The telecom industry is witnessing the start of a profound transformation process that will allow Communication Service Providers to evolve into Digital Service Providers. The promise is to utilize new cloud, software, IoT and big data technologies to provide intelligent connectivity and value added digital services to consumers, enterprises and various industry segments. This includes the connectivity and management of smart factories (Industry 4.0), smart connected vehicles (autonomous driving), smart grid networks or SD-WAN networks for enterprises. This also includes digital services to consumers, such as connected homes, virtual-reality gaming and rich high-definition multi-media entertainment catalogues.
The promise of revenue growth through monetization of such services will be made possible by new business and pricing models developed jointly with various industrial partners and SLAs delivered to enterprise customers. Recent reversal of Net Neutrality rules also opens the door for new consumer service monetization policies such as tiered pricing and QoS differentiation.
However, CSPs need to execute the transformation to give them the ability to configure, deliver, manage and assure on-demand digital services in real time. This means: delivering network capability as a service, assuring very stringent SLAs, managing an extremely high availability and high quality network and adjusting in real-time to consumer and enterprise demands.
The transformation will accelerate in the next 2 to 3 years with the migration to Telco Cloud networks, adoption of NFV/SDN, implementation of big data lakes and analytics and integration with IoT ecosystem. However, a key component for the success of the transformation and the monetization will depend on the efficiency of the real-time management, orchestration and assurance architecture to be put in place. In particular, Next Generation Service Assurance will play a critical and central role in enabling this monetization opportunity as it will be the backbone for keeping the complex end-to-end hybrid networks at peak performance, assuring the availability, reliability and quality of on-demand digital services and meeting the very stringent SLAs required by industry verticals and enterprises.
This Next Generation Service Assurance capability will act as the automated governance layer on top of the various NFV orchestrators, SDN controllers and physical/legacy network managers. It will enable a smooth migration from physical networks into the Telco Cloud. Some of its key characteristics are:
- Seamless and instant navigation from customer/service to network layers through a common integration of Performance Management, Fault Management and Service Quality Management into a common Service Assurance CMDB
- Service Assurance integration with Service Lifecycle Orchestration for dynamic event-based integration with Inventory to support dynamic configuration changes. This includes integration (using TOSCA modeling language) with Service Catalogue to enable DevOps catalogue- driven service management
- Interworking of Service Assurance with a variety of proprietary and open source orchestration ecosystems (OPNFV, ECOMP, ONAP etc.) to allow future-proof evolution. A flexible and modular (micro-services) approach and the use of open standards and APIs allow the system to be agnostic to Open Source ecosystems or commercial off-the-shelf products used for orchestration
- Adoption of Open APIs, in particular the TMF APIs, to reduce integration and evolution costs. Open APIs expose raw and smart data around alerts, time-series (KPIs/KQIs), problems, troubles, changes, analytics and policies
- New architecture ensuring automated real-time operations from the cloud. This requires full cloudification or orchestrability of Service Assurance in the cloud, enabling DevOps operations
- Advanced automation to deliver a true closed-loop Service Assurance Orchestration capability that enables real-time operations and massive Opex gains leading to Zero Touch Operation, Orchestration and Maintenance (ZOOM)
Simplification and automation of Operation Center processes is essential to achieving success in the Telco Cloud environment. Service Assurance systems that offer automation techniques, especially for NFV orchestration are critical for detecting service policy violations, managing configurations, automating root cause analysis and remediation, reducing MTTR.
Through integration of analytics and automation, data can be visualized and actioned in the Operations Center in a predictive manner by pre-empting problems. The combination of analytics and automation can help in identifying untapped capacity in the networks. Large Opex savings can be achieved by automating the process of reducing or re-organising capacity bottlenecks in the network.
A few use cases are suggested below for the Next Generation Service Assurance system:
- Closed-loop QoS-driven orchestration in hybrid networks: Using specific performance and fault data from both PNFs and VNFs, QoS policies are triggered, which in turns trigger an automated workflow that sends notifications towards the CSP Orchestrator system
- Prediction of SLA breaches: Machine learning, integrated with analytics based on performance/fault data, offers powerful predictive management capability in protecting customer SLAs
- Service impact analysis: Service impact modeling mapped to underlying network resources results in visibility for specific service chains (examples are VoLTE and Mobile Broadband)
- Automating outage recoveries: Network outage faults are solved much faster by publishing NFV/SDN generated alert data into CSP’s Telco Cloud Kafka cluster and then automating the outage recoveries
- Assurance of 5G network slicing for IoT services: By using analytics to forecast problem patterns, prevent IoT network, service and device failures in uRLL (ultra-reliable and low latency) and mMTC (massive machine-type) 5G networks
A simplified zero-touch Operation Center provides many benefits. However, it does require integration and evolution of the existing OSS components. A step by step evolution of the existing ecosystem of a typical CSP will include the following:
- Rollout of a cloud-based Next Generation Service Assurance data platform with a converged Service Assurance CMDB
- Migration to Next Generation Unified Performance Management and Unified Fault Management pointing into the converged Service Assurance CMDB
- Roll out of Digital Service Quality Management and integration with Telco Cloud ecosystem, including dynamic closed loop integration with Service Lifecycle orchestration
- Introduction of advanced analytics and Machine Learning to enable predictive operations
- Integration with big/smart data lakes
- Integration with IoT management platform for monetization of IoT managed services
Currently, MYCOM OSI is developing such a blueprint for the Next Generation Service Assurance system for a Tier 1 digital service operator to enable their Service Management Center to monitor digital services including VoD, VoLTE, and ViLTE, and extending it for NFV and 5G. The Next Generation Operation Center will include proactive surveillance with automated service impact and root cause analyses, with dynamic service orchestration for physical, logical and virtual infrastructures.