A shift to software-based telecoms infrastructure is making it easier for telcos – and others – to take part in Type 2 marketplaces. “From a CSP perspective, engagement in a software marketplace is an imperative since many of the functions and facilities currently used in telecommunication networks, products and services are progressively moving from hardware-defined devices to software-defined services,” says O’Brien. “Those services run on agnostic devices managed from the cloud – no matter whether it is in the public cloud or private clouds, or on hyperscaler or CSP cloud infrastructure.” This shift creates new opportunities for seamless partnering, orchestration and monetization, she explains. CSPs are likely to need to take part in marketplaces to meet the needs of their business and government customers in an increasingly fluid B2B2X environment. Both marketplaces and CaaS will rely on CSPs’ ongoing efforts to automate processes and service delivery. Offering CaaS involves being able to interpret their customers’ connectivity intent, using intent-based networking and automation.
Along with the white papers on Connectivity as a Service and Software Marketplaces, TM Forum's Beyond Connectivity initiative also published a Zero Touch Partnering Toolkit, a suite of technical assets that capture the essential technology required to enable automated partnering, which will be a critical component of Connectivity-as-a -Service and the Software Marketplaces strategy. This work builds upon previous work at TM Forum on partnering as well as TM Forum’s ZTP Catalysts, making it possible to dynamically compose new products without any IT integration. Instead, CSPs use TM Forum Open APIs to develop ZTP, plug-and-play, end-to-end ordering and service management around a selection of services. Watch the videos on TM Forum to learn more about each phase of the ZTP project. Together, the pillars of Connectivity-as-a-Service, Zero Touch Partnering and Software Marketplaces taken together provide the foundations for building trust with enterprise customers and the foundations for growth beyond connectivity. All of these three programs continue their work to the next phase. If you are interested to get involved, please join the Digital Ecosystem Management project or contact Joann O’Brien.