Intelligent software will be the most important differentiator for communication service providers across the world as they drive business results. The number and complexity of services has exploded in just a few years and competition from aggressive entrants has shaken the very foundations of the all the incumbent stakeholders in the network software industry, forcing them to act in order to survive. In the first of two articles, let's first start by making the case for why status quo is not acceptable.
The dilemma faced by network operators and the software vendors is to come up with an actionable plan to change the tires of a car moving at 60 mph. Although the legacy architecture is an inherent problem, it is crucial for day-to-day operations and changing a system to adapt to the future impacts the present, a catch-22 situation is created; the consequence is that most service providers are unable to define pragmatic execution plans to break this deadlock.
The challenge faced with software systems maintained by the typical IT back-office at a service provider is like peeling an onion - the difference is that as each layer gets unpeeled the picture gets more complicated and unmanageable. The difficulties stem from both organizational challenges as well as custom implementations.
As systems proliferate, software vendors face even greater difficulty convincing service providers to execute a manageable migration to a new architecture that supports providing the best experience to customers by rapidly delivering products and services where and when they need it. The two big challenges are:
- Patching the patchwork - The demands from convergence has complicated the BSS/OSS sprawl with vendors solely focused on short-term financial results. With no plan to retire applications and systems, niche solutions and enhancements continue to prop up the back-office.
- Over hyped technology - In the zeal to sell the transformational power of technology, vendors have missed creating a sound business case for technology investment. In the tough economic environment today technology clearly is just one part of the change operators have to go through. From SOA, ESB, web 2.0 to IMS to touch-less provisioning - they all hold promise for the future and are just one aspect of the enablers for business success.
Changing the status quo
Do we have a vision that can provide the right balance between respecting the strengths of the systems today and yet move aggressively toward transforming it? Are all the building blocks in place? How long will it take to get there? The good news is that we believe that it can be done since all the enabling technologies exist in the marketplace.
The bad news is that it is not all feasible today. While we do not have a definitive answer yet, a few things are clear. The software systems of today cannot do the job and tomorrow's software systems' will only be able to fulfill this role with the right design and architecture.
High-speed networks and ubiquitous connectivity will continue to fundamentally change how people interact with intelligent networks and systems that support it. Yet for all the exciting possibilities, technical and commercial challenges will prevent this vision from being realized in the short term. In our estimation, this is a multi-year transformation that requires proactive initiative from the vendors to build a better solution that balances the need to manage deployment risks associated with any transformation.
In the recent past, key industry players such as Amdocs, Oracle, Comverse, Intec and the smaller companies such as Arantech and Redknee have begun to execute on pieces of this puzzle based on their view of the future of BSS/OSS market.
We believe the industry needs to rally around a new clear vision of a software system. A system that is designed and built to fulfill business processes end-to-end; is event driven and able to adapt itself to user preferences, demands and behavior in real-time providing superior customer experience. In my article in the next issue, I will elaborate on our view of this vision and what it will take for us to get there.
Ashvin Vellody is a senior VP for consulting and research at Yankee Group