We’ve said it before: Service providers must do more and be more to stay relevant to their customers. Their networks need to evolve and a back-office transformation is a critical step that service providers cannot overlook if they want to evolve their networks and overall businesses.
Hundreds of network operators today have revenue management systems that haven’t been upgraded since before the iPhone was invented. Think of how much network traffic, consumer behavior and media consumption has changed in that time. Is a pre-iPhone revenue management system really up to the task of onboarding new partners and supporting new services?
But it's important for service providers to understand that they won't be able to move from their traditional systems to something completely virtualized and in the cloud all at once. A total, digital transformation of the business may be the end game, but the current pressing need is to achieve greater agility while reshaping customer relationships by improving the tools, processes and technology upon which the service provider’s business operates. For example, as IT network environments change and become a mix of physical and virtual network functions, service providers are faced with the challenge of managing hybrid environments while delivering consistent, predictable experiences to customers.
In many cases, hybrid networks will be the reality for service providers for the next several years. So as they prepare to face reality on reality’s terms, here are nine things service providers should look for as they aim to fulfill and assure services across virtualized and hybrid networks using end-to-end orchestration:
Any end-to-end orchestration solution needs to be designed for hybrid network management. It must support traditional networks, virtualized networks and public and private clouds. Traditional business and operations support systems (BSS/OSS) can’t just be ripped and replaced; they have to evolve in order to protect the services that are producing revenue now.
The whole point of service providers using software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) is to decouple software from network hardware, breaking vendor lock-in and accelerating the rate at which new services and features can be deployed. In that spirit, an end-to-end orchestration solution needs to support multivendor virtualized network functions (VNFs), SDN controllers and virtual infrastructure managers.
An effective end-to-end orchestration solution will allow for a smooth and streamlined integration with a service provider’s IT environment, supporting a wide range of standard integration technologies including RESTful Web services and OSS/J. Orchestration is too important to be left to technology companies that won’t play well with others due to their strong ties to a legacy equipment business.
Agile and policy-driven service modeling should be possible in hours or days, not weeks or months. An orchestration solution should have the ability to create new services based on customer needs via an intuitive and flexible service design environment, not a rigid programming process that leaves the customer waiting.
Service providers need a policy-based, closed-control-loop orchestration solution to support guaranteed service-level agreements (SLAs). This way, the network can act on a service provider's behalf, improving automation and minimizing the need for human input.
The right solution will leverage embedded, online and offline analytics on all orchestration layers. Whether service providers are supporting real-time decisions or looking to identify patterns and trends, the right orchestration solution needs to be analytics-driven.
Operationalizing new virtualized environments is challenging, as doing so requires bringing together moving parts from a variety of vendors, some of which will be companies that service providers have never worked with before. Netcracker’s SDN/NFV CTO, Vasile Radoaca, often compares a thriving ecosystem to a large ballroom full of dancers, each with the need to be paired with the right partner. For a service provider, choreographing all these partnerships and processes in such a large and diverse environment can be daunting. The right orchestration solution – delivered by the right strategic partner – can allow service providers to “dance” and enjoy the full advantages of SDN/NFV.
End-to-end orchestration needs to focus on more than just the virtualized world; it needs to be integrated with existing BSS/OSS so service providers can operate their business in a single end-to-end environment. It should integrate with existing core IT functions in a back office to simplify the management of partner relationships as well as billing, rating and charging schemes. This will enable service providers to provide customers with personalized service bundles, while managing the entire business more efficiently.
It seems obvious, but a real end-to-end orchestration solution should come with real end-to-end support. Service providers should expect a full suite of professional services to come along with the technology component of orchestration to ensure the solution is properly implemented, adopted, operated, supported and maintained. They should expect a CMMI-certified services organization that is used to handling large-scale software implementations and can guarantee on-time, on-budget program execution.
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