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Digital transformation in the OSS/BSS space

The telecommunications industry has undergone significant changes over the past few years, with digital transformation at the forefront. Indeed, the digital revolution has impacted every aspect of the telecommunications industry, including for operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS). Software development companies have played a significant role in the digital transformation of the OSS/BSS space, and this article will explore this role and those changes and Plexteq vision for making it happen in a cost-effective way.

In the not-too-distant past, telecommunications network operations were characterized by static and slow-changing processes. Physical functions were used to construct networks, which in turn were configured to deliver a static range of services that remained unaltered for extended periods. This practice inevitably resulted in OSS/BSSs becoming legacy systems after several years of operation.

Nowadays, containerized functions have replaced physical ones. A combination of NetOps and DevOps now guarantees rapid deployments, while flexible programmable networks can swiftly integrate new services through intent-based specifications. What was once a manual process using a command-line interface has now become entirely automated and scalable, resulting in faster deployment times, better service level agreements, and hence a faster time-to-market and improved customer experience.

The inherent complexity of the new approach is manifested across all layers, ranging from infrastructure to the OSS/BSS. Given this, most legacy OSS/BSSs likely lack the necessary flexibility and automation capabilities required to support the new approach. Consequently, digital transformation initiatives are proactively focusing on this critical system set, aiming to bring them up to speed with the latest trends.

Here are some of those trends:

  1. From a legacy BSS to an intelligent BSS: A cloud-native infrastructure can help communication service providers (CSPs) overcome the limitations of traditional legacy BSSs. Legacy BSSs are typically inflexible, expensive to build and maintain, and require significant human intervention to operate. On the other hand, a cloud-native BSS can leverage the power of artificial intelligence at scale to generate valuable insights and enable better-informed decision-making. Additionally, CSPs can use a cloud-native BSS to enhance customer engagement by delivering personalized experiences across multiple channels. In some cases, CSPs can automate back-end processes to improve response times and significantly reduce costs. For example, a smart BSS can consolidate different services and charges into a single invoice, simplifying the billing process for customers.

  2. From on-premises operations to cloud-based platforms: CSPs can leverage the cloud’s serverless data platforms and containerized data solutions to access platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) testing grounds for new initiatives and offerings. This approach reduces IT infrastructure investments, freeing up funds for new lines of business, all while embracing an operating model that encourages continuous innovation. Cloud platforms’ pluggable nature promotes openness and interoperability with other platforms, creating a genuine ecosystem environment for CSPs. The open architecture of cloud platforms also helps minimize risk and the cost of failure by leveraging pre-built SaaS components.

  3. From point-to-point to decoupled data access: In legacy BSSs, data is typically trapped in siloed applications, making it difficult for CSPs to gain cross-enterprise insights or quickly develop new offerings. With open application programming interfaces (APIs), microservices, and service platform virtualization, the cloud enables CSPs to functionally and technically decouple their services. This, in turn, allows CSPs to move new offerings from prototype to scaled production quickly, with less software and infrastructure investment, and untethered to the core business.

  4. From batch to real-time processing: Many legacy BSSs still use batch processing, which can be slow and does not always provide an up-to-date view of the business. The cloud integrates both cloud-based solutions and legacy systems (e.g., enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management) to support real-time data streaming, which is a prerequisite for generating recommendations for decision-makers and building predictive models that identify new business opportunities. In short, an open BSS decoupled from legacy constraints gives CSPs unprecedented innovation agility while providing the information and insights decision-makers can use to more effectively run the business.

The BSS has historically been the backbone of traditional CSPs and the driving force behind their operations. However, as massive changes sweep across the industry, BSSs have become burdens for CSPs, hindering their ability to adapt and evolve.

The problems with BSSs are many and significant, including:

  • Siloed architecture and monolithic, tightly coupled applications

  • On-premises approach, which leads to low scalability and elasticity

  • Undocumented interdependencies between functions and systems

  • Continual customizations and workarounds over the years, resulting in ballooning complexity

  • Multiple platform vendors with proprietary technologies

These challenges make it extremely difficult for CSPs to decide what to upgrade and what

to retain. Making matters worse, material capital is locked in these legacy systems, which

is only exacerbated by increasing operating expenses due to rising maintenance costs

and total cost of ownership, leading to delayed agility and innovation.

What is it worth?

CSPs can leverage the cloud to modernize their BSS, leading to positive impacts on the business objectives and metrics that C-level executives value most. By adopting cloud-based solutions, CSPs can generate significant economic value, boosting revenue by up to 3% to 5% while reducing costs by 20% to 30%.

Cloud solutions can help executives achieve their overarching business goals. For instance, they enable chief digital officers to digitize customer interactions, improve customer experiences, uncover deep and rich customer insights, and mobilize ecosystem partners’ resources to accelerate innovation.

For chief operations officers, cloud solutions enable the company to run more effectively and efficiently at scale and reduce customer churn by modernizing the company’s core order-to-cash activities and infusing greater operational flexibility.

Chief financial officers can use cloud solutions and their opex-versus-capex structure to cut costs associated with operations, upgrades, and maintenance, as well as reduce technical debt.

And chief technology officers will find cloud solutions instrumental in finding new ways to automate, streamline, and optimize the various technologies that affect product development. This leads to faster deployment of new services and solutions, lower total cost of ownership, and greater agility and responsiveness, also mitigating the risk of vendor lock-in.

The cloud’s impact can be traced at a more granular level, from enterprise value, including revenue and cost, to specific business objectives and corresponding value drivers. This mapping continues down to the key performance indicators that directly relate to value creation. In other words, the cloud’s impact is not just theoretical or intangible, but can be quantified and measured. This provides a clear illustration of the significant role the cloud plays in the transformation of CSPs and a compelling business case for the accelerated adoption of cloud technologies.

Accelerate the transformation: A pragmatic approach with Plexteq

Altering the OSS/BSS layer is typically an expensive undertaking that extends over several years, affects all active network components, and usually commences with the migration of all legacy inventories to the new system before deploying a single new service. This process results in vendor dependence and is not a top priority for most CSPs.

There is an equally reliable, less intrusive, and more pragmatic alternative, loosely inspired by two concepts borrowed from the field of software architecture: the service mesh and the sidecar.

Take this scenario: A CSP has made a huge investment over the years and manages a heterogeneous, multi-vendor OSS/BSS ecosystem. The challenge of introducing a new product is to avoid the bespoke development and integration effort associated with adapting each OSS/BSS component and adding the glue logic that allows them to support the new use cases from end to end.

Instead of touching on or replacing all these systems, we keep their existing functionality and federated inventories. On top of this, we introduce a companion automation layer to the existing OSS/BSS stack, effectively creating a mesh between these systems and enabling them to participate in fully automated end-to-end transactions.

This approach brings all the digital transformation benefits to the CSP and allows them to start innovating immediately, without first going through an expensive OSS/BSS replacement exercise. Here’s how:

  • To begin with, it resolves the inventory migration challenge by ensuring that the systems that own the sources of truth retain them, allowing for direct consumption of data from the source.

  • Second, it can centralize the automation flows for all the domains covered by the CSP’s network into a reusable, easy-to-extend catalog that spans from software-defined networking and data center automation to 5G slicing and eSIM connectivity.

  • Third, it can easily bring new and existing systems into the mesh by exposing their APIs and data to the automation layer, continuously expanding the automation scope toward new use cases. The automation layer acts as a sidecar to all these systems, enabling them to participate in automation scenarios even if they were not initially designed for it. Arguably, this is better than the initiative taken by many CSPs to expose all OSS/BSS APIs under a unified API gateway, which consolidates access but still lacks automation capabilities.

  • Fourth, coupled with concepts like low-code and no-code, it enables the CSP’s own subject matter experts to define new services as end-to-end automation templates that seamlessly consume the APIs published by the different OSS/BSS components, and apply NetOps principles to them.

  • Fifth, it provides a central point for operationalizing the artificial intelligence and machine-learning models used in assurance scenarios across all domains, enabling advanced assurance and closed-loop automation even across legacy systems.

  • And finally, it allows the CSP to expose the automation layer even to their own mobile virtual network operators in a controlled way, providing them with the means to customize the standard offering or define new services on top of it.

While introducing the new layer and new products, existing systems and services are kept running, allowing the CSP to determine exactly if, when, and how they will be migrated, with zero risk of downtime. Similarly, it is sufficient to expose the APIs of newly introduced components to the automation layer to have them included in the automation spectrum.

At Plexteq, we are proud to help CSPs take full control of their digital transformation journey, reduce time-to-market by rolling out new services in days as opposed to months, empower their subject matter experts to play an active role in service implementation using low-code, and strengthen the bridge between engineering and IT domains regarding end-to-end use case implementation.


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