What Provisioning Means in Next-Gen OSS
As the industry has evolved to the digital services era, provisioning has had to evolve along with it at every stage.
OSS has come a long way in 20 years, evolving from manual to digital. Even in the late 1990s, OSS still had its roots in what were called islands of automation. Monopoly-era mainframe systems drove mechanized, but not necessarily automated processes, on top of static, closed and disparate data stores. These systems were well engineered, reliable and up to the tasks for which they were designed. They had brought telecom out of the paper-based era.
Now, 20 years later, data processing is largely replaced by distributed systems which are being replaced by digital, cloud applications. Provisioning is now what happens in the milliseconds after a customer taps a touchscreen. Given today’s new requirements, here are five characteristics that make provisioning next-gen.
Immediate Service Activation
Service provisioning in the digital environment faces expectations of immediacy. Though a certain degree of physical provisioning will always exist, once the pipe is available customers expect new services to be active as soon they are requested. The order-to-activation cycle is essentially replaced with self-serve access to services that are authorized and instantiated in just a few clicks.
Next-gen provisioning demands a web-services-based environment where services, application functions and network functions are called via API. New integrations are scripted rapidly, following Agile principles and rolled out with DevOps-style speed. Digital mash-ups have shown us that services don’t have to be static or linear. On the contrary, they are aggregates of multiple, application-based functions provided by a variety of parties who make different contributions to the overall service. As service and network virtualization become more widespread, this mash-up paradigm is no longer contained in the application layer, but may span multiple network and service domains as well as most of the network stack itself.
In the digital era, high quality customer experiences and journeys are expected, but they are difficult to deliver in a disparate data environment. An important focus of many digital transformations is centralization of product and service data. This in turn fuels omnichannel experiences, accelerates time to market for onboarding new services and helps enable immediate service activation. The same applies to customer data, particularly in permission, rights or real-time authentication scenarios where on-demand provisioning hinges on whether a customer has authorization to access–or even be presented the means to access–any given service.
Particularly in the virtualized network and service environment, there’s no room for disparity between layers or domains. Provisioning in one domain or layer cannot be a rate limiter in the others. Services have to be delivered end-to-end with total automation – especially across hybrid environments that include both virtualized and non-virtualized domains. This has been a radical change versus traditional provisioning which was typically engineering-intensive; done on a domain-by-domain basis; and was never designed to accommodate fully-automated, on-demand service requests.
Dynamic & Self-Healing
Continuity, automated restart, automated failover are all expected in the digital world. Provisioning and re-provisioning must be infused with capabilities that enable rapid detection of problems and can trigger processes that enable applications, services and sessions to re-start without interrupting user processes. Additionally, in an API-centric service environment, diversity, failover and disaster recovery are even more important to deliver a persistent and resilient customer experience, particularly as more mission critical, real-time transaction-based applications migrate to either public or private clouds. Though these kinds of functions are typically addressed as part of network management, in the digital world there is little separation between on-demand service provisioning and the resiliency of a service’s network and application server components.