Pre-integrated OSS and BSS is said to be crucial for telecom operators to achieve agility and flexibility as they roll out next-generation networks and introduce multi-media services. We look at the value of OSS/BSS in-a-box and what should be considered before making the leap to these solutions.
Over time, pre-integrated OSS-BSS has grown from being a support system to one that is now regarded as providing a competitive edge for service providers. Supporting demand for high bandwidth multimedia applications is a tough task, with a range of datasets needing effective monitoring. These range from measuring revenue to monitoring customer usage.
Is a single OSS-BSS suite now a must for telecom providers? Henrique do Vale, Head of Sales, Applications and Analytics, MEA, Nokia Networks, believes it is an important element in keeping them on their toes what may be around the corner. “Service providers typically have networks that are constantly evolving to add new capabilities that support new services,” he says. “A single integrated OSS/BSS suite that enables service providers to manage all network domains is key to achieve the agility and cost efficiency necessary to address the volume and pace of customer demand.”
Farrukh Ahmed, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Qatar, however, believes that although it may present a fantastic opportunity for certain vendors, but could force others into a corner. “Vendor-specific suites such as Oracle have the advantage of being on an evolution path that will theoretically always offer bigger and better capabilities over the lifetime of the licence agreement,” he says. “On the other hand, there is a distinct disadvantage in the form of a CSP being tied into a skillset – such as application development services – that comes with a premium price. However, to provide speed and agility in provisioning and network management, the better integrated these domains are, the better the outcome.”
With technology lifecycles becoming increasingly shorter, telco operators are increasingly obliged to optimise their CAPEX by building services with resources across network domains. The ability to deliver these services across domains will be key for future success. By the same token, omnichannel architecture will help get the best out of future solutions. “If customer asset data is stored in your CRM system, it doesn’t matter how accurate or up-to-date that information is, unless it can be delivered to the customer in real-time, across digital channels and be accurate,” Ahmed says. “A fully integrated solution can then take advantage of the BSS capabilities to deliver more timely and accurate customer executions and experiences.”
In spite of the promise that awaits adopters of the solutions, there are naturally a number of obstacles that must be overcome in implementation. “These are not new challenges,” Ahmed says, “and even the world’s biggest vendors have not always successfully delivered this. Additionally, it depends on the capabilities that a CSP has implemented in each domain. It is also influenced by the choice of BSS/OSS architecture. A COTS approach will present a very different challenge to a solution that is bespoke. The key is to ensure that the coupling is flexible, extensible and easy to implement.
do Vale, meanwhile, sets store in availability and and visibility of information. “First and foremost on the list of challenges is a comprehensive data modelling approach,” he says. “This has to enables all facets of the environment to be available and exposed to the systems so that all of the various applications can benefit from all of the underlying information to operate seamlessly end-to-end. Whether it is a fulfilment or assurance or billing application, the ability for the application to see all of the relevant ingredients in order to operate at a comprehensive level is critical.”
Although telco providers are making every effort to upgrade their legacy technology, there will always be systems and applications that are not exactly green field. What is key here is that legacy technology can accommodate common services, and not depend on point-to-point integration. do Vale believes integration with legacy systems to be imperative, “Integration with and co-operation with legacy systems is a must,” he says. “Brown-field operations are the norm. The important strategy is how to architect the new systems to overarch the legacy ones to create a comprehensive ecosystem. All of this starts with an abstraction layer at the bottom and an orchestration layer across the top of all of the network environments, legacy and new, physical and virtual.”
On the other hand, as well as looking back, the issue of pre-integrated OSS-BSS raises questions looking forward. One such technology trend that ties in with this is network function virtualisation – one particular concept that will keep service providers on their toes. The ability to virtualise network nodes for communication purposes stands to provide increased speed of services and reduced costs on hardware, and, looking forward, is sure to be adopted by all providers in time. Some might argue that pre-integrated OSS-BSS is a necessity in delivering a successful move to NFV.
do Vale believes that a well-integrated approach between past and present technologies will satisfy both camps in this respect. “The important systems strategy to incorporate NFV will be one that enables operators to get a single over-arching control of a hybrid environment consisting of legacy and virtual resources,” he says. “The transition to NFV tends to be an evolutionary approach, where certain parts of the network ecosystem are converted to virtual resources, while other parts of the network will require more time to convert to NFV.”
While NFV is a relatively new concept, knowledge on the subject is relatively limited in terms of the importance of pre-integrated OSS-BSS in its foundations. “NFV has to evolve more and become more stable before we know whether pre integrated OSS-BSS is a prerequisite for service providers,” Ahmed says. “But, in order to make the right BSS/OSS strategic decisions then that has to evolve with the flexibility and speed with which NFV does. However, in order to take full advantage of NFV and deliver the benefits that NFV offers, the quality and breadth of the BSS/OSS integration is very important. It’s not a prerequisite, but really helps to delivery at scale and at quality.”