Open APIs

Open APIs: Looking backwards, forwards and welcoming new manifesto signees


As one year ends and another one begins, it’s time to reflect on achievements of the year and look at our plans for 2018.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are the components that enable diverse platforms, apps, and systems to connect and share data with each other.

Standardized Open APIs like TM Forum’s own remain crucial for businesses and developers alike. The former because businesses need a common language and design model for quick integration and interoperability with clients and partners. And for developers – so that they can build on something existent, and create something new without having to waste time, energy and resources by starting from scratch; this also feeds back into the benefits for businesses as they can have talented developers working on pioneering new products that the business themselves will be able to integrate with as a part of their own end-to-end services.

The past: Older and wiser

While APIs have been around since the 1960s with the advent of Library APIs and 2000 when web APIs were first introduced to the world, it’s seems as if 2017 is when the interest and even need for APIs was truly spurred. Platforms like Google and Amazon settled into their roles as digital leaders, digital disruptors were to be feared and marveled, and telcos found themselves in a mad dash to catch up.

As we were heading into 2017, the main topic of discussion was the value of an API enabled modular architecture, or microservices architectures if you will. Microservices architectures break the application-building process down into components – small, loosely coupled, autonomous components (meaning they have the freedom to act independently) – that can then be reassembled to deliver larger applications. APIs enable the microservice infrastructures to interact by providing the logical models for building interfaces between the various components of the architecture.

Microservices became a key focus for firms evolving to digital and more agile, as it could help them move from monolithic, almost unchangeable IT architectures, to solutions that chop and change and plug and play at a whim.

However, as we transition into 2018, such discussions are in the past, and the reality is now. There are now many examples of CSPs transforming digitally by decomposing their monolith architectures into flexible ecosystems. This has provided the right foundation for providers to be able to deliver more and more solutions, and faster, based on their growing capabilities. The following two articles are great examples of how Neural Technologies has evangelized microservices with the help of Open APIs, helping firms’ agile approach:

Interview: Moving from monoliths to microservices

CSPs must embrace open APIs to advance a microservice architecture

But, we don’t just learn about the benefits of modularized components from the recent examples of APIs. Since the industrial revolution big shifts have occurred when processes were reimagined due to some form of modularity allowing significantly greater reuse. We all know the story of how Henry Ford revolutionized the car industry using modularized components and scaling up the manufacturing model to deliver mass production.

The present: Bigger and better

It has been recognized for some time that the pace of change in technology and telecoms industry is accelerating. This acceleration is not just happening in the technologies themselves, and the innovative ideas that they are being applied to, but also in the development and delivery models. TM Forum now has a suite of over 50 Open APIs (31 in 2017) which are industry agreed, reusable building blocks. They can have a strategic impact on the development model inside your organization. By reusing these APIs an organization can invest more resources in strategically innovative new services and the design of these services.

Here are more of TM Forum’s Open API achievements for 2017:

  • MEF Partnership and realization of LSO Architecture with TM Form Open APIs
  • Delivery of Resource Function Activation & Configuration API to help standardize virtual network function (VNF) and network service lifecycle management
  • Realization of microservices based architectures with Open APIs
  • Extension of 31 APIs to 52 APIs
  • 20+ Catalyst projects underpinned by Open APIs
  • Two Open Hackathons
  • Open API training program fully deployed including career certification
  • Beta launch of API self-certification
  • Endorsement by over 80 Cities and OASC
  • Requests for Proposals across the industry requesting TM Forum Open APIs

The future: Fast and furiously inventive

Looking forward to 2018, the ambitions of TM Forum’s Open API team are very much in line with industry shifts:

  • As we see an explosion in connected devices the team will develop a suite of APIs for the management of Internet of Things (IoT) services
  • Helping to drive down the cost of delivering telco services, we will develop a suite of Open APIs to manage the consistent exposure and management of telco services.
  • API innovation lab will enable more rapid prototyping and testing using Forum Open APIs

These key areas, combined with activities such as testing the alignment of individual APIs and suites of APIs for a given service, will all help our members drive down the cost of utility development and significantly enable more rapid innovation.

New manifesto signees

More and more TM Forum members support and agree with this vision and have set out even more ambitious targets for themselves as they transform their businesses in this digital era. Earlier this year we saw 14 new companies sign the Open API manifesto, declaring alignment of their IT strategy to that of the Forum’s Open API strategy. Today, I would like to welcome an additional 7 new companies declaring their intent to implement the Forum Open APIs across their architecture in all relevant areas.  These companies are CENX, Cerillion, My Republic, SigScale, Vlocity, TCS & Telstra.

Guy Lupo, General Manager – Head of Orchestration & Data 2020, Telstra, commented “As part of Telstra’s investment in building networks for the future, we are seeking to achieve efficiencies in networks operations by abstracting network services and exposing them to a framework of reusable service domains and standard APIs.

“We already saw benefits in using the TM Forum Open API program, in our ‘Partnering platforms for MEF Services Catalyst’ which won Outstanding Catalyst – Business Impact, and we look forward participating further in the evolution of the program to help us achieve our ambitions.”

Innovation through commonality

As we agree more commonality and standards, innovation can flourish as it’s made easier. Commonality is enabled through Open APIs, making it essential for TM Forum’s suite of operational ecosystem management Open APIs to be a key asset in firms’ technology toolboxes.

The pace of change will impact where boundaries of commonality lie, whether they need to become more detail/simplified and they will vary from organization to organization. However, for organizations that invest more in reusing common industry agreed APIs will gain strategic advantage due to the additional focus on strategic differentiating innovative new offerings.


    About The Author

    VP, APIs & Ecosystems

    Joann’s career spans over 20 years in technology, ranging from consumer electronics, telecommunications mobile switching to OSS/BSS and more recently to industry collaboration. Joann is currently the program lead for TM Forum’s Open API & Ecosystems initiative, chair of the API Steering Committee and lead for the Open Hack program. Joann has significant experience leading complex large scale transformation programs for a number of organizations.

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