Overcoming the multi-faceted OSS expertise conundrum

How many times have you heard a colleague say they wish they could clone themselves (or one of their trusted colleagues)? Alternatively, to say they’d like to do a copy *.* of a colleague’s brain?

I’m feeling that way more now than at any time in the past, not of any one person in particular, but on whole fields of expertise. Data science, network virtualisation, cloud development models, digital marketing, the art of selling, getting hands-on with the many open-source OSS tools and integrating them together (as recently flagged by Christi). The list goes on. Gaining expertise in each field is a life’s work. Just gaining proficiency is a full-time job.

To be an expert in future OSS requires managing all these facets, not to mention all the challenges of the past / present. The question I find myself asking is how to find a balance of proficiencies up until the invention of a time-extension machine.

The best answer I’ve come up with so far is to be a super-connector. That requires four things:

  1. Knowing enough about the technologies, methodologies and perspectives of each pillar of expertise
  2. Having an amazing network of people who are making each pillar their life’s work respectively
  3. Enhancing my ability to spot / invent valuable opportunities that allow the two previous dot-points to be connected
  4. Having the ability to be the communication / translation layer between the first three points because each has its own language / jargon and doesn’t naturally plug straight into the others (eg data scientists and network operators)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you best manage the conundrum of multi-faceted expertise.

Trickle-down impact planning

We introduced the concept of The Trickle-down Effect last year, an effect that sees the most minor changes trickling down through an OSS stack, with much bigger consequences than expected.

The trickle-down effect can be insidious, turning a nice open COTS solution into a beast that needs constant attention to cope with the most minor of operational changes. The more customisations made, the more gnarly the beast tends to be.”

Here’s an example I saw recently. An internal business unit wanted to introduce a new card type into the chassis set they managed. Speaking with the physical inventory team, it seemed the change was quite small and a budget was developed for the works… but the budget (dollars / time / risk) was about to blow out in a big way.

The new card wasn’t being picked up in their fault-management or performance management engines. It wasn’t picked up in key reports, nor was it being identified in the configuration management database or logical inventory. Every one of these systems needed interface changes. Not massive change obviously, but collectively the budget blew out by 10x and expedite changes pushed out the work previously planned by each of the interface development and testing teams.

These trickle-down impacts were known…. by some people…. but weren’t communicated to the business unit responsible for managing the new card type. There’s a possibility that they may not have even added the new card type if they realised the full OSS cost consequences.

Are these trickle-down impacts known and readily communicated within your OSS change processes?

The answer is soooo obvious…. or is it?

There’s a crowded room of OSS experts, a room filled with serious intellectual horsepower. You might be a virtu-OSS-o, but you surely know that there’s still so much to be learnt from those around you. You have the chance to unlock the experiences and insights of your esteemed colleagues. But how? The answer might seem to be obvious. You do so by asking questions. Lots of questions.

But that obvious answer might have just one little unexpected twist.

Do you ask:

  1. Ego questions – questions that demonstrate how clever you are (and thus prove to the other experts that you too are an expert); OR
  2. Embarrassing questions – questions that could potentially embarrass you (and demonstrate major deficiencies in your knowledge, perhaps suggesting that you’re not as much of as expert as everyone else)

I’ve been in those rooms and heard the questions, as you have too no doubt. What do you think the ratio of ego to embarrassing would typically be? 10 to 1? 20 to 1?

The problem with the ego questions is that they can be so specific to the context of a few that they end up steering the conversations to the depths of technology hell (of course they can also end up inspiring / enlightening too, so I’m generalising here).

But have you observed that the very best in our industry happen to ask a lot of embarrassing  questions?

A quote by Ramit Sethi splices in brilliantly here, “The very best ask lots of questions. 3 questions I almost never hear: (1) “Just a second. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get to that?” (2) “I’m not sure I understand the conclusion — can you walk me through that?” (3) “How did you see that answer?” Ask these questions and stop worrying about being embarrassed. How else are you going to learn?

Just for laughs, next time you’re at one of these events (and I notice that TM Forum Live is coming up in May), try to guess what the ego to embarrassing ratio might be there and which set of questions are spawning the more interesting / insightful / helpful conversations.

One sentence to make most OSS experts cringe

Let me warn you. The following sentence is going to make many OSS experts cringe, maybe even feel slightly disgusted, but take the time to read the remainder of the post and ponder how it fits within your specific OSS context/s.

“Our OSS need to help people spend money!”

Notice the word is “help” and not “coerce?” This is not a post about turning our OSS into sales tools, well, not directly anyway.

May I ask you a question – Do you ever spend time thinking about how your OSS is helping your customer’s customer (which I’ll refer to as the end-customer) to spend their money? And I mean making it easier for them to buy the stuff they want to buy in return for some form of value / utility, not trick or coerce them into buying stuff they don’t want.

Let me step you through the layers of thinking here.

The first layer for most OSS experts is their direct customer, which is usually the service provider or enterprise that buys and operates the OSS. We might think they are buying an OSS, but we’re wrong. An organisation buys an OSS, not because it wants an Operational Support System, but because it wants Operational Support.

The second layer is a distinct mindset change for most OSS experts. Following on from the first layer, OSS has the potential to be far more than just operational support. Operational support conjures up the image of being a cost-centre, or something that is a necessary evil of doing business (ie in support of other revenue-raising activities). To remain relevant and justify OSS project budgets, we have to flip the cost-centre mentality and demonstrate a clear connection with revenue chains. The more obvious the connection, the better. Are you wondering how?

That’s where the third layer comes in. We have to think hard about the end-customer and empathise with their experiences. These experiences might be a consumer to a service provider’s (your direct customer) product offerings. It might even be a buying cycle that the service provider’s products facilitate. Either way, we need to simplify their ability to buy.

So let’s work back up through those layers again:
Layer 3 – If end-customers find it easier to buy stuff, then your customer wins more revenue (and brand value)
Layer 2 – If your customer sees that its OSS / BSS has unquestionably influenced revenue increase, then more is invested on OSS projects
Layer 1 – If your customer recognises that your OSS / BSS has undeniably influenced the increased OSS project budget, you too get entrusted with a greater budget to attempt to repeat the increased end-customer buy cycle… but only if you continue to come up with ideas that make it easier for people (end-customers) to spend their money.

At what layer does your thinking stop?

Those who rule perfect data…

A Passionate About OSS article last month spoke of how the investment strategy of a $106 billion VC fund has changed my thinking on our OSS‘ most valuable asset. Masayoshi Son is quoted in that article as follows:

“Those who rule data will rule the entire world. That’s what people of the future will say.”

But one question keeps coming back to me… if you’re ruling poor quality data, will you rule nothing whatsoever?

Along the same lines, the old adage, “practice makes perfect,” is not very helpful if you’re not practicing in a constructive way. A better (albeit somewhat impossible) variant on the adage would be “PERFECT practice makes perfect.”

Let me share an example. There is a product that is completely ground-breaking in its ability to automate and optimise designs of large-scale network roll-outs – designs that include outside plant and access network technologies. In bake-offs with some of the best available network designers, this product and its algorithm consistently beats the humans by far more than 25% (when measured by capital costs, implementation time and various other metrics).

Its one challenge in taking over the world and automating every future network design is having a base set of data that is so perfect that no re-design work is required. For example, if the base data says a duct route is available and has capacity for inserting a cable, then the product assumes it can use the duct in its optimal design. But when the field techs arrive at site, they find the duct is too badly damaged to use or already filled to capacity with other cables that can’t be overhauled. A new optimal design has to be calculated to consider the lack of availability of that duct.

The tool still gives great results, even after all the manual intervention, but perfect source data would give breathtaking results.

So I’d look to make one small tweak to Masayoshi Son’s quote. “Those who rule PERFECT* data will rule the entire world. That’s what people of the future will say.”

* whereby perfect means as high in quality as realistically possible.

So, perhaps those expensive data audits and cumbersome data quality processes will have a far greater ROI (Return on Investment) in future than any of us could ever estimate.

The pruning saw technique for OSS fall-out management

Many different user journeys flow through our OSS every day. These include external / customer journeys, internal / operator journeys and possibly even machines-to-machine or system journeys. Unfortunately, not all of these journeys are correctly completed through to resolution.

The incomplete or unsatisfactory journeys could include inter-system fall-outs, customer complaints, service quality issues, and many more.

If we categorise and graph these unsuccessful journeys, we will often find a graph like the one below. This example shows that a small number of journey categories account for a large proportion of the problematic journeys. However, it also shows a long tail of other categories that are individually insignificant, but collectively significant.

Long tail of OSS demands

The place where everybody starts (including me) is to focus on the big wins on lhe left side of the graph. lt makes sense that this is where your efforts will have the biggest impacts. Unfortunately, since that’s where everybody focusses effort, chances are the significant gains have already been achieved and optimisation is already quite high (but numbers are still high due constraints within the existing solution stack).

The long tail intrigues me. It’s harder to build a business case for because there are many causes and little return for solving them. Alternatively, if we can slowly and systematically remove many of these rarer events, we’re removing the noise and narrowing our focus on the signal, thus simplifying our overall solution.

Since they’re statistically rarer, we can often afford to be more ruthless in the ways that we prevent them from occurring. But how do we identify and prevent them?

Each of the bars on the chart above represent leaves on a decision tree (faulty leaves in this case). If we work our way back up the branches, we can ruthlessly prune. Examples could be:

  • The removal of obscure service options that lead to faults
  • Reduction (or expansion or refinement) of process designs to better cope with boundary cases that generate problems
  • Removal of grandfathered products that have few customers, generate losses and consume disproportionate support effort
  • Removal or refinement of interfaces, especially east-west systems that contribute little to an end-to-end process but lead to many fall-outs
  • Identification of improved exception handling, either within systems or at hand-off points

I’m sure you can think of many more, especially when you start tracing back up decision trees with a pruning saw in hand!!


How smart contracts might reduce risk and enhance trust on OSS projects

Last Friday, we spoke about all wanting to develop trusted OSS supplier / customer relationships but rarely finding them and a contrarian factor for why trust is so hard to achieve in OSS – complexity.

Trust is the glue that allows OSS projects to happen. Not only that, it becomes a catch-22 with complexity. If OSS partners don’t trust each other, requirements, contracts, etc get more complex as a self-protection barrier. But with every increase in complexity, there becomes an increasing challenge to deliver and hence, risk of further reduction in trust.

On a smaller scale, you’ve seen it on all projects – if the project starts to falter, increased monitoring attention is placed on the project, which puts increased administrative load on the project team and reduces the time they have to deliver the intended outcomes. Sometimes the increased admin / report gains the attention of sponsors and access to additional resources, but usually it just detracts from the available delivery capability.

Vish Nandlall also associates trust and complexity in organisational models in his LinkedIn post below:

This is one of the reasons I’m excited about what smart contracts can do for the organisations and OSS projects of the future. Just as “Likes” and “Supplier Rankings” have facilitated online trust models, smart contracts success rankings have the ability to do the same for OSS suppliers, large and small. For example, rather than needing to engage “Big Vendor A” to build your entire, monolithic OSS stack, if an operator develops simpler, more modular work breakdowns (eg microservices), then they can engage “Freelancer B” and “Small Vendor C” to make valuable contributions on smaller risk increments. Being lower in complexity and risk means B and C have a greater chance of engendering trust, but their historical contract success ranking forces them to develop trust as a key metric.

An OSS niche market opportunity?

The survey found that 82 percent of service providers conduct less than half of customer transactions digitally, despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of respondents said they are moving forward with business-wide digital transformation programs of varying size and scale. This underscores a large perception gap in understanding, completing and benefiting from digitalization programs.

The study revealed that more than one-third of service providers have completed some aspect of digital transformation, but challenges persist; nearly three-quarters of service providers identify legacy systems and processes, challenges relating to staff and skillsets and business risk as the greatest obstacles to transforming digital services delivery.

Driving a successful digital transformation requires companies to transform myriad business and operational domains, including customer journeys, digital product catalogs, partner management platforms and networks via software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
Survey from Netcracker and ICT Intuition.

Interesting study from Netcracker and ICT Intuition. To re-iterate with some key numbers and take-aways:

  1. 82% of responding service providers can increase digital transactions by at least 50% (in theory).  Digital transactions tend to be significantly cheaper for service providers than manual transactions. However, some customers will work the omni-channel experience to find the channel that they’re most comfortable dealing with. In many cases, this means attempting to avoid digital experiences. As a side note, any attempts to become 100% digital are likely to require social / behavioural engineering of customers and/or an associated churn rate
  2. Nearly 75% of responding service providers identify legacy systems / processes, skillsets and business risk as biggest challenges. This reads as putting a digital interface onto back-end systems like BSS / OSS tools. This is less of a challenge for newer operators that have been designed with digitalised customer interactions in mind. The other challenge for operators is that the digital front-ends are rarely designed to bolt onto the operators’ existing legacy back-end systems and need significant integration
  3. If an operator want to build a digital transaction regime, they should expect an OSS / BSS transformation too.

To overcome these challenges, I’ve noticed that some operators have been building up separate (often low-cost) brands with digital-native front ends, back ends, processes and skills bases. These brands tend to target the ever-expanding digitally native generations and be seen as the stepping stone to obsoleting legacy solutions (and perhaps even legacy business models?).

I wonder whether this is a market niche for smaller OSS players to target and grow into whilst the big OSS brands chase the bigger-brother operator brands?

We all want to develop trusted OSS partnerships, so why does so much scepticism exist?

Every OSS supplier wants to achieve “trusted” status with their customers. Each supplier wants to be the source trusted to provide the best vision of the future for each customer.

I’m an independent consultant, so I have been lucky enough to represent many organisations on both sides of that equation. And in that position, I’ve been able to get a first-hand view of the perception of trust between OSS vendors / integrators (suppliers) and operators (customers). Let’s just say that in general, we’re working in an industry with more scepticism than trust.

So if trust is so important and such a desired status, where is it breaking down?

Whilst I’d like to assume that most people in our industry go into OSS projects with the very best of intentions, there are definitely some suppliers that try to trick and entrap their customers whilst acting in an untrustworthy way. For the rest of this post, I’m going to assume the best – assume that we all have great intentions. We then look at why the trust relationships might be breaking down and some of the ways we can do better.

Jon Gordon provides a great list of 11 ways to build trust. Check out his link for a more detailed view, but the 11 factors are as follows:

  1. Say what you are going to do and then do what you say!
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  3. Trust is built one day, one interaction at a time, and yet it can be lost in a moment because of one poor decision
  4. Value long term relationships more than short term success
  5. Sell without selling out. Focus more on your core principles and customer loyalty than short term commissions and profits.
  6. Trust generates commitment; commitment fosters teamwork; and teamwork delivers results.
  7. Be honest!
  8. Become a coach. Coach your customers. Coach your team at work
  9. Show people you care about them
  10. Always do the right thing. We trust those who live, walk and work with integrity.
  11. When you don’t do the right thing, admit it. Be transparent, authentic and willing to share your mistakes and faults

They all sound quite obvious don’t they? Do you also notice that many of the 11 (eg communication, transparency, admitting failure, doing what you say, etc) can be really easy to say but harder to do flawlessly under the pressure of complex OSS delivery projects (and ongoing operations)?

I know I certainly can’t claim a perfect track record on all of  these items. Numbers 1 and 2 can be particularly difficult when under extreme delivery pressure, especially when things just aren’t going to plan technically and you’re focussing attention on regaining control of the situation. In those situations, communication and transparency are what the customer needs to maintain confidence, but the customer relationship takes time that also needs to be allocated to overcoming the technical challenges. It becomes a balancing act.

So, how do we position ourselves to make it easier to keep to these 11 best intentions? Simple. By making a concerted effort to reduce complexity… actually not so simple as it sounds, but rewarding if you can achieve it. The less complex your delivery projects (or operational models), the more repeatable and reliable a supplier’s OSS delivery becomes. The more reliable, the less friction and a reduced chance of fracturing relationships. Subsequently, the more chance of building and retaining trust.

Hat-tip to Robert Curran of Aria Networks for spawning a discussion about trust.

Interaction points with fast/slow processes

Further to yesterday’s post on fast / slow processes and factory platforms, a concept presented by Sylvain Denis of Orange in Melbourne last week, here’s a diagram from Sylvain’s presentation pack :

The yellow blocks represent the fast (automated) processes. The orange blocks represent the slow processes.

The next slide showed the human interaction points (blue boxes) into this API / factory stack.

Globe Telecom signs multi-year deal with Amdocs

Globe Telecom Signs Multi-Year Intelligent Operations Deal with Amdocs for Continuous Enhancement of Services and Operations.

Amdocs announced that it  has signed a multi-year services contract with Globe Telecom, one of the Philippines’ largest telecommunications providers, for continuous enhancement of Globe Telecom’s operations. According to the agreement, Amdocs Intelligent Operations will assist Globe in managing third-party systems and cloud management solutions. This includes modernizing and running IT operations for multiple lines of businesses, including prepaid and postpaid mobile services, fixed-line broadband, and enterprise services.

Furthermore, with Amdocs Intelligent Operations, Globe Telecom is embracing artificial intelligence, chatbots, and machine learning technologies to increase business agility and flexibility. The automation will enable faster resolution of issues and better customer experience.  As a result, Globe Telecom will be able to expedite their digital journey while reducing costs, and innovating and launching new services to deliver compelling experiences to customers.

“We are committed to enrich the lives of our customers in the digital age by continuously innovating our brand and delivering a diversity of new offerings to market faster by increasing our service agility and operations,” said Ernest Cu, president and CEO of Globe Telecom. “As we continue our journey towards the digital future, automation will play a crucial role in setting new benchmarks for customer experience,” Cu added.

“As one of the leaders in our industry, Globe Telecom thrives on continuously innovating their brand and enhancing the customer experience they deliver,” said Gary Miles, chief marketing officer at Amdocs. “With the emergence of new technologies creating ongoing disruption within the industry, more and more service providers are looking to transform traditional operations towards intelligent automation and optimization of their operations for more predictable service levels as well as improved efficiencies. Amdocs Intelligent Operations will enable Globe Telecom to continue to take to market the dynamic and compelling services which make their brand so strong.”

Amdocs Intelligent Operations is part of AmdocsONE, an open, modular and integrated solution set designed to accelerate the industry’s dynamic and continuous digital transformation.

Nokia selected by Vodafone for Mission to the Moon project

Nokia is selected by Vodafone to be its technology partner for Mission to the Moon project.

The Moon will get 4G coverage next year, 50 years after the first NASA astronauts walked on its surface. Vodafone plans to create the first 4G network on the Moon to support a mission by PTScientists in 2019 and has appointed Nokia as its technology partner.

Berlin-based company, PTScientists is working with Vodafone Germany and Audi to achieve the first privately-funded Moon landing. Mission to the Moon is due to launch in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Vodafone’s network expertise will be used to set up the Moon’s first 4G network, connecting two Audi lunar quattro rovers to a base station in the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module (ALINA). Nokia, through Nokia Bell Labs, will create a space-grade Ultra Compact Network that will be the lightest ever developed – weighing less than one kilo, the same as a bag of sugar.

Nokia Bell Labs has a long and prestigious lineage in influencing the evolution of telecommunications and information technologies, as seen through the eight Nobel Prizes that Bell Labs researchers have been awarded over past decades.

The 4G network will enable the Audi lunar quattro rovers to communicate and transfer scientific data and HD video while they carefully approach and study NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts to walk on the Moon (Commander Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt) to explore the Taurus-Littrow valley in December 1972.

Vodafone testing indicates that the base station should be able to broadcast 4G using the 1800 MHz frequency band and send back the first ever live HD video feed of the Moon’s surface, which will be broadcast to a global audience via a deep space link that interconnects with the PTScientists server in the Mission Control Centre in Berlin.

A 4G network is highly energy efficient compared to analogue radio and that will be crucial to Mission to the Moon and is the first step to building communications infrastructure for future missions.

Nokia Chief Technology Officer and Bell Labs President, Marcus Weldon, said: “We are very pleased to have been selected by Vodafone to be their technology partner. This important mission is supporting, among other things, the development of new space-grade technologies for future data networking, processing and storage, and will help advance the communications infrastructure required for academics, industry and educational institutions in conducting lunar research. These aims have potentially wide-ranging implications for many stakeholders and humanity as a whole, and we look forward to working closely with Vodafone and the other partners in the coming months, prior to the launch in 2019.”

Vodafone Germany CEO, Dr. Hannes Ametsreiter, commented: “This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure. It is also a great example of an independent, multi-skilled team achieving an objective of immense significance through their courage, pioneering spirit and inventiveness.”

Robert Böhme, CEO and Founder of PTScientists, said: “This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system. In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet. With Mission to the Moon we will establish and test the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the Moon. The great thing about this LTE solution is that it saves so much power, and the less energy we use sending data, the more we have to do science!”

Vodafone selects NEC/Netcracker for Domain Orchestration

Vodafone Will Leverage NEC/Netcracker’s Hybrid Operations Management to Drive Groupwide Cloud Transformation.

NEC Corporation and Netcracker Technology announced that Vodafone Group has selected NEC/Netcracker’s Hybrid Operations Management (HOM) solution to support its transition into a telecommunications cloud provider. The virtualization initiative will incorporate the use of cloud-native, SDN and NFV technologies to evolve operational and business systems and processes. NEC/Netcracker’s Hybrid Operations Management will support this initiative by orchestrating and managing end-to-end resources and services within Vodafone domains.

Vodafone Group is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and provides a range of services including voice, messaging, data and fixed communications.

NEC/Netcracker’s solution will help Vodafone streamline and automate operational processes across its operating companies in order to increase service efficiency and flexibility. This will reduce the time it takes to launch new services and enable dynamic, closed-loop operations with automated lifecycle capabilities in order to meet unpredictable and constantly changing network demand.

Vodafone and NEC/Netcracker will jointly demonstrate the power of orchestration to deliver zero-touch cloud services at Mobile World Congress 2018. The compelling demonstration underscores the role of orchestration to automate networks and services driving agility and cost efficiencies in the mobile market and will be showcased in Vodafone’s booth in Hall 3 Stand 3D30 and NEC/Netcracker’s booth in Hall 2 Stand 2H31.

“As we accelerate the transformation of our network and services to fully leverage cloud and virtualization, Orchestration and Automation plays a critical role in how we build and operate both the infrastructure and our business,” said Fran Heeran, Head of Network Virtualization, SDN and NFV at Vodafone Group. “We selected NEC/Netcracker due to its deep understanding of both physical and virtual domains and its unique capabilities for hybrid operations across physical and cloud environments.”

“As customer demands change, service providers are under increasing pressure to leverage networks that will enable the delivery of new services and support evolving customer lifestyles,” said Andrew Feinberg, President and CEO at Netcracker. “We are excited to work with Vodafone on its massive cloud transformation program, which will lay the foundation for innovation to deliver the next generation of digital services.”

Aria Networks joins ETSI Network AI Initiative

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and networking pioneer Aria Networks has joined the ETSI group formed to lead the industry in mapping the future of AI and Networking.

The ETSI Experiential Networked Intelligence (ENI) Industry Specification Group (ISG) was set up in February 2017, to define a new architecture for network management leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to improve automation.

ETSI ENI already has the backing of telecom operators including Telecom Italia and Vodafone, as well as vendors such as Huawei, ZTE, Samsung and Xilinx. Aria is the first independent software vendor to join the group. (The full list of members is at https://portal.etsi.org/TBSiteMap/ENI/ListOfENIMembers.aspx)

Aria’s Head of Research, Dr Archie Wade, commented: “Network automation has risen to the top of the agenda for network operators in the last few years. But many operators are still taking quite a narrow view of what that means, and the role for AI. Through our participation in the ETSI ENI group, we hope to provide an industry blueprint for business-driven network automation, delivering real transformation.”

ETSI ENI Chair, Ray Forbes, added: “We welcome Aria’s involvement in our group. The practical application of AI techniques to networking challenges is a rare but vital skill set for this initiative.”

Aria Networks is a pioneer in the field of AI and Networking. Its software platform uses AI and Machine Learning to create optimal designs for complex networks, in response to any set of criteria (such as lowest latency, lowest power consumption) or conditions (such as scheduled or unplanned outages).

According to Aria, the use of Artificial intelligence technology is essential for automating new software-controlled, dynamic networks including 5G. By using AI to automate network design and optimisation processes, operators can achieve “closed loop” operations at a business level, delivering greater agility and scalability.
Aria has previously featured in high-profile industry collaborations such as Vodafone’s 2016 Mobile World Congress “VPN+” demonstration, and several TeleManagement Forum “Catalyst” collaborations on 5G slicing and closed loop automation.

Aria’s technology has been used by Tier 1 network operators including BT and Level3 as well as web-scale giants such as Facebook. Privately-held, the company is based in the UK.

Fast / Slow OSS processes

Yesterday’s post discussed using smart contracts and Network as a Service (NaaS) to give a network the properties that will allow it to self-heal.

It mentioned a couple of key challenges, one being that there will always be physical activities such as cable cuts fixes, faulty equipment replacement, physical equipment expansion / contraction / lifecycle-management.

In a TM Forum presentation last week, Sylvain Denis of Orange proposed the theory of fast and slow OSS processes. Fast – soft factories (software and logical resources) within the operations stack are inherently automatable (notwithstanding the complexities and cost-benefit dilemma of actually building automations). Slow – physical factories are slow processes as they usually rely on human tasks and/or have location constraints.

Orchestration relies on programmatic interfaces to both. Not all physical factories have programmatic interfaces in all OSS / BSS stacks yet. It will remain a key requirement for the forseeable future to be able to handle dual-speed processes / factories.

Amdocs and Amazon Web Services announce strategic program

Amdocs and Amazon Web Services Announce Strategic Program.

Amdocs announced a strategic collaboration agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to accelerate Communications Service Providers’ (CSPs) transition to the cloud to drive rapid innovation and operational efficiencies.

A recent, comprehensive industry survey completed by Analysys Mason found that by 2022 more than 90 percent of CSP systems will run on the cloud, with more than 60 percent of these systems running on hybrid architectures. To address this growing segment Amdocs, with AWS, will provide several initiatives, including:

  • The migration of Amdocs’ Business Support Systems and third-party legacy environments into an optimized, hybrid cloud operational environment.  Amdocs will enable and support CSPs as they deploy and migrate new and existing Amdocs products to AWS.
  • Amdocs Managed Services Provider (MSP) practice to help CSPs modernize and drive low touch operations on an efficient and outsourced basis, including highly secure and reliable AWS technologies.  This practice leverages Amdocs’ certification distinction as an AWS Advanced Technology Provider Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN).
  • To help CSPs test new offerings, consumer uptake and disruptive business models for faster time to market and greater business agility, Amdocs will use cutting-edge technologies around open source, hyper-scale systems, and elastic network scaling to create AWS cloud-native environments.

“Communications and media providers run some of the most mission critical and hyper scale systems on the planet.  Amdocs is a clear long-term leader in enabling CSPs across the globe and we are excited to collaborate with them to deliver impactful value to our mutual customers,” said Terry Wise, Global Vice President of Channels and Alliances, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “The Amdocs and AWS strategic collaboration has been created to support CSPs as they embark on and accelerate their cloud journey to achieve new levels of business agility, innovation, and cost savings.  This collaboration will enable CSPs to rapidly become digital service providers, delivering new and enhanced customer experiences that are simple, personal, contextual and valuable at every point of engagement across all channels.”

“Putting the customer first is an ethos that both companies are very passionate about. This strategic collaboration with AWS will help accelerate our customers’ cloud journeys while strengthening our own cloud-native capabilities. AmdocsONE is fueled by cloud technologies as a fundamental design tenant and, as a result, many of our platforms today are fully cloud-native. We leverage a carrier-grade, microservices design paradigm to harness the dynamic scaling and deployment power of the AWS Cloud, and are excited about what this opportunity means to our customers,” said Anthony Goonetilleke, Group President for Amdocs Technology.

The Amdocs strategic program represents an expansion of the existing relationship between Amdocs and AWS. The companies have been working together for several years to support communication and media companies in their move to the cloud. In November 2016, Amdocs achieved AWS Internet of Things (IoT) Competency Partner Status, demonstrating its technical proficiency and proven customer success in the IoT connected home specialized solution area.

The challenges in transforming network assurance to network healing

A couple of interesting concepts have the ability to fundamentally change the way networks and services are maintained. If they can be harnessed, we could replace the term “network assurance” with “network healing.”

The first concept is SON, which has been formulated specifically with mobile radio networks in mind, but has the potential to extend into all network types.

A Self-Organizing Network (SON) is an automation technology designed to make the planning, configuration, management, optimization and healing of mobile radio access networks simpler and faster.”

One of the challenges of creating self-organising, self-optimising, self-healing networks is that every network has physical points of failure – cable cuts, equipment failure, etc. These can’t be fixed with software alone. That’s where the second concept comes in.

The second concept is smart-contract technology (possibly facilitated by Blockchain), which provides the potential for a more automated way of engaging a mini procurement / delivery / test / payment process to fix physical problems (or logical for that matter). Whilst the work might be done in the physical world, it could be done by third-parties, initiated by the OSS via microservice. Network Fix as a Service (NFaaS), with implementation, test, acceptance and payment all done in software as far as the OSS sees it.

To an extent this already happens via the issuance of ToW (Tickets of Work) to third party fault-fix teams, but it’s normally a significantly manual process currently.

However, the bigger challenge of transforming network assurance to network healing is to find a way to self-heal services that span multiple network domains. This could be physical network functions (PNF), virtual network functions (VNF) and the myriad topologies, technologies and protocols that interconnect them.

I can’t help but think that to simplify (self-healing) we first have to simplify (network variant minimisation).

If we can drastically reduce the number of variants, we have a better chance of building self-heal automations… and don’t just tell me that AI engines will solve all these problems! Maybe one day, but perhaps we can start with baby steps first.

Potential OSS failures aren’t always technical

I recently attended an event where a brainstorming question was posed about how a particular next-gen OSS concept might fail. Interesting exercise!

There were a lot of super-clever technical people in the room. The brainstorming of ideas was a fascinating one. We dived deeply into the experiences of many of the technical people in the room and all the potential technical reasons for failure.

But I was left with an overwhelming feeling that:

    1. Most, if not all, of those technical hurdles could be overcome if given enough resources
    2. None of the more likely causes of failure were brought up, including:
      • People-related factors (or organisational change factors) such as resistance to change, a shortage of skills in a nascent area, stakeholder management, lack of “champion” support if momentum slows, inability to reach consensus on scope / design, etc
      • Financial viability factors such as inability to deliver on time/cost/scope, parallel operations and maintenance of legacy, lower additional benefit than predicted in the business case

That’s where I’ve noticed a greater proportion of OSS project failures anyway. Does this align with your experiences?

NEC and Netcracker advance commercial NaaS deployment at TELUS

Netcracker-Enabled Network Transformation Powers TELUS to Deliver Personalized, Software-Defined Networking Services Faster.

NEC Corporation and Netcracker Technology announced that NEC/Netcracker’s Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) Business and Operational Support solution has gone into production at TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company.

TELUS NaaS enables businesses to virtually build, manage and cloud-optimize their networks quickly, easily and cost-effectively through a flexible self-serve platform. New secure networking services, such as SD-WAN, can be configured up to 80 percent faster than traditional networks, enabling TELUS to better serve the needs of its customers while reducing networking costs.

The TELUS NaaS solution uses NEC/Netcracker’s Order Management and Service Orchestration. The NaaS platform also utilizes NEC/Netcracker’s Business Enablement Applications, including NaaS Self-Service for real-time configuration and monitoring, and Netcracker’s Customer and Product Information Management offerings.

“Service providers are looking for new ways to evolve their networks and embrace more open ecosystems. Thanks to the emergence of cloud architecture, software-defined networking and network virtualization technologies, NaaS represents a significant stride forward in achieving these opportunities,” said Uzi Murad, General Manager North America at Netcracker.

“By leveraging the power of TELUS’ advanced fiber network, we are able to deliver access to faster and more reliable business services, including innovative NaaS solutions, to more business customers than ever before,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO at TELUS. “Collaborating with NEC/Netcracker has contributed to our ability to deliver SD-WAN and other next-generation services to meet our customers’ increasingly complex demands.”