How do we do more in less time? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves across all aspects of our work and personal lives, and no doubt wish we had the answer. How can we complete our workout in 45 minutes instead of 60? Finish our shopping in 20 minutes instead of two hours? Or if you’re a sports fan, find more time to watch more games real-time and achieve greater work-life balance. A quick online search will reveal various pithy examples of ‘strategies for success,’ highlighting how maximizing your time and resources is all about better management and planning.
Doing more in less time is a vital question that communications service providers (CSPs) are wrestling with too, because their end customers want more from them — more bandwidth, more services, more quickly. However, with new and increased connectivity demands happening at the edge of the network like 5G, IoT and cloud services, CSPs are faced with a new challenge: how to offer more, more and more, yet continue to operate the infrastructure deployed decades ago, with limited OpEx to achieve both goals. Not as easy as planning your workout, doing your shopping on Amazon or finding more time to watch your favorite sport, but the key is still about management techniques.
Manual management means more malaise
The current state of play for CSPs sees service providers encumbered with multiple legacy, manual, error-prone network management systems (NMS) that are built on old technology, have clumsy user interfaces, and do not support Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable automation. To compound the headache, NMSs are also vendor-specific for each vendor’s devices and unable to scale efficiently as the size of the network grows, both in the number of network elements and in the volume of services supported across those elements.
Due to manual processes, there is an overall lack of agility; service deployment lead times are long, as are planning lead times. It takes many months for service providers to plan network capacity, which may entail network buildouts, in order to accommodate new service offerings. This high manual effort and inflexible installation results in operational inefficiencies, driving higher OPEX. Due to inefficient network management, service providers are thus unable to deliver the ‘more, more and more’ that customers want, in the timeframes they need.
Moving beyond with software
So what’s the answer? It’s clear that CSPs want to transform their network operations, but they require a better solution to address their challenges. They want to be better equipped to address dynamic market requirements for on-demand connectivity and services. A software-defined networking (SDN) based solution that is comprehensive, data-driven and automated enables CSPs to reduce the manual effort and the time required to perform vital customer-oriented tasks such as service provisioning and troubleshooting.
Networks are converging and to optimize for the broadest set of use cases, CSPs need to be nimble to satisfy all the dynamic demands at the edge, which is where software automation plays a pivotal role. Global operators are increasingly relying on real-time network planning and management, and now with software-driven intelligent network control, CSPs can automate operations to accelerate time-to-market of services and proactively assure those services.
To give an example, instead of just displaying alarms during a network issue, software analytics provides intelligence and recommendations on next steps to fix the root cause of the problem, thus enabling the shift from receiving information to making decisions. In practical terms, this could mean automatically dispatching the nearest service vehicle — all without any time and OPEX-consuming human intervention. Removing uncertainty and delivering value in the network simplifies operations and frees up CSPs to focus on growing and innovating, or in other words, using less time to complete routine tasks and more time building — rather than simply maintaining — their business.
More service, less headache
Simply put, if CSPs can’t find a solution to better manage the network then they will continue to be bogged down with time-consuming, manual network operations, which means higher OPEX, higher CAPEX (due to over-engineering of assets), lower quality of experience and a loss of competitiveness.
Software is the critical element to drive network transformation, by simplifying, optimizing and automating CSP’s operations and shifting them from merely receiving information to making decisions with auto-assist or full automation. Once the right, software-driven, management and planning system is in place, CSPs will have the tools to offer their customers the ‘more’ they demand, with far ‘less’ headaches than before.