Flexible and scalable operations software holds the key to 5G's promise
The following is a guest blog by Karl Whitelock, vice president of research at IDC.
The changing face of telecommunications
5G is poised to empower new industry models and change how value is delivered in ways never imagined. For customers of all types, 5G is coming to mean faster speeds, greater load carrying capacity and in a growing number of cases, personalized connectivity pathways enabled by network slices. To accommodate these new ways of doing business, change must also come to the systems that keep telecom networks working smoothly. These systems need to address new business challenges that traditional on-premises software was never designed to handle. Chief among the challenges is the need for a flexible and rapidly scalable architecture that can operate in near real-time and accommodate dynamic repositioning in the way services are defined, delivered, and updated when customers or network conditions dictate.
Flexibly engineered automation will satisfy the needs of operations complexity
Bringing the telecom network close to the enterprise edge and delivering specialized solutions to meet business demand, proves how well 5G is changing the way communications service providers (Comms SPs) do business. Automation is expected to address the key operations functions that 5G service offerings need. In an increasingly complex world where network architecture involves partner interactions and dynamic change, most installed systems are not capable of supporting 5G services.
Real-time operations to satisfy evolving QoE definitions, provide analytical insight, and meet regulatory data management requirements is essential for effective 5G service management. As shown in Figure 1, many of the existing systems were placed into service over 40 years ago with the intent to address specialized process functions within a network architecture engineered with minimal customer focus. The business model and associated systems design were about the network, but today's 5G operations are radically more advanced than those supporting the connectivity only mindset of the past.
FIGURE 1: 5G New Business Models and Limitations of Installed OSS BSS
Source: IDC 2022
In today's business reality, previously installed systems provide minimal flexibility when addressing rapid change in customer focus or technology evolution. These systems offer little ability to deliver insight that comes from machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) through analytics. Dynamic data management was not a concern when these systems were implemented, thereby falling short in meeting today's advanced automation requirements. The business model these systems were optimized to address was business-to-consumer (B2C). The evolving 5G landscape incorporates not just B2C, but business-to-business (B2B) relationships for meeting customer expectations.
How does SaaS for CSPs help operations and why now?
From an operations, orchestration, and analytics perspective, system and process updates must be in place for 5G technology services to work as anticipated. Delivering these new capabilities often falls into two camps: Define new systems architecture, bringing together various operations functions with a traditional software license model, or focus on functionality and leave the systems architecture and database management to others.
The first approach has been tried with mixed success. It is complex and requires years to deliver, as many Comms SPs that engaged in this approach will confirm. The second approach involves IT development concepts used by large enterprise organizations across different industries for more than 15 years. Known as software-as-a-service (SaaS), this approach delivers business outcomes, bought as a subscription, based on cloud-native software, delivered with a fully digitalized business experience and an automated services lifecycle.
While SaaS is making great inroads, for it to be truly successful, SaaS delivered solutions should pay attention to several architectural details that matter most to Comms SPs including reliability, security, latency, regulatory compliance, elastic capacity, and flexible functionality.
The advantages of SaaS are many such as quick time to delivery, a trial environment to test new ideas within a live customer base, elastic capacity, and reduced IT dependence. All this leads to quicker time-to-value and lower total cost of ownership. Comms SPs owe it to their customers to evaluate how SaaS-based operations can lower cost and improve the end-customer experience.
An invitation to learn more about SaaS for CSPs
SaaS solutions are the future for Comms SPs to capitalize on the great promise of 5G technology to deliver business advantages for B2B and B2C customers. Join me along with Mark Bunn, Senior VP SaaS solutions at Nokia on January 26th for an interactive discussion about SaaS and its role in the 5G evolution for Comms SPs: "The CSP journey to SaaS: Why, When and How?"