INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT HAS BEEN THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND NETWORK AND SERVICE INITIATIVES IN FIXED-MOBILE CONVERGENCE, NGN, SDP AND IMS. HOWEVER, MANY PROVIDERS ARE REALISING THAT MOST EXISTING OPERATIONAL SUPPORT SYSTEMS (OSS) ARE OBSTACLES TO CHANGE. SERVICE PROVIDERS ARE ADDRESSING THESE ISSUES THROUGH OSS TRANSFORMATION PROJECTS AS LARGE AND COMPLEX AS NETWORK TRANSFORMATION. SO WHAT IS OSS TRANSORMATION? THIS ARTICLE, EXTRACTED FROM AN AMDOCS WHITEPAPER, PROVIDES THE ANSWERS.
The communications industry is undergoing profound redefinition, driven by consolidation, competition, convergence and customers’ increasing demand for convenience. Whether starting in wireline, mobile or cable, the goal is to offer innovative service bundles in an endless variety, from traditional voice to Internet, wireless, video, games, music, ring tones and other content.
The convergent service market is set to experience explosive growth. IPTV will serve 53.7 million users worldwide by 2008, according to market research firm Infonetics. The North American VoIP market will grow 800% to 39 million users by 2009. Already,Verizon Wireless reports that more than 40% of its revenue is generated by “data” services like games and music.
Next generation networks have arrived and are here to stay. AT&T Universe and Verizon FiOS are a reality. KPN All IP and BT 21CN are just around the corner.
In the United States, Verizon and AT&T have begun offering “triple play” services to fend off cable competition. Cable leaders Cox, Comcast and Time Warner have teamed with Sprint to offer “quadruple play” services. In country after country, service providers are building new convergent service portfolios and swapping assets to gain market advantage. In the UK, BT is expanding beyond basic telecom with BT Vision video, competing with cable and operators including the BBC. Keeping the pressure on, French startup Iliad Communications offers unlimited calling in-country and to 14 other nations, plus high-speed Internet and 81 cable TV channels for $36 per month. Companies like ESPN and Disney have entered the wireless market as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), reselling wholesale capacity under their own brand. The clear winner is the customer, who benefits from a continuously evolving array of services kept affordable by competition. Providers looking to convergent services for new revenue streams should look to France’s Iliad, which prices well below the incumbent and, for comparison’s sake, at nearly two-thirds less than the least expensive comparable package in the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal. Iliad saw a 50% increase in its customer base in 2005, up to nearly 1.6 million users. Customers want convergence, but only if the price is right. Operators must invest in new technologies while keeping costs in line to ensure an affordable package
WHAT IS OSS TRANSFORMATION?
Operators typically have hundreds or even thousands of existing systems, often custom-built, that each perform a specific function.When we talk about OSS transformation, we are talking about a massively scaled project to reform the vast, costly operational support systems infrastructure. The aim is twofold:
• To create a platform that is integrated, cohesive and enterprise-wide, enabling operators to create and deliver a vast range of high-volume services without needing to introduce new systems for every new service.With ARPU in decline, operators need new sources of revenue – and a means of supporting their rapid introduction, fulfillment and
• To reform the systems estate. New services are the key to new revenues, but they cannot be sustainably introduced and run as in the past. Today’s new services are only profitable en masse. Each by itself is low-margin, and can only be profitable if delivered from a low-cost base – requiring a fundamentally different approach to operations support.
How can operators address the tactical need to role out new services quickly, while embracing a fundamentally different operations approach that meets long-term strategic goals? Simultaneously, operators must:
Introduce new services quickly that show significant ROI.
Build a network and systems infrastructure that enables rapid creation and delivery of multiple high-volume, low-margin services.
Reform their existing systems estate to reduce operating cost.
However, when rolling out VoIP, IPTV and other new services, operators are finding it difficult to satisfy both tactical needs and long-term goals. The choice is often made to purpose-build or install support systems as yet another silo since, in the short term, it’s a quicker and cheaper approach. As long as ROI is measured on the basis of each individual project rather than across the board, operations will be under pressure to behave tactically rather than investing in a fundamentally different support infrastructure. Lessons have been learned from other industries. A well-known bank, for example, slipped from first to last in its market when it stopped developing new products and focused instead on building a platform to deliver ‘plug and play’ products. Strategically, this was the right move and ultimately paid dividends. But tactically, it very nearly cost them their existence before the dividends came.
NEXT-GEN OSS REQUIREMENTS
Operators have two main OSS transformation requirements:
Simultaneously meet tactical requirements and the strategic need for a next-generation OSS platform.
Ultimately, deliver a firm foundation for next-generation OSS with an architecture that is modular, extensible and scalable for future needs.
Next-generation networks let operators combine IT-based services and deliver them over an IP network capable of supporting multiple classes of service. It’s the ultimate flexible network – configurable at every point. Operational support systems must address this new configuration. The OSS platform must be able to manage a complex mix of “best effort”-type services and highly engineered services like IPTV, which require careful management to ensure correct operation. OSS must be able to meet the demand for different services.
THE FIVE FLAVORS OF OSS TRANSFORMATION
Each flavor of OSS transformation (OSS-T) has distinct challenges. The end result may be the same, but making the right choices to support the path you take can make the difference between success and failure. The five flavors of OSS-T are:
1 Complete BSS and OSS transformation
2 Complete OSS transformation
3 Service transformation
4 Process consolidation
5 Inventory consolidation
COMPLETE BSS AND OSS TRANSFORMATION
Only a few of the world’s largest operators can justify this full-scale, multi-year project. It is necessary when the existing systems estate is an impediment to efficient business operations. In parallel, there will be a massive rationalization of the myriad BSS and OSS software systems used to control the network. Only the most scalable, robust and complete suites can do the job. There are but a handful of vendors with both BSS and OSS in their portfolio – and even fewer with the ability to deliver a coherent, unified approach to the overall BSS-OSS architecture. delivering intentionally differentiated Quality of Service. It must be able to parameterize the services and the network and allow them to be reused. This reuse is critical to fast product introduction.
COMPLETE OSS TRANSFORMATION
This is a total replacement of all back office operational systems for planning, fulfillment and assurance. Like all full-scale projects, a complete OSS transformation requires a scalable, robust and complete suite. Greater integration capability is needed for possible interoperation with a variety of existing BSS systems. Adherence to standards, in particular SOA and MTOSI, provides a route to integration.
But just as important is proven delivered integration and a productized approach to building integration via “adapters” that can be managed as part of the suite for lower TCO.
The third option is to introduce an OSS for a new service across all operational functions – in effect, a vertical integrated stack of process-driven products to, for example, automate DSL fulfillment. Done properly, the introduction of a new service can be used as a mechanism to introduce a new OSS architecture that can later be used as the target architecture for complete OSS transformation -expanding scope as new services are added, thus enabling the operator to meet tactical and strategic objectives simultaneously in an evolutionary way. This approach is preferred by newer operators who have less of an issue with legacy systems. The danger here is that OSS software that is highly targeted to delivering a service, such as DSL, is not suitable for delivering additional services.Moreover, a package highly configured for a single service is also often constrained to deliver one process only, such as fulfillment, and is not suitable for use as the basis for all operational processes. This software then becomes a vehicle for the proliferation of further OSS fragmentation rather than a consolidating force.
Introducing software to consolidate processes across OSS systems can preserve and stabilize an architecture in preparation for moreextensive change. Executed properly, this process consolidation layer can be used as a mechanism for introducing a new OSS architecture -which can later be used as the target architecture for a complete OSS transformation, expanding scope gradually so an operator can meet tactical and strategic objectives simultaneously in an evolutionary way. his approach is preferred by larger incumbent operators. By virtue of the size and complexity of their legacy systems estate, they need a tactical solution that enables access and reuse of existing data and functionality, while preparing for migration to a next-generation OSS. In many cases, this approach will take place alongside a fullscale BSS-OSS transformation, giving an operator the ability to meet requirements for new services from existing infrastructure, and supplying ‘breathing space’ while the next-generation infrastructure is developed offline.
With this alternative, a series of disintegrated, sub-scale or just old-fashioned inventories can be replaced by an integrated, modern, extendable inventory, creating a single point of reference for all network-and service-related data. Inventory consolidation allows an operator to really understand what they have in place. Fragmentation often prevents having a clear picture of the transformation required -what resources are in use and how services relate to them. Gaining visibility is an important first step. In the short term, operators achieve tactical improvements through inventory consolidation, enabling them to significantly reduce operating costs and increase operational efficiency.
BASIC SOLUTION PARAMETERS
In addition to meeting particular circumstances of the five flavors of transformation, any solution must be able to:
Deliver the entire set of functionality, complete and pre-integrated or as individual components.
Manage both service and the network infrastructure.
The foundation for next-generation OSS is an integrated suite. The suite architecture drives major economic gains by allowing component functions to become application modules sharing one common infrastructure, with all working to a common standard schema. The well-designed suite delivers universality, modularity and integrity -features that allow the end implementation to be extended and upgraded, yet remain economical. As proved in other software markets, an investment in suite architecture means gains for both the supplier and the customer. The supplier can invest development resources more productively in a single product set, while the customer benefits from both a simpler systems estate and lower TCO. Additionally, a suite encapsulates and hides complexity. It supports coarse-grained interfaces and loose coupling to other major systems. It drives standardization as the architecture emerges and the major interfaces and standardization points become clear. Internally, a suite is highly structured, with complete meta-data abstraction. The underlying schema can be maintained and upgraded independently of the applications. It is also comprehensive, covering traditional and next-generation networks along with emerging IMS and SDP architectures. Perhaps most importantly, a suite provides an upgradeable code line.
With a next-generation network, any service can run over any infrastructure. A new infrastructure doesn’t need to be built to support a new service, making the proliferation of services possible. This requires the management of a services inventory, in much the same way that network and other resources are managed by inventory applications. However, if a service inventory and a resource inventory are maintained separately, the scope for inaccuracy and error is high -too high for profitability.
As services compete for resources, resources must attempt to provide the right quality to each service. For this to work in a reliable and scalable fashion, services and resources need to be managed together -maintaining the relationship between customers, services and the resources used to deliver them. The resource and service model maintaining these relationships must be based on one common schema, allowing properly managed coordination between resources and services. The right level of service can then be delivered and assured with confidence.
This article has been extracted from a Whitepaper written by Amdocs. The Whitepaper is available to view in full at the link below.