Standardising the southbound interface

This recent news brief relating to the AT&T ICE program reminded me to write an article on the standardisation of southbound interfaces. As Chris Rice SVP of AT&T Labs’ Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design stated in reference to certification of VNFs, “Unfortunately, you can get a lot of snowflakes — VNFs that are totally unique — when what you really want is Lego blocks.”

In the traditional world of OSS, there tended to be a very expensive layer that sat between an OSS and the EMS/NMS that they spoke with at the southbound interface to the OSS. There are many different names used such as mediation devices, mediation device drivers, network plug-ins, probes, etc. This layer was very expensive because the southbound APIs on the OSS were of a fixed structure and the northbound APIs on the EMS/NMS tended to have a fixed structure and the intermediate layer was required to act as a message translator.

But in these days of microservices and programmable interfaces, there is more potential for large customers like AT&T to insist that network vendors have northbound interfaces certified to integrate with their standardised OSS interface.

So, you could interpret this as the buyers (eg AT&T) pushing the integration responsibilities onto the network vendors, and you’d be right. The difference now is that with programmable interfaces, the network vendors have more flexibility in accommodating buyers without having to do a custom product releases (in theory). For service providers, they get the simplicity of Lego blocks.

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