A Centralized Product Catalog Can Substantially Improve Hybrid Network Efficiency
Defining, creating and fulfilling digital services across hybrid environments can get a boost in agility through a centralized catalog.
As SDN/NFV technologies roll out across the service provider landscape, digital service creation and lifecycle management are disciplines that will separate the successful operators from the average ones. There are several operational and business challenges that pivot around the service creation process that can heavily impact an operator’s overall performance.
1. Hybrid Network Buildout
Combining physical, logical and virtual network domains allows service providers to add new framework characteristics at the cost of increasing OSS complexity. The recent demand for enterprise SD-WAN, replacing MPLS services, is a good example of this trend. SD-WAN allows enterprises to enable dynamic scaling capabilities in their private WAN through a self-service, real-time model. However, building service bundle definitions for this type of dynamic service is significantly more complex than the process for traditional, static enterprise network services.
2. Speed and Agility Expectations
The old standard of taking several months—or even years—to define new service and product types is simply not competitive enough to translate innovative thinking into first-to-market advantages in the digital realm. Service providers need more agility to respond quickly to ever-changing market developments.
3. Network-Centric Processes
The service creation function has always lived somewhat in the shadow of available network resources. Any process that starts by looking for available capacity in the network and then designs a service to fill that space is firmly at odds with the sharpening demands of consumer and business customers in the digital age.
4. Complexity and Context
Defining digital services is more complex and service bundles have far more contextual elements than traditional connectivity services. This makes the whole concept of service creation and fulfillment significantly more dynamic.
Service creation and innovation is now under heavy scrutiny within operators worldwide, as the process is mired by the tangle of legacy BSS/OSS and traditional approaches within the back office. The diversification of business goals under digital transformation programs means that service providers are now in competition with a plethora of web-scale giants, cloud computing and IT infrastructure companies, OTT content providers and hundreds of other service providers from other industry verticals. The majority of these new competitors do not have the legacy of dated infrastructure and can, therefore, be more agile, more customer-orientated and, ultimately, more creative.
To address the plethora of challenges listed above, one of the most beneficial service operations best practices is to deploy a centralized product/service catalog as part of a digital service lifecycle management strategy. The catalog can act as a hub of the digital service lifecycle management strategy, providing a single data source that becomes the master reference point for products and service definitions throughout the OSS architecture. This has many advantages over a proliferation of disparate legacy databases when it comes to service creation and fulfillment. Modular data of the type stored in a modern, centralized catalog means that product definition processes can be supercharged by forming pre-validated service building blocks along the same lines of a microservices-based architecture. As such, new products and services will rarely have to be started from scratch and different “flavors” of existing service types can be defined and made live in just hours.
Another benefit is the ability to improve data quality by streamlining the process of fault finding in legacy systems. If a workflow is interrupted by an unknown reference format or code somewhere in the OSS, the fix is entered into the centralized catalog and that fault is fixed forever. Reoccurring faults remain costly problems in which large, legacy BSS/OSS suffer from high levels of order fallout and subsequently large opex. Centralizing the product/service catalog organically drives this cost out of the ecosystem over time.
As operators continue to move towards virtualization, a modern product/service catalog should be a central feature of any SDN/NFV investment strategy.