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Reader Forum: Digital OSS for the digital world

What role are digital OSS platforms set to play for telecommunication providers as they move down the road of software-based virtualization deployments?

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Digital businesses and digital networks are all about high speed communication, dynamic network orchestration and on-demand services. Without an overhaul of current operation support systems, service providers will be up against big operational challenges to realize their digital business objectives.

The digital networks are being laid out in such a way that the telecommunication cloud service providers can offer competitive, advanced digital services to their customers over predominantly cloud based (virtualized) networks, managing high volumes of data at higher speeds over reliable connections. These telco cloud networks will be a multilayer composite of network functions virtualization, software-defined networking, the internet of things and “5G” networks.

Challenges of a digital ecosystem

New management methods have to be introduced to deal with the digital ecosystem, which will require building up the current OSS capabilities, especially for reliability and real-time orchestration. Moreover, far more interoperation between the OSS layers is needed than ever seen before. The operation centers would need to shed their reactive approach and adopt proactivity to focus on early problem resolution. Not only does this do away with laborious operational processes, it also speeds up the root cause analyses and corrective actions.

To make services agile and their management dynamic, the digital OSS should efficiently integrate network topology, inventory and assurance processes. And since customers will demand dynamic service level agreements the OSS will have to deal with on-demand capacity configuration and dynamic topology changes too. In addition, to keep pace with the service agility of an NFV environment, OSS requires deeper understanding of customers/devices/applications and their behavior.

With IoT already happening around us, management of its network and devices will need special attention. Most of the IoT devices will serve time-critical or life-critical applications over IoT networks to serve industries like health care, automotive, energy and smart cities.

Because of low human interaction, the feedback, reliability and availability of the IoT networks is expected to be high. The SLAs that the IoT service provider signs with its customers (industry verticals) will expect high quality of service and reliability. For all of this, OSS systems are also expected to crunch billions of disparate IoT events and data streams handled by the new network elements (sensors, controllers, IoT gateways, etc.). This requires the OSS systems to significantly notch up their scalability and reliability.

During the disruptive transitions to NFV and IoT, which will last over the next three to five years, network elements will steadily virtualize. Balancing and monitoring capacity across the physical and virtualized parts of the hybrid network will be a critical activity. The digital OSS system will need to deal with the varying composition of the hybrid network while planning and optimizing capital expenses.

The above challenges clearly indicate that the OSS is no longer a simple monitoring, reporting and troubleshooting system. It is an intelligent system that must provide predictive trends of the network, services, customers and devices. It must quickly evolve to feed an automated zero-touch operation center and introduce intelligent techniques of listening and reacting to the digital networks, and supporting hyperconverged services.

Key OSS actions

To make digital business successful, OSS will need to quickly evolve and start supporting the expected “dynamicity,” speed and scale of digital networks. The necessary steps in upping the capabilities of OSS are:

Consolidate
The digital OSS stack needs to be far more conjoined and highly efficient, using common information models. To make services agile and their management dynamic, OSS need to employ open application programming interfaces for integrating the OSS layers and to integrate with the ecosystem (e.g. big data and business support system components).

Predict
The digital OSS system will have in-built analytics to support proactivity and prediction of network/service/customer/device/apps problems. Using machine learning, data will be manipulated and patterns identified to reduce the number of customer-impacting problems and predict impending problems with a higher degree of accuracy.

Automate
To realize a fully automated, zero-touch NOC/SOC in the future, closed-loop corrective actions will be introduced using complex algorithms and machine learning. And since customers will demand dynamic SLAs, the OSS will support on-demand capacity configuration and dynamic topology changes. This will be supported by real-time network feedback and automatic configuration.

Strengthen
With the introduction of new OSS technologies and functionalities in incremental steps, the present-day OSS can be readied for the immediate future. This includes introducing of big data clustering techniques, service-oriented (microservices) architecture, “cloudification,” real-time analytics and closed-loop automation using machine learning.

OSS will play an instrumental role in supporting the required dynamicity, speed and scale of the digital services as the digital network is played out; a multilayer composite of NFV/SDN, IoT and 5G. With the above transformation, the digital OSS will equip the telco cloud service provider for the next 10 years and help realize digital business benefits faster.

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