If you watch children playing together in a sandbox, you’ll notice how quickly and easily they learn through collaboration and experimentation. TM Forum’s new Open Digital Lab provides a ‘sandbox’ environment for communications service providers (CSPs) and their partners where they can work together to develop new services.
The Open Digital Lab was launched last month at Digital Transformation World with a goal of becoming a robust, neutral environment for continuous public and private collaborative innovation. The idea is to develop the platform into a fully managed innovation environment that is curated by TM Forum.
“We are developing the lab as a member benefit,” says Joann O’Brien, VP, APIs & Ecosystems, TM Forum. “While the TM Forum Open APIs are available to everyone, we envision building higher-value services for our members. These include the lab, conformance testing and the ability to expose conformant solutions in the lab.”
Building the sandbox
The first step in developing the Open Digital Lab was to simplify API implementation, which TM Forum has done through its Open API Program. The next step was creating a virtual sandbox where TM Forum Catalyst teams can experiment. TM
Forum and IBM have worked together to develop the collaboration environment and it is hosted on IBM Cloud. IBM also provides access to open source tools like Kubernetes, Node.js, MongoDB, Docker and API Connect for the teams to use.
“One of the challenges Catalysts have is that once [the project] is over, it’s hard to reuse and keep that knowledge for others to use in the future,” says Janki Vora, Data Scientist at the IBM Global Industry Solution Center. “In order to make it easier…we have created a container-based, open-source stack which is already pre-configured and will be available on the Kubernetes cluster for our Catalysts to jump-start their projects and it will be available on the IBM Cloud platform to collaborate and play in that sandbox with TM Forum APIs.”
Watch O’Brien and Vora discuss IBM’s role in the Open Digital Lab:
The third phase of the Open Digital Lab, underway now, includes exposing resources for CSPs and their partners to use through Open APIs.
“Whatever tools companies choose to contribute must be relevant and they must be exposed through conformance APIs,” O’Brien explains. “This is not a commercial marketplace; it is a place for exploration and innovation.”
For example, Sigma Systems announced last week that is providing its product catalog and other tools in the lab for companies to use to create new services.
“Service providers have to have a set of platforms that allows them to dynamically respond to changes without having to always rebuild things,” says Catherine Michel, Sigma Systems CTO. “We want everybody to take advantage of this notion of a ‘no-code zone’ – the dynamic ability to spin up new services…publish them and sell them through channels, deliver them across networks, and really do that as a business-as-usual activity.”
Watch O’Brien and Michel discuss Sigma Systems’ role in the lab:
The first Catalyst team to use the Open Digital Lab is the Smart City Living Lab, which Sigma Systems is participating in. Several other teams will also use the lab to collaborate on projects that will be demonstrated at Digital Transformation World Asia in Malaysia in November.
The overall goal is to expand the lab beyond Catalyst projects to interconnect with physical labs around the world. The first of these will be the University of Bristol’s new lab, which is being developed as part of its Institute of Digital Futures. Through a partnership with TM Forum, the university has agreed to adopt and co-develop the Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) and Open APIs as an architectural foundation for its emerging lab.
“We see many changes occurring in the industry, from flexible modularized architectures to a massive focus on innovation,” O’Brien says. “We believe a global independent environment for rapid prototyping using conformant solutions, standardized, industry-agreed APIs and open source technologies is the future of innovation. We are working to provide this through our Open Digital Lab – not just as a virtual hosted environment for companies but also as a federation of real physical labs and exposing these capabilities to a global audience.”
To find out how you can participate in the lab, contact Joann O’Brien via [email protected].