Mobile Europe interview with Payam Taaghol, CEO, MYCOM OSI
Originally printed as a front cover profile in Mobile Europe Magazine & European Communications Q3 2018, click here to read the magazine.
MYCOM OSI: Ringing the changes in OSS
2018 is proving a busy year for MYCOM OSI, as the global CSP community wakes up to the instrumental role cloud-based service quality assurance can play in realising autonomic networks.
The more ambitious CSPs’ plans, the more critical it is that they can support the QoE with a light and eventually no operational touch – tracking everything in one place, and leaning on the latest technology to enable predictive analytics, automation and self-learning.
In this exclusive interview with Mobile Europe and European Communications, Payam Taaghol, MYCOM OSI’s CEO, sets out his vision and describes the transformations his company has already made possible.
Mobile Europe and European Communications: MYCOM OSI has made the headlines on numerous occasions so far this year, suggesting that the company is really riding a wave at the moment. What’s going on?
Payam Taaghol: I think it’s exactly that – we have created something the market is really craving now. We have a solution which is genuinely disrupting the market - at a time when operators absolutely need to rethink, and behave differently in the way they manage and provide assurance around their network and services.
As CSPs embrace digital transformation and connectivity becomes faster and more ubiquitous, the emphasis is shifting to innovative on-demand, real-time consumer and enterprise digital service opportunities. This demands new ways of launching, monitoring, managing and ensuring the quality and performance of services as well as the networks they run on – aided wherever possible by smart technology. We play directly to that need with an intelligent, integrated solution for letting operators visualise, automate and optimise digital experiences, as well as service and network quality. We cater for this, end-to-end, across hybrid physical and virtual telco and IT networks, providing integrated, real-time assurance with closed-loop automation and analytics driven by artificial intelligence/machine learning.
Our solution and approach are different to anything that has gone before. We manage everything via a single, integrated platform in the cloud, and provide our solution via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription model, in keeping with the way organisations are increasingly accessing software. It all adds up to a solution that’s highly scalable, can harness the latest technologies, including smart analytics and self-management techniques, and which increases the quality of service (and SLA options) for customers - while simultaneously reducing complexity and cost for service providers.
This approach has now attracted a number of prestigious industry awards, hasn’t it?
Yes, and we’re particularly proud because most of this momentum is being driven by our customers – CSPs that recognise the importance of what we’re doing and what we offer them. They have been the ones nominating and supporting us, which is the best possible confirmation that what we’re doing really matters.
Remind us of some of the awards you’ve won so far this year?
We’re proud to say there have been several. We won a significant TM Forum award for operational transformation and agility, for championing a solution built on a modern architecture that’s designed specifically to be delivered via a cloud environment. It is genuinely transformational for our customers, because it enables the automation of very complex operational processes, taking CSPs closer to being able to realise dark, zero-touch and even no-NOC networks. We’ve also been recognised as a ‘Top 10 company to watch’ by Stratecast|Frost & Sullivan, and been covered by Ovum’s On The Radar.
What are you offering that is so different and disruptive?
Just as Salesforce disrupted sales management and CRM by moving everything into the cloud and making it accessible through a different purchasing model (SaaS), we offer an ‘assurance cloud’ for CSPs harnessing the same delivery model. In doing this we have overturned 30+ years of traditional cumbersome approaches to OSS and reinvented the service assurance market based on cloud benefits, technologies and commercial models. Nobody else has done this with the real, large-scale commercial project success that we have.
The fact that our solution is cloud native (i.e. has been designed to be run in the cloud) means it is infrastructure agnostic. This means it can be run in any telco-optimised cloud environment, in addition to traditional data centres and bare metal if necessary, offering the ability to reduce deployment and operations efforts and cost associated with assurance systems by 75% versus traditional OSS approaches. It also means massively reduced headaches in infrastructure acquisition and management by CSPs, which can be a major reason for project delays. Our subscription business model, meanwhile, accelerates deployment and helps map assurance costs better to business cases - especially with fail-fast CSP initiatives. It also provides much more flexibility for CSPs’ Capex and Opex needs and challenges.
Importantly, we approach services assurance and quality holistically, which is critical in supporting CSPs’ ambitions for new digital services and customer experiences. Specifically, we have collapsed the traditional silos of service assurance – i.e. performance management, fault management and service management – into a single integrated, real-time system enhanced by automation and analytics. Because of all this, our proposition is something much bigger and more transformational to CSPs. As they begin to roll out increasingly creative services, from IPTV to innovative new digital experiences for enterprises, including those based on 5G and IoT, our complete, integrated ‘telco cloud’ solution can look after every aspect of quality assurance – not just the performance of the underlying network, but also how that service is experienced by every customer.
The need for automation has never been greater in our industry. We offer a unique catalogue of highly specialised application- and outcome-based automation solutions, also via subscription, that harness our core quality assurance functionality to monitor, detect, analyse, make recommendations and fully self-heal and self-optimise CSPs networks end-to-end. The potential use cases we can support span a range of enterprise and consumer, fixed and mobile, physical and virtual, network domains and native and OTT digital services. What we have is truly differentiated and covers all technologies and vendors and network domains. It is the brain that would leverage the orchestrators based on changing network conditions to dynamically control the user experience in real time.
When it comes to harnessing AI and machine learning to optimise service quality, we’ve been careful to ensure that all network and service automation is fully programmable and can be open- or closed-loop. This means CSPs retain control and can embed their own expertise. Automated processes are fully auditable too, which is very important.
Tell us about some of the CSPs already using your cloud-based solutions.
One of our big success stories is with Three UK, which is deploying the world’s first telco cloud. It’s a hugely exciting project. The company carries something like one third of the UK’s data traffic and has targets for doubling business, increasing network speed eightfold, reducing IT spend, becoming the UK’s number one brand and being first to market with digital services provisioned and assured via the telco cloud. To get to this point, they needed a full network transformation, which is where we came in.
The deployment for Three UK marks the first time an operator has implemented a fully integrated, cloud-native core network. Our assurance cloud will manage Three UK’s entire IT and telco network - from RAN to core, both on the physical and virtualised parts of the network, all in one place, viewable with a single line of sight. This has never been done before.
We’ve also deployed our cloud-based assurance platform in one of the top five largest CSPs in the world – a company with more than 300 million subscribers. Beyond the sheer scale of operations and the two hundred billion data records per hour we are crunching, an interesting point is that the CSP has set out to automate 95% of its network and service quality management with our platform and catalogue of solutions.
What does the future hold? As 5G beds in and OTT services using IoT become prevalent, where does OSS need to head next – to support all of this and give users the experience they expect?
We talk about the complete transformation of the service assurance function from a tactical solution to a ‘digital brain’ that helps make the network of the future autonomic – i.e. automated and driven by AI. This is about taking experience, performance and quality indicators across all networks, services, customers and devices, IoT or subscriber, and continuously monitoring them in real time. It’s about detecting or predicting degradations or anomalies; figuring out root causes or optimisation recommendations; and then orchestrating changes in the network and services as needed. And all of this is powered by closed-loop automation, and driven by self-learning. Once you can get to this point, then service and quality assurance can provide additional strategic value - taking the wealth of assurance data and intelligence and using this to automatically govern networks.
All of these capabilities will soar up the agenda with 5G and IoT, where new use cases require even higher focus on QoE, QoS and guaranteeing SLAs - for example driverless vehicles, remote robotic control and other latency-critical or mission-critical applications. One of 5G’s killer benefits is to allow QoS to be differentiated through network slicing, so rather than having one network-wide QoS and the pressure for CSPs to expensively over-provision for peak scenarios, they will have the option to differentiate service levels by customer, application, use case, location, time and so on. Each network slice, which is likely to be provisioned dynamically and on demand, will need to be quality assured in its own right, while at the same time all of the hundreds or thousands of slices will need to be quality assured as a whole. Significantly, our solution is deployed on the 5G test network at the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre and engaged in several TM Forum Catalyst proof-of-concepts, to progress our developments on 5G assurance and network slicing for IoT applications.
AI/machine learning is a particularly fascinating area, specifically how this will be further embedded within assurance to reduce configuration and correlation rule-creation, and provide predictive and problem-solving capabilities that are too complex, too large in scale or too dynamic in speed for humans to comprehend and act on. Some of our customer proof-of-concepts in this area are yielding some very interesting results.
As operators increasingly acknowledge the need for digital transformation in the way they organise and manage their networks, in what continued and expanded ways will MYCOM OSI be able to help and support them?
In addition to providing a comprehensive, integrated approach to assurance, not to mention an end-to-end digital service quality management capability which supports network slicing, real-time service adjustments and tailored SLAs, we also offer a step-by-step transformation process to help CSPs migrate towards a more virtualised, digitally-innovative future. Recognising that it could take service providers up to 10 years to make the transition, we help them do this in a manageable and self-funding way through a series of tangible stages. As the CSP gradually consolidates and simplifies its OSS and overall service assurance activities and associated IT systems, the payback from reduced costs and complexity help to drive the next stage of the transformation. And at each stage, we ensure that the technology being implemented is futureproof – so able to take CSPs forward to the next stage when they are ready. It’s something we’ve been doing with a major service provider in the Middle East, where it has proved very successful in moving the company’s ambitions forward.
As operators transform themselves into DSPs, we’re seeing a fundamental evolution in how they are architecting their whole business. From Telefónica to China Mobile, every major CSP now is looking to reorganise its existing assets (physical network, OSS/BSS, CRM and more) and newer capabilities (cloud, SDN/NFV, big data/analytics, IoT platform, autonomic service assurance, and so on) and offer them in the form of a layered as-a-service vertical digital platform, with differentiated services for various industry sectors. We are ideally positioned to help them with all of this.
Finally, do you have any thoughts about the way technology providers’ relationships with CSPs will change in future?
Something that has emerged very strongly from this year’s industry events has been the desire for a new relationship between CSPs and their suppliers. Instead of the traditional vendor-CSP relationship, which are driven by RFP procurement processes that go on for months or even years, CSPs are increasingly looking for a more partnership-based scenario, where both parties co-invest and collaborate in an agile way to drive meaningful innovation. Surprisingly this is very welcomed by a large community of progressive CSPs.
This might take the form of proof-of-concepts, or try-and-buy models to which both parties contribute with regular, inclusive reviews. And in fact this is something we’ve been doing for some time through our agile approach to solution development, where we seek customer input and conduct development reviews and demos every couple of weeks. This approach to software enhancement, coupled with our continuous integration and delivery platform, allows us to push innovations from our labs to the customer’s production environment in a fast, low-cost and continuous manner. It’s definitely the way forward in a dynamic, digital future.