While microservices are a fairly extreme architectural concept, communications service providers (CSPs) see them as the way to transition to digital services providers, as virtualization may not create enough agility for the change. It’s a big step, though.
What are microservices?
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.
All operators have been using service-orientated architectures which provide a strong foundation for migrating to a modular microservices architecture. As a part of our Quick Insights report, Microservices: Piecing together a strategy, TM Forum’s Chief Analyst, Mark Newman, outlines some steps CSPs should take as they plan their migration:
Be prepared for organizational changes
Embracing microservices means organizational changes that will fall under the overall restructuring and adoption of DevOps practices need for migration. The changes will be as much about the adoption of new business cultures and decentralization of responsibility and accountability, as the creation of physical teams.
Work with partners
Adopting microservices will not be straightforward – it will be a learning process for CSPs and their suppliers. As such, it is important to start talking with technology partners about their approaches to microservices and, where possible, work with them on a componentized approach. Successful partnerships will give you confidence to roll out microservices more broadly across your organization.
Be realistic and pragmatic
There is a risk that an overambitious microservices project – and the breaking down of an application into hundreds of pieces – will create a management and organizational headache. It might be easier, in the short to medium term, to create larger building blocks.
Build a microservices approach into the 5G core
It seems inevitable that microservices will play an important role in the 5G core. However, there are still many visions about how to implement 5G, and until consensus emerges the precise nature of the required ‘building blocks’ will remain undefined. Standards body 3GPP will start work on Release 16, which will address the 5G core, in mid-2018, with a target completion at the end of 2019.
Consider microservices for BSS transformation
Front-end systems with changing requirements, such as digital stores, are particularly well suited to a componentized approach. Adoption of microservices in BSS can protect expensive customization and major upgrades of commercial off-the-shelf packages. It can enable decoupling of ‘systems of engagement’ and ‘systems of records’, and help CSPs differentiate service offerings.
Consider using Frameworx and Open APIs
A microservices architecture relies on APIs to make one microservice available to another within an application. TM Forum offers a suite of Open APIs mapped to the Frameworx Business Process and Information Frameworks (eTOM and SID), which could be relevant to CSPs in their approach to microservices. TM Forum is also working on a functional decomposition of the application map in the Application Framework (TAM). For more information, contact Joann O’Brien, Vice President, APIs and Ecosystems.
Download the whole, free Quick Insights research report, Microservices: Piecing together a strategy, now.