Challenges and Myths Of Moving the OSS Infrastructure Stack to the Cloud

The telecommunications sector is, by all means, innovative and highly competitive. Thus, to remain relevant, businesses must learn the latest industry trends and adapt to them.

During 2021, technological changes will continue in companies and their activities. The digital transformation trend has acquired a significant role, becoming an instrument and a disruption of previously efficient models. Unfortunately, many of these are no longer valid.

The digital transformation has strengthened companies’ response to new ways of applying tasks and activities. 

According to a survey conducted by IDC, 73% of IT decision-makers had part of their computing infrastructure in the cloud. However, more than a third (38%) of respondents felt pressure to migrate 100% to the cloud.

Looking at 2021, IDC predicts that more than 90% of business IT infrastructures globally will be a mix of local/dedicated private clouds, multiple public clouds, and existing platforms. And as CSPs expand their offerings and strengthen their security and data protection capabilities, the door to cloud migration will open even wider for even the most skeptical and conservative companies. Without it, they will be left out of the competition.

Drivers and Benefits of Moving OSS to the Cloud

Going from a virtualized to a cloudified network is not easyGoing from a virtualized to a cloudified network is not easy, and it means that operators make the leap to a technology that will put them back in a competitive place. The cloudification of the network will offer operators those attributes. 

While going from VNF to CNF is an important step, the benefits of this change are really significant in the ability to, for example, automate processes on the network, something essential in the 5G era.

OSS has a decisive part in shaping the service portfolios of CSPs. OSS impacts a CSP’s agility to roll out new services and their ability to measure QoS. Nevertheless, due to exponential growth in data consumption, CSPs have prioritized network upgrades over OSS/BSS transformations. Legacy OSS systems present multiple challenges to CSPs, such as:

  1. Management of complex OSS products.
  2. Delayed time-to-market.
  3. Lack of business flexibility
  4. High CAPEX and OPEX for specialized OSS software.

OSS solutions deployed over cloud platforms can meet various business and technical challenges that the communications industry faces today.

Telco Challenges in the Digital Economy

Obtaining that long-awaited digitization is not easy, and it requires a shift in the organizational mindset, structure, and interaction. Also, CSPs have to decentralize the purchasing and decision power.

As new technologies become available, telecom companies and internet service providers have witnessed an increase in the variety and quality, reduced profit margins, and how the lines between telecom companies and technology vendors fade. Therefore, telcos have to take innovation into account and adapt their organization to digital transformation by creating strong cross-functional interfaces and seeking tools for maintaining organizational flexibility.

With millions of subscribers, various new products, bundled and customized solutions, OSS is becoming increasingly complex, so they require resources and different tools that increase the financial overhead.

CSPs need to upgrade their IT and connectivity infrastructure to provide high-quality, reliable, and affordable data and voice services. Also, network security has become a major priority for the telcos, and they are facing challenges with the emergence of new threats powered by new technologies. Several operational and technical innovations are needed to meet customer expectations of complete system security from the network to the device level.

One more challenge is the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), which leads to explosive growth in connected devices. This growth generates billions of new data sources, which will push the data to be handled by networks to zettabytes per year.

There are collective challenges that communications service providers face when migrating IT systems to the cloud. On top of these, each service provider will also have to navigate through a unique set of challenges. The main challenges they face are gaining the necessary support from suppliers and getting the right skills to execute their vision.

The challenge with suppliers is that most operators are still heavily reliant on legacy operational and business support (OSS/BSS) systems. These are only suitable for deploying CSPs’ operational environments on-premise. This makes it challenging for CSPs to adopt cloud-native technologies.

Migrating To The Cloud With Open Digital Architecture

When moving operational systems to the cloud, Service providers have two options. They can either lift and shift existing applications or restructure them to be cloud-native. With lifting and shifting, operators are not able to fully capitalize on the benefits of the cloud. Though restructuring applications unlock all the benefits of migrating to the cloud, it is costly and time-consuming.

TM Forum has an Open Digital Architecture (ODA) that is part of their Open Digital Framework. ODA acts as a go-between for two methods allowing operators to enjoy the full benefits of moving to the cloud in a cheaper and less time-consuming fashion.

Designed as a component-based architecture, the ODA exposes the business services as a set of Open APIs. The APIs are then further broken down into sets of services and microservices. By using agile development practices, microservices are easily managed on scalable infrastructure.

ODA allows CSPs and their suppliers to develop architectural visions and make relevant implementation plans. For instance, to manage migration to new hosting infrastructure, companies can use optimization, reengineering, or abstraction.

Not all systems have to be cloud-native. ODA allows organizations to retain legacy systems in operation to keep costs low.

Why APIs Are Important

For CSPs adopting cloud-native technologies, APIs are vital. This is because they give service providers the freedom to work with traditional legacy vendors and new vendors offering services optimized for the cloud.

Results from a survey conducted by TM Forum in November 2019 suggest that native Open API support does not match the demand from CSPs. For operators, the maturity level is 26% higher. This implies that they have to find workarounds as they wait for their vendors’ necessary support.

Skills Gap In Adopting Cloud-Native Technologies

Along with the inadequate support from vendors and evolving relationships with suppliers, operators also have to deal with limited skills to execute their strategies. Getting personnel with the right software skills to implement cloud transformations successfully is challenging.

As a result, operators are now turning inwards for solutions. This is especially so for Tier 1 CSPs. Instead of hiring, service providers are now training their existing employees. Where there are skills gaps, firms that offer such services get contracted temporarily.

How To Adopt Cloud-Native IT Technologies Successfully

According to most CEOs in the telecommunications sector, transitioning into digital service providers is a necessity. However, this is not an easy undertaking, as there are numerous challenges. Without developing a comprehensive strategy and executing it effectively, enjoying the benefits of cloud-native IT technologies will be impossible.

Here are some ways to ensure the transition is seamless and effective:

  • Have clearly defined concepts within the IT department and for the entire company.
  • Take a long-term approach to ensure key stakeholders are fully committed and so that developers have sufficient support and time.
  • Create a new team within the organizations to handle the transition.
  • Have a willingness to incur increased operating costs as a result of adopting cloud-native technologies.
  • Get vendors to embrace cloud technology as they support it is crucial.

Achieving Digital Service Provider Status

To become a digital service provider (DSP), communications service providers must take a step towards becoming cloud-native. There are three key pillars of transformation: digital engagement, digital network, and operations.

The journey to modernizing OSS/BSS involves the following steps:

  1. Automating existing processes and creating different isolated databases that provide a single view of all managed data.
  2. Refactoring all legacy systems that do not provide the functionality required for a cloud-native design.
  3. Breaking down barriers within the organization that may impede the adoption of native cloud technologies.
  4. Develop a cooperative model for your organization and vendors.

How Intraway Empowers OSS Migration

Intraway Symphonica is a cloud-native, no-code service management and orchestration platform designed to accelerate software-driven automation, catalyzing this digital transformation and helping CSPs to integrate faster and operate smarter.

Symphonica’s Service Order Management provides end-to-end service automation across multiple clouds and network domains. It streamlines the full lifecycle management of multivendor services within and across physical, virtual, SDN, and cloud networks. It provides a real-time, end-to-end view of the entire service and a single interface into the BSS layer, and it is based on cloud-native architecture and standards like TM Forum Open APIs and MEF LSO frameworks.

Symphonica’s Multi-Domain Orchestrator and Activator automates the entire lifecycle of multivendor, virtual resources, and network services. It is fully cloud-native and vendor-agnostic based on a BPM orchestration system and a multi-protocol connector framework. Business Layer triggers automation workflows using standard Open APIs but also by capturing network events. This enables the implementation of dynamic services and closed-loop automation processes.

Symphonica is widely proven and deployed in every CSP size, from large multi-country operators to large national networks, to small service providers. It is available in different deployment models that adapt to their needs, from on-premise to cloud-hosted to SaaS.

  • Network Distributed Architectures Orchestration for Cable and Mobile: End-to-end activation of physical and virtual elements from the instantiation and configuration of the NFV, including the provisioning of the core, the convergent transport and the access network, the OSS network elements, and finally the provisioning of the remote network element.
  • NFV Orchestration: Implementing ETSI APIs to integrate with the BSS and to the VNF managers.
  • Virtual Network Operator Automation: Orchestrate seam-less, on-demand, multi-tenant FTTH services.
  • OTT Service Automation: Simplify the addition of new OTT services to your product portfolio through standardized APIs, service and resource normalization, and no-code use cases and integration creation.

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