The ability to launch and scale new services efficiently will be paramount for telcos as they enter the 5G era. Legacy, siloed systems are unlikely to support the agility operators need, so fully leveraging next-generation service capabilities will require a rethinking of Operations Support Systems (OSS).
Service and resource inventory, fulfillment and assurance orchestration processes need to be aligned and integrated across physical, virtual and cloud assets. This requires a new level of end-to-end automation of service operations in mobile networks.
A global survey of 50 Tier-0 and Tier-1 CSP executives associated with OSS found that 90%+ will be actively investing in new operations automation capabilities in the coming 2 years, with many initiatives underway already.
“As operators are moving from static networks to more dynamic networks, automation is becoming much more top of mind,” said Valery Eysman, Head of Solutions at Amdocs Open Network. Amdocs commissioned the survey to learn more about how its Digital-to-Network Automation solution can help network operators. “The overarching business driver is growth, but underneath the growth umbrella are a number of priorities,” Eysman said.
Automation is a “requirement of the era, given personalization is the key,” said one of the CIOs surveyed. Automation of service operations will enable “better customized solutions and seamless connectivity,” according to the head of IT strategy at another CSP surveyed.
Improving customer experience and innovating faster are two of the ways that CSPs see automation of service operations driving business growth. 42% of executives surveyed saw automation as a way to improve customer experience by reducing service delivery inaccuracies and order fallout.
Enterprise customers will be especially interested in new services that can be enabled by automation, and 36% of executives surveyed said that improving the experience of enterprise customers is a key driver of investments in this area. Eysman said operators want to offer enterprise customers dynamic suites of services, including IoT, traditional connectivity, and value-added applications, and that automating service operations will enable this. “32% viewed automation as being key to rapidly innovating, launching and scaling new services,” he said.
“When you think about the customer management and the customer experience, you’ve got to start looking at the holistic end-to-end automation of service operations,” Eysman continued. He said that until now, many operators’ automation efforts have been focused on specific domains, primarily around network management. “They have been approaching it piecemeal, but when you think about the customer experience side of it, where you need to enable a customer to place an order, fulfill that order and then assure that order and then monetize it, you need to start looking at it holistically,” he said.
76% of CSP executives said their companies should prioritize digital-to-network automation, the end-to-end flow-through service management and monetization which requires seamless integration from the user-engagement layer all the way through to the network. Specifically, the respondents want to see tighter integration of the BSS/business-layer and OSS/network-layer. “That’s kind of a key friction point that needs to be overcome to support this end-to-end automation from the digital to the network layer,” Eysman said.
Specific focus areas for planned OSS investment included end-to-end lifecycle automation/closed-loop operations, named as a top priority by 62% of survey respondents. Federated inventory was identified as a priority by 40% of the respondents.
Eysman noted that digital-to-network automation will need to touch every network domain to realize its full potential. “The RAN is becoming much more virtualized and dynamic, the core is being virtualized and disaggregated,” he said. “Some of these core functions will be run on private clouds and public clouds in the future. Edge is part of the mix as well, so I think the automation imperative is applying across the entire end-to-end service chain that spans all these domains of the network.”
Easier said than done
Operators understand the value of automating service operations, but it can be hard to achieve in the context of legacy systems. “Current processes and systems have limitations,” explained Eysman. “They were designed for service chains that are very siloed, whereas now service chains are going to be linked across domains.”
More than half the operators surveyed indicated that the proliferation of multiple technologies and domains is driving more complexity into service management. This complexity quickly exposes the shortcomings of siloed OSS systems. “These new services are spanning across network domains, which means the OSS can no longer be siloed,” said Eysman.
More than 70% of survey respondents named closed and monolithic systems as a significant challenge to automation of service operations, and 72% indicated that lack of real-time contextual information for orchestration and assurance across the different domains is a top challenge.
Amdocs NEO is an advanced service and network automation platform with modular, flexible and open service lifecycle management capabilities. It enables digital-to-network automation with contextual cross-domain orchestration, integrated with charging for flow-through monetization. Operators get real-time, active and federated inventory, seamlessly connected to relevant source systems to provide an accurate view of all network resources and services across all domains. Amdocs NEO also supports closed-loop assurance, leveraging rich data sources and using design-time policies and artificial intelligence/machine learning to support uninterrupted service experiences. A business-driven service design, integrated with a commerce catalog, supports end-to-end service and offer definitions.
Operators can access Amdocs NEO though a “single pane of glass.” Technicians can act on meaningful metrics that are abstracted from the underlying technology. “The notion of cross-domain requires that abstraction,” Eysman said. “End users can specify the design intent, and the technology takes care of itself.”
Amdocs has a proven track record deploying these capabilities at scale, but its solution is modular. “Although we have a full platform that supports a complete digital network automation life cycle, in many cases we recognize that some service providers may have certain capabilities in place already that need to be augmented with a set of modular capabilities on top of that to provide an end-to-end solution,” said Eysman.
In contrast to network equipment providers, Amdocs offers an open solution that crosses multiple vendor technologies with standards-based interfaces. This will be increasingly important to operators as they move toward more open network technologies instead of single-vendor turnkey solutions. Amdocs is part of the 5G Open Innovation Lab, supporting investigation and readiness around the practical aspects of delivering new innovative services.
“The three things that differentiate our automation tool set are the fact that we are proven at scale, the modularity, and the openness,” said Eysman. Amdocs NEO is a platform designed to manage, orchestrate and automate the dynamic networks of tomorrow, and more importantly the hybrid networks on the journey to the new networks era.
“Automation streamlines change management,” one surveyed executive said, neatly summarizing the automation imperative for mobile network operators. Change is the one constant for today’s network operators, and automation of service operations will be table stakes for those who want to stay on top.
Click here to view the CSP survey results infographic.