Operators with hybrid operations must consider evolving their service fulfillment roles to meet the digital world’s expectations for agility and performance.
October 23, 2018
Service fulfillment is becoming the next great focal point for progressive service providers that are introducing SDN/NFV into their networks. Legacy service fulfillment systems and processes are simply not capable of delivering the intelligent, contextual control and automated workflows that are required to capitalize on the speed and agility of NFV. Next-generation fulfillment systems must be able to perform all service operations tasks in a cross-domain, zero-touch manner, addressing logical, physical and virtual management systems as well as BSS/OSS of varying age and complexity. Legacy fulfillment systems based around semi-manual processes will in effect cause bottlenecks between the business and the network, hampering the speed and agility of network virtualization—something that must be addressed before NFV is truly deployed at scale.
In short, mass rollouts of NFV without modern service fulfillment systems in place will heavily impact service providers’ ability to monetize the services in the newly hybridized network. Let’s look at the top five ways in which a modern service fulfillment system will bring service-centric operations up to speed with both next-generation networks and modern BSS/OSS paradigms.
1. Orchestration as service operations’ master control
The post-manual era of service operations relies on wholly automating functions and processes in the core OSS. Additionally, the complexity of new digital service definitions coming to market means that an overarching intelligence is required for service fulfillment. Simply automating workflows is not enough to run service operations in an optimized fashion; a contextual awareness of surrounding systems and functions is a key best practice. Modeling the various potential knock-on effects of activating a service using certain resources can be weighed up by an orchestration platform so that optimum choices are made before any actions are taken in the live network. Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques can also catalyze an orchestrator’s ability to make human-like, contextual, pre-modeled decisions at a far greater scale and speed.
2. Centralized service catalog
Data quality issues have been a huge challenge for fulfillment systems historically, as service providers that grew via M&A are bogged down with legacy systems, databases and catalogs with different data models. Non-standardized or even unstructured data in service fulfillment systems leads to order fallout, high levels of manual intervention and vastly increased service lead times and opex spending. Centralizing a modern service/product catalog is a key step in enforcing a service-centric, automated approach to fulfillment and provides a harmonizing effect on the data used across the whole service operations layer.
Another key benefit of a centralized catalog is the increased agility of service creation for digital services. A modular, template-driven service catalog means that a drag-and-drop approach to new service concepts in the GUI takes the heavy lifting out of service creation. The effects of this can be profound, supercharging a culture of innovation and greatly reducing time-to-market for new products, service types, bundles and offers.
3. A dynamic approach to resource inventory
The lifecycle of a network inventory system can be extremely long, and a rip-and-replace approach to network resource data management can be fraught with difficulties. A dynamic inventory system, under a service orchestration model, allows new resources to be governed in a new inventory database while federating existing databases so they may be integrated through APIs which harmonize the data exposed to the orchestrator. In this way, zero-touch workflows can make all of the provisioning allocations and changes required for logical, physical and virtual resources through a single interface. This more subtle approach to operational modernization greatly reduces costs and increases the rate of digital transformation.
4. Full interoperability
The central tenet of systems architectures in the digital operations age is openness. Fulfillment systems are now exploiting tighter synergies with service assurance, network management and orchestration, customer and partner management and revenue management systems. Complete interoperability between these systems is a high demand for service providers, which can be accomplished through common data models, open APIs, standards-based development frameworks and knowledge-sharing industry bodies.
5. Process realignment as a service
Operators selecting vendor partners for service fulfillment transformations are increasingly seeking a complete architectural framework of systems and services to enable new service operations. At the core of these services should be a plan for aligning the digital service requirements of the business with the capabilities of the network. The bridge between these two halves of the company is the fulfillment function. Modern systems will use technology to reinforce best practices and enable business agility far beyond anything that was previously achievable.