From Pollock to Mondrian: ODA simplifies ‘spaghetti’ architecture

In this excerpt from our recent report, "How to lead in the Open API economy", Orange’s Laurent Leboucher explains why current IT architecture is like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Dawn Bushaus

From Pollock to Mondrian: ODA simplifies ‘spaghetti’ architecture

In this excerpt from our new report, How to lead in the Open API economy, Orange’s Laurent Leboucher explains why current IT architecture is like a Jackson Pollock painting. This article is a companion to an excerpt from the report about drivers for using the TM Forum Open APIs. To learn more about the history of the interfaces, check out the first installment in the series.

Many communications services providers (CSP) executives discuss legacy IT operations in terms of “spaghetti” architecture – where network and operational domains are tightly coupled, and every network element must be manually integrated with every support system. This complexity is the reason it typically takes operators more than a year to develop and deliver new services.

Laurent Leboucher, VP of Digital IT, Customer Relations and Global Architecture, Orange, compares CSPs’ legacy architectures to a Jackson Pollock painting, whereas the goal is to move to an approach that favors artist Piet Mondrian. Leboucher shared an image similar to the one below during a presentation at Digital Transformation World Series (DTWS) to illustrate his point.

“IT legacy in telco environments very often looks like a Pollock painting,” he explains. “It’s hard to identify through hazy building blocks, and there is almost no loose coupling. Data records are very often duplicated several times, and everything seems to be tied to everything else. This is often the result of many years of silo fragmentations and various attempts to fix those fragmentations with technical projects, which created this entropic technical debt.”

By contrast, Mondrian’s art is much simpler with shapes that can be clearly identified. “ODA is similar,” Leboucher says. “It is characterized by cohesion and loose coupling, with functional blocks in colors and Open APIs for the loose coupling in between.”

Watch Leboucher’s presentation:

Leboucher adds that ODA is futureproof and designed with an outside-in perspective, in that it can support existing and new, digital services, while also addressing implementation of B2B2X digital ecosystems, which will be critical for operating and monetizing 5G and edge computing.
“Our architecture needs to be understood by our business colleagues,” Leboucher says. “Otherwise, it will stay an abstract piece of art.”

Leboucher gives the example of a customer who begins ordering a product on his mobile device and wants to continue the process at home on a PC but finds the shopping cart empty when he logs in using the new device. CSPs have no easy way to provide a consistent multi-channel experience because each channel is implemented with its own monolithic application. By using Open APIs and an open architecture like ODA, however, an order capture process can be implemented once and shared by several systems of engagement.
“In traditional IT we spend too much time doing horizontal integration between legacy systems implemented many years ago and new systems – and even between new systems because they often don’t comply with standard Open APIs,” Leboucher says.

And there is vertical integration to consider as well. “Traditionally, IT solutions were not cloud native and they were not containerized, so there is an additional effort to deploy our components to a particular infrastructure target,” he says. “And think of all the environments that we need to put in place: test, integration, pre-production, and later the production environment. Sitting in all those environments is time and money.”

Leboucher says he sees an urgent need to reduce this burden by making IT applications cloud native by design so that they can be integrated as “software Lego blocks” using a well-designed architecture based on ODA.

In upcoming articles, we’ll look at the status of Open API adoption and examples of how CSPs are using the Open APIs, but you don’t have to wait to read about it.

Download the full report: