Today's communications world is not your grandfather's, or even your father's, communications world. What we used to call telecom is now a much broader industry that encompasses entertainment, Internet and web-based media and services and much more. And communications has been quickly converging with the IT world, which has necessitated a rethinking of how we approach a business architecture for the present day.
Over 10 years ago, TM Forum began defining a program called NGOSS to help prepare the ground for the demands of this new telecom world. And if you come from any aspect of the communications industry, chances are you've at least heard of NGOSS.
But NGOSS has never been a static framework, and in fact its component pieces have been continuously evolving over the years. Over this time, we've continually made a series of improvements and additions to all of the NGOSS component parts including: the Business Process Framework (eTOM), the Information Framework (SID) and the Application Framework (TAM).
Then about 2 years ago, we started looking closely at the consistency across all of the individual frameworks that make up NGOSS: how consistent was eTOM with the SID and SID with TAM and so on. This evaluation kicked off a major piece of work designed at improving that consistency.
The other major activity we started on about a year ago was looking into how to ensure NGOSS is ready for a world already enamored with the concept of Service Oriented ArchitectureA computer systems architectural style for creating and using business processes packaged as servicesA computer systems architectural style for creating and using business processes packaged as services (SOA).
NGOSS was developed when SOA was only a twinkle in the eye of the communications and IT industries, and while over the years SOA concepts have been embraced by NGOSS, it wasn't explicitly developed as an SOA-driven approach.
The result of all of this continuous improvement is Frameworx, the next step in the evolution of NGOSS. The name change is far more than a mere rebranding; it's reflecting the next stage of a journey that started 10 years ago. The name change signals the fact that we've created what's essentially an integrated business architecture as opposed to some very useful piece parts which we had previously.
eTOM and the SID are both extremely widely adopted in the industry, and they are very useful on their own, but the demand for something more tightly integrated was overwhelming.
The SOA approach, which now underpins Frameworx, is analogous to the concept employed in Lego building blocks. Lego started out over 60 years ago selling a small range of blocks, which had a consistent template and could plug into each other. Amazingly, by mixing and matching these self-consistent piece parts you could construct just about anything you could imagine.
This concept carries over into SOA where reusable components – otherwise known as business services – can be put together in a myriad of configurations to complex software solutions. Like Lego blocks, the concept is that developers should be able to reuse the business services to create almost anything you might need. We haven't gotten all of this figured out quite yet – but we're making good inroads in defining these business services.
The critically important point is that these business services are built from a consistent set of Business Process, Information and Application frameworks. The idea is to ultimately have a business services library of several hundred services that can be reused over and over again. It also seems sensible to have a much smaller set of commonly defined large platforms (10 or 12) that each are an aggregation of a number of business services.
For example, these might include a Billing platform, a Service Management platform or a Supply Chain platform. It would be almost impossible to define interfaces among each of the several hundred business services, but doing it between a handful of platforms becomes a much more manageable problem.
So while the launch of Frameworx is an important first step on this great new journey that delivers an industry standard business architecture with tight integration and supporting services such as training, product certification and advisory services, it is far from complete.
Over the coming months and years we will be further defining the business services library, defining the commonly used platforms and defining the interfaces between these services and platforms.
With the help of our more than 700 member companies – who were instrumental in developing Frameworx in the first place – as well as the industry at large, I know that service providers across the board will seize the opportunity to cut costs and improve business agility as they continue to face challenges and obstacles from all sides.
Martin Creaner is president and COO at TM Forum