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    OSS strategies – Target transformation


    How are the operators themselves targeting and achieving their OSS transformation strategies? Larry Goldman, from OSS Observer, hears several describe their own approaches to the market

    The VIB OSS in Telecoms conference was held in London on March 6 and 7, 2008. It was a small conference of about 40 participants. Many participants were CSP OSS architects and strategists. There were ten speaker sessions and four round table discussions. Six sessions were presented by CSP OSS strategists. Most participants were from European CSP's. OSS Observer's Larry Goldman participated as the conference chair on the first day and led a round table discussion on the second day.

    The conference was very practical with lots of open discussion by CSP strategists about real problems and solutions. Much of the conference dealt with transformation: business, network, IT and OSS transformation. There was a lot of discussion about the need for commonality traded off against the pressures of cost and time.?
    Some key themes in presentations and discussions during the conference:??

    • How to support transformation of the business and transformation of networks with a transformed OSS.??

    – How much can OSS standards and IT standards help with OSS transformation???
    – How to deal with the desire to get commonality within systems while dealing with the need to provide unique support for specific services.??

    • What is the right way to use the power of SOA??

    – How to deal with the weak support generally provided by NEMS NMS.?
    Michele Barone of Telecom Italia (TI) presented the status of Telecom Italia's use of SOA in their OSS architecture. At Telecom Italia the Technical Information Services department creates OSS applications that provide a range of functions and data retrieval through defined GUI interfaces. TI has adopted an approach that lets field OSS users develop their own applications (called Automa) that work through the defined interfaces. TI is working to use SOA to enable the Automa to be more powerful. After considering a number of alternatives, TI is using SOA to expose lower-level OSS functions that give the Automa more development flexibility. The downside is that it puts more of a burden on the end user community. TI is working to use SOA to give flexibility in what data and functionality end users can access while providing that access through a portal which provides more functionality and reduces the burden on the end users. ??

    TI has learned that the current approach can lead to unpredictable performance impacts and reduces the visibility the Technical Information Services has to end user needs. TI was able to take advantage of its use of ESB to provide the common point of exposing data and services through SOA. It also used SOA security functions to restrict users that had access to specific data and functionality. Overall SOA is a useful tool in giving end users the ability to get the support they need, but it is simply a tool whose use must be evaluated carefully.?

    David Schofield recently joined Cable & Wireless as an OSS solutions architect. Cable & Wireless is rolling out next generation networks across Europe, Asia and North America. In this process, it is replacing legacy OSS with a next gen OSS. In doing this it is hampered by weak OSS support from its equipment vendors (a frequent comment from other CSP presenters), a lack of consistency in its own applications architecture and a lack of industry standards upon which to build. The result is that the cost and time to introduce new equipment in the network is unreasonable.??

    To address this, C&W is using an IT middleware integration layer (likely BEA's Web Logic Integrator) to isolates end user applications from the underlying network-facing EMS and NMS tools. This integration layer provides the following benefits:??
    – Provides a clear demarcation between the user communities and the network interfaces?
    – Gives freedom to the OSS managers to deploy the right tools for the right reasons?
    – Provides a single point for security 
    – Enables the network to evolve without constantly disrupting the OSS user communities??

    Jens-Ole Petersen, responsible for the strategic OSS architecture at Swisscom explained its architectural approach to OSS & BSS. It has looked very practically at the complexity of supporting new services while trying to get commonality and integration of OSS. Jens-Ole addressed four key issues:?1. A totally centralized, common OSS cannot keep up with demands for support for new services?2. An increase in the number of unique niche services leads to a cost explosion of many new integration points?3. The business demands rapid deployment of new services, which history shows is best supported by stand alone systems that have no external integration?4. Some product logic can be held in common which can lead to efficiency and improve time to market. As a result of addressing these issues, Swisscom is targeting an architecture where a limited set of common functions support all services but most service support logic is specific to the service. These common functions include for example device management, asset management and workforce management for services close to the network and include customer identity management and business intelligence for services close to the customer. The approach acknowledges that its business is not well supported by holding up new services in a quest for common support for all services. On the other hand, the amount of common support can expand over time as it meets the time to market and efficiency demands for new service support.??

    In a different vein, Alexander Nelles, Head of Group Customer Relations Contracts and System Assurance at Vodafone Germany presented a session on managing contracts in IT outsourcing. Nelles gave a very clear roadmap for vendor management, explained the roles of different people in making outsourcing work and showed how it was applied at Vodafone Germany. This session was filled with imminently practical advice and evidence for an issue most CSPs are facing.

    Audrius Indriulionis, Information Systems Analyst at TEO LT (Lithuania) presented a session explaining how TEO uses data warehousing and business intelligence to determine the best way to support customer lifecycle and customer satisfaction initiatives. TEO LT is the incumbent service provider in Lithuania. It provides PSTN, broadband, and IPTV services to about 750,000 customers. Despite its small size and "developing market" status, TEO LT actually has a sophisticated view of its customers. It is able to act on information it collects about customer experience with its service to maximize up-sell opportunities and minimize churn. Based on comments made during discussion it appears as though TEO LT has a more complete and sophisticated view of the customer lifecycle than the larger CSPs from more developed countries.

    The most informative session came from Gunther Kaufmann, Head of OSS at O2 Germany. He gave a detailed explanation of the scale and nature of the problems in managing O2's network. He then presented a case study showing how O2 was able to implement service quality management and end to end service testing. O2 Germany is organized into four different regions that each has its own back office and field force management. O2 has centralized the network operations center for all of O2 Germany in Munich. Kaufmann showed a partial list of the different network equipment systems that listed 22 different suppliers. He showed another list of more than 20 assurance and fulfillment systems. He made the case for why O2 is to some extent, integrating these systems to provide better service quality management.??

    Kaufmann showed how O2 Germany had evaluated its key processes and determined how it would shift from a network element focus to a customer experience focus, with service quality management as one of the key steps in that shift. It has successfully deployed Telcordia's Service Director as the service quality managing system, collecting, analyzing and presenting data from the wide range of sources in its network. He gave examples of a number of the service-specific benefits it gained in improving measurable service quality from this new system.Tony Richardson of the TeleManagement Forum gave a presentation on standards that addressed the TMF standards efforts and the overall state of many related standards activities. The need to and difficulty of applying standards was a common theme of the conference.?

    The vendor sponsors of the event, Subex, Nakina and TMNG, all had the opportunity to make presentations. Sergio Pellizzari of Nakina Systems and Anthony Lui of Subex both gave interesting presentations that were quite effectively directed at the audience concerns with poor NEMs OSS support. On the second day of the conference there were group discussions around a number of topics in architecture, standards and IT evolution.

    Here are some of the conclusions that were drawn from these discussions:?
    – CSP architects would like to get a lot more benefit from OSS standards but are frustrated at the difficulty of applying them and the resulting lack of OSS commonality.?
    – CSPs are greatly disappointed at the lack of commonality in NEMs support and the generally weak functionality and scalability of NEMs-provided OSS. The notable exception was kudos given to Alcatel's 5620. ?
    – SOA is important but architects differed on the benefits of exposing a wide variety of OSS functions or funneling access through a higher-level gateway. The majority seemed to favor exposing simple, lower level OSS functions to allow the development of new aggregates with the SOA framework.?
    – An ESB and SOA governance are important parts of any SOA implementation.?
    – Organizational cooperation is a bigger problem that the technology. ?
    – Despite the technology and organizational obstacles, many CSPs are making notable progress in supporting new services while getting a greater commonality and efficiency from their OSS. Though quite small, this conference was successful in giving a number of CSP OSS architects and strategists the opportunity to share their experiences and get insight into how the telecom OSS standards and technologies are evolving.

    Larry Goldman is Co-Founder and Senior Analyst, OSS Observer.
    This article is reproduced courtesy of OSS Observer.

    What is an SOA?

    Companies have long sought to integrate existing systems in order to implement information technology (IT) support for business processes that cover all present and prospective systems requirements needed to run the business end-to-end. A flexible, standardized architecture is required to better support the connection of various applications and the sharing of data. SOA is one such architecture. It unifies business processes by structuring large applications as an ad hoc collection of smaller modules called services. These applications can be used by different groups of people both inside and outside the company, and new applications built from a mix of services from the global pool exhibit greater flexibility and uniformity. Building all applications from the same pool of services makes achieving this goal much easier and more deployable to affiliate companies.
    SOAs build applications out of software services. Services are intrinsically unassociated units of functionality, which have no calls to each other embedded in them. They typically implement functionalities most humans would recognize as a service, such as filling out an online application for an account, viewing an online bank statement, or placing an online booking or airline ticket order. Instead of services embedding calls to each other in their source code, protocols are defined which describe how one or more services can talk to each other. This architecture then relies on a business process expert to link and sequence services, in a process known as orchestration, to meet a new or existing business system requirement.