Planned as a small gathering of enthusiastic people interested in discussing the evolution of network and IT architectures as envisioned in the TM Forum Open Digital Architecture (ODA), a local workshop hosted by Telstra in Melbourne, Australia, in February turned into a true black swan event with 110 people from 42 companies registering to attend.
On the day of the event, 60 people attended in Melbourne and another 35 participated online. Attendees included software architects from Telstra and other communications service providers (CSPs), along with representatives from systems integrators and network and IT suppliers. Notably, the world’s largest network equipment providers – Ciena, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia – were all represented.
Telstra hosted the workshop to discuss creation of an ‘operational domain manager’ capability based on ODA principles for exposing network as a service (NaaS). NaaS is a flavor of software as a service where the CSP provides network functionality as a service. This could include hosting virtual firewalls or routers, content delivery or bandwidth on demand.
The goals of the workshop were to garner input and feedback from TM Forum members and non-members, especially from the equipment providers, and to plan work within the Forum’s Zero-touch Orchestration, Operations and Management (ZOOM) and Open API projects on defining the capabilities and support required for operational domain managers.
A new, radical approach to OSS/BSS
Recognizing the need for a shift in how the supply chain between CSPs, network equipment providers, and independent operational and business support system (OSS/BSS) suppliers is organized, participants shared insights and practical evidence for the move to a radically different operations model based on architectural principles described in the ODA white paper.
Representatives from three CSPs – Orange, Telstra and Vodafone Group – explained why it’s necessary to move to an approach that uses ‘domains’ to simplify end-to-end management of physical networking equipment and virtualized components that are based on network functions virtualization (NFV). Today in order to provision and manage, say, a cloud service that crosses the network boundaries of more than one CSP, operators must predefine the service, making sure everyone ‘speaks’ the same language and uses the same service definitions. What CSPs want is for operators and suppliers to agree to use common information and data models and standard APIs to allow orchestrators in different domains to communicate so that this can happen autonomously.
The idea is to use intent-based management, where domains abstract the complexity of the network at a high level and expose network services (service function chains made up of interconnected virtual and/or physical network functions). The lifecycles of these network services can then be managed autonomously using the customer’s intent, policy, closed control loops and machine learning artificial intelligence (AI). These are key ODA principles.
The graphic below, developed by Telstra, shows the complex state of CSPs’ operations versus the kind of simplified approach they need to take.
Examples of ODA in action
Gary Traver, Head of Network 2020 Transformation, Telstra, and Guy Lupo General Manager – Head of Orchestration & Data 2020, Telstra, outlined the business, operations and technology transformation Telstra is undertaking to separate the evolution of products and services from the evolution of the underlying technology.
“It is critical to get industry adoption and participation in the definition of standard APIs, network connectivity models and best practice guides for an operational domain manager,” Traver says. “It’s especially important to involve network equipment providers.”
Representatives from two suppliers, DGIT and Ciena, shared their experiences applying these modern approaches using TM Forum Open APIs and ZOOM principles for their CSP clients and in TM Forum Catalyst proof-of-concept projects.
DGIT and Ciena, for example, are participating in an ongoing Catalyst project to automate the lifecycle of services such as carrier Ethernet and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) across multiple operational domains using TM Forum Open APIs and MEF APIs. The latest version of the project, which will be demonstrated at Digital Transformation World in Nice, France, in May, will include new domains represented by ONAP and will use TM Forum APIs that are being contributed to the open source community.
Dave Milham, Chief Architect, TM Forum, reviewed the results of the ZOOM and API projects, explaining how together they can help CSPs and their suppliers transform the communication between the network and OSS/BSS teams within CSP organizations. A striking common thread across the presentations was the consensus for:
- Radical change and simplification of OSS and BSS
- Use of intent-based management, closed control loops, AI and policy management to enable automation and innovation in implementation
- Recognition that results from TM Forum’s ODA, ZOOM and API projects are the practical starting point for industry action to create an operational domain manager for exposing NaaS services
Workshop participants brainstormed about the many challenges that must be addressed to achieve the network and OSS/BSS architectures envisioned. We’ll look at some of them along with potential solutions in an upcoming article. We’ll also explore some win-win business opportunities for CSPs and their suppliers, and highlight practical Catalyst projects that could be used to validate the ODA principles.