With mobile operations in 26 countries, fixed operations in 17 countries, 56 partner markets and 30 countries where it offers internet of things (IoT) services, Vodafone’s Ocean transformation to network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) is no small feat, and it’s one the company couldn’t manage without TM Forum’s Open APIs.
“The scope is huge,” Lester Thomas, the company’s Chief Systems Architect, told attendees gathered at Action Week in Lisbon on Tuesday.
Vodafone is adopting a platform approach company-wide that uses TM Forum’s APIs to expose resource-facing and customer-facing services. The company is one of nine operators that have officially adopted TM Forum’s suite of Open APIs for digital service management. The idea is to take a “black box” approach, so that what’s inside the platform can be vendor- or operator-specific, which allows for innovation that can set companies apart competitively.
“We’re not setting out to standardize what’s inside the platform, but open application program interfaces will make them interoperable platforms,” Thomas said.
Thomas explained that Vodafone is using a three-pronged approach that focuses on agility, customer experience and efficiency.
“Agility comes from having open APIs and composable solutions — catalog-driven APIs,” Thomas said. “It’s also about improving customer experience. In our view this means taking a DevOps approach and building platforms so that you can then have teams which can genuinely continuously improve the experience they deliver and add analytics in those platforms. And it’s also about efficiency.”
Vodafone’s platform model is not a single monolithic model, rather it’s a layered model using catalog-based services.
“We don’t use the terms BSS and OSS internally anymore,” Thomas said. “We define them as customer, service and resource management.”
Vodafone is using intent-based management, which abstracts the complexity of the network at a high level and then uses a customer’s intent along with analytics and policy to manage it.
“Instead of modeling the network, we model the customer’s communications needs,” Thomas explained. “That way, you can continuously change and improve the implementation. This is the process the big cloud providers use.”
By creating platform-based operational domains, Vodafone can deliver NFV “almost like an SaaS”, according to Thomas, which means the company can use a single technology platform to serve multiple markets. “So platform-based operational domains will have multiple market-facing platforms and consume the services of global or regional technology domain platforms, and they’ll dynamically consume and release the resources, he explained. “The customer facing platform services can then be local to each market.”
Vodafone ocean architecture
Thomas shared conceptual, application and API views of the Vodafone architecture. The conceptual view is show below.
Once Vodafone has an articulation of the customer’s communications needs, end-to-end service management capabilities turn it into a service chain made up of component services and assurance. Each component service is handled by the technology domain platform, or the resource facing services.
“We have a number of different platforms based on the technology,” Thomas said. “So we have a platform doing application or network function services. We have another doing connectivity services, or SDN WAN connectivity, and another doing access management. Each of these platforms has its catalog of resource-facing services and the APIs on the platforms are all the same.”
APIs are required
Below is a view of the TM Forum APIs Vodafone is using:
“Because we have such good standards in our network, we want the same level of interoperability to apply to the customer, service and resource management space,” Thomas said. “Our target architecture is multi-vendor using Open APIs and we are only working with vendors compliant with these APIs.”