Automating the Virtualized Environment
Overall cost savings and error reduction help make the business case for automation as providers transition from purpose-built networks to a single IP network that has to be managed across both the virtual and physical infrastructure.
As service providers transition purpose-built networks for video and data services to a single IP network from core to application, every service is an application and every application must be managed across the virtual and physical infrastructure to ensure security, quality and performance.
That basic concept of one connection equals many products was at the heart of service provider transformation efforts more than a decade ago. However, service providers have yet to abandon the concept of discrete physical services and embrace a product lifecycle that includes hosted applications, virtual functionality and managed connectivity. The interim step of adding a service layer helped to abstract products from the network infrastructure but did little to enable the flexibility to mix and match product components with connectivity and deliver each customer a unique experience.
As software-defined network (SDN) architectures are applied in order to abstract the network from the applications and enable the addition of network function virtualization (NFV), the need for seamless pass-through functionality and automation becomes more critical.
Closing the Loop
The need for automation is obvious, because no matter how skilled the individual, there are more events, data sources and policies than anyone can rapidly correlate in their head. By closing the loop among these three core service functions and applying real-time intelligent analytics to automation, operators can overcome the ballooning complexity of physical and virtual network, service and application elements.
Service providers agree that automation will improve time-to-market for new products and help with faster response in the event of a failure. Understanding customer, service and network behavior using advanced monitoring and analytics enables tuning of the infrastructure and applications across domains to improve QoS and performance.
Understand the Value of Automation
The decision to implement automation against core service delivery processes should include an evaluation of existing and expected performance across several metrics:
- Time to market – Time between introduction of a new product into the product and service catalogs and the first time an order can be fulfilled
- Average time to fulfill an order – Time between order completion by the sales channel and when a customer can use the product, service, feature or function
- Automation rate of fulfillment – Number of manual steps versus the number of automated steps
- Quality of fulfillment – Percentage of service orders that result in service incidents including orders that fall out of the process due to errors or changes.
- Average incident resolution time – Time elapsed from detection of a problem or from a customer contact until the problem has been resolved
- Proactive resolution percentage – Number of faults that are detected and resolved prior to any customer complaint
- Manual root cause analysis – Number of faults that required manual isolation and recovery
The value of automation will be obvious when operators see the reduction in errors and rework. In addition, the overall cost savings from these improvements make a compelling business case for the purchase and deployment of automation solutions.