Cloud Native OSS/BSS

Cloud-native operational and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS) has become the subject of much attention in the telecommunications industry. Though most communications service providers (CSPs) plan to migrate their technology to the cloud, the pace is wanting. Even for large corporations such as the Vodafone group, only one-third of their UK branch’s systems have been migrated to the cloud. 

Cloud migration is a complicated endeavor, and companies face significant challenges during their AWS migration project. Here are five of the most frequent Cloud Migration challenges and solutions

Moving to the cloud comes with a plethora of benefits for CSPs. However, there are many challenges in migrating that slow down the process. First, the desire to transition to a digital service provider must be accompanied by a strategic vision that accounts for the organization’s holistic needs. Otherwise, the project may backfire or progress halted due to inadequate budgeting.   

Though moving to the cloud allows CSPs to respond quicker and helps lower costs, the rate of migration does not match the benefits. This is primarily because communications service providers are generally not capital-constrained and have a predictable customer base, thus stable revenues.

However, due to the competition for customer control by hyperscale cloud providers, the traditional CSP revenue model is under threat. To compete, CSPs are now required to adopt cloud-native technologies.

Some of the benefits cloud-native technologies include:

  • Easier to build and foster strong digital relationships with customers
  • Offers CSPs new B2B capabilities that allow them to offer customized solutions
  • CSPs can easily distinguish themselves as new services and capabilities are not easy to replicate
  • New revenue streams from 5G capabilities

For CSPs to fully unlock the benefits of cloud-native technologies, business and technology requirements should be aligned, and a concrete organization-wide strategy adopted. This whitepaper will explore what cloud-native technologies are and all the essential things you need to know as you prepare to adopt them.

VIRTUALIZATION, CLOUD, AND CLOUD-NATIVE | IS THERE A DIFFERENCE

Paradoxically, within the telecommunications sector, which is IT-based, there seems to be a lack of clarity as to exactly what cloud is and how it relates to virtualization and cloud-native.

VIRTUALIZATION

Virtualization is the precursor or base that supports cloud computing. It involves using software to create an abstraction of computer hardware that makes it possible to divide a single computer’s processors, storage, and memory into multiple virtual machines (VMs). These virtual machines operate like independent computers with their own operating systems.

CLOUD

This is an ecosystem containing a network of VMs operating as one. There are three types of clouds: Public, private, and hybrid clouds. Public cloud services are available via the internet and involve the use of shared resources. A private cloud is typically hosted on-premise, and services are accessed via the internal private network. Hybrid clouds are a form of cloud computing that involve the use of both private and public clouds.

CLOUD-NATIVE

Cloud-native is a system in which applications are built and run in a way that allows CSPs to capitalize on cloud computing fully. CSPs must use continuous delivery workflows and agile processes to break down solutions into functional blocks that can run as microservices within containers on elastic infrastructure to become cloud-native.

For the systems to run efficiently in different computing environments, the applications within a containerized cloud-native ecosystem should be bundled together with all related libraries, dependencies, and configuration files.

NETWORK FUNCTIONS VIRTUALIZATION (NFV)

With network functions virtualizations (NFVs), network functions such as switches, routers, and firewalls are separated from dedicated hardware. They are used in software-based Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) on commercial servers in the service provider’s network. These servers can either be on the service provider’s premises or in the cloud.

SOFTWARE-DEFINED NETWORKING (SDN)

Software-defined networking is a network management architecture that allows the network to be controlled or programmed from a central point using software applications. To facilitate this, software-defined networking separates control and forwarding functions.

MIGRATING TO THE CLOUD

Despite efforts to virtualize network functions, many CSPs have realized that VNFs alone do not offer the desired benefits of moving to the cloud. This is why many CSPs are now looking towards cloud-native technology to lower costs and achieve greater agility.

As more CSPs adopt cloud-native technologies and realize their benefits, the technology’s uptake is expected to gain momentum. An area in which cloud-native technologies have proven to be extremely beneficial is in front-end digital systems such as chatbots, mobile apps, and websites.

CHALLENGES OF ADOPTING CLOUD NATIVE TECHNOLOGIES

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 as well as 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 offered by vendors does not match the demand from CSPs. For operators, the maturity level is 26% higher. This suggests that they are forced to find workarounds as they wait for the necessary support from their vendors.

SKILLS GAP IN ADOPTING CLOUD NATIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Along with the inadequate support from vendors as well as 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 offering such services are 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 is crucial.

ACHIEVING DIGITAL SERVICE PROVIDER STATUS

To become a digital service provider (DSP), it is crucial for communications service providers to 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.

Cloud migration is a complicated endeavor, and companies face significant challenges during their AWS migration project. Here are five of the most frequent Cloud Migration challenges and solutions

HOW THE TM FORUM DIGITAL FRAMEWORK CAN HELP

With the TM Forum Digital Framework, communications service providers and their suppliers gain an end-to-end migration path from legacy systems to cloud-native IT infrastructure that’s interactive. It helps service providers significantly reduce the development cycle of products from one and a half months to 18 days while boosting agility.

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