Microservices, DevOps and collaboration: The foundation for BSS Transformation
Telecoms operators, by tradition, are not seen as fast-moving businesses. They are always striving to be agile, but their reliance on legacy systems – coupled with their dysfunctional, locked-in relationships with legacy vendors – has created a slow-moving animal, often at odds with the pace of the Internet generation.
Indeed, when operators talk of the challenges they face with digital transformation, they are as often referring as much to their current vendors as they are to their own business, says Tony Gillick, VP Solutions Management, Openet.
Ironic isn’t it – the companies providing the superfast networks we rely on to access innovative services, are leaking revenues to the superfast competitors better placed to take advantage of the network the operators have built.
The rise of microservices represents the first steps in an attempt by the operator community to win back some of this lost ground. As networks become increasingly defined by software rather than hardware, a microservices-led architecture allows for more effective customisation, programmability and service upgrades.
Digital innovators in the Internet ecosystem – companies like Dropbox, Twitter and Airbnb – have all achieved significant impact and time-to-market improvements, up to 75% according to Gartner analyst Martina Kurth, through the adoption of microservices. That time-to-market statistic is key, because operators have learned the hard way that subscribers, and agile competitors, don’t wait; they are quick to act and quick to embrace new services.
So, as operators struggle to transform into digital service providers and adopt a microservices approach to BSS, one approach to the change required is gaining a lot of attention within the industry: DevOps. The move to collaborative DevOps is demonstrative of the ‘digital’ culture that many operators want to adopt. This means that the operators and vendors are working together in an agile environment to develop solutions,
A DevOps-based approach sees operators become more agile by effectively deploying software on a continuous basis. In turn this makes them better able to quickly deploy the new services subscribers demand and thereby reduce their time to market. DevOps actually does what it says on the tin.
It brings the Development of new services and the Operation of them much closer together. But it is just a practice. To guarantee its success, operators will need to take it to another stage – by ensuring that it is underpinned by industry collaboration.
But DevOps is just a practice. To guarantee its success, operators need to ensure that it is underpinned by industry collaboration. The rise of open source technologies is promoting this need to collaborate and industry bodies such as the TM Forum are encouraging operators and vendors to come together and share their ideas and initiatives.
While these initiatives are good news for the industry, much work needs to be done to ensure that collaborative approaches becomes a key part of operator digital transformation, that it embraces true vendor collaboration, and that it is aimed squarely at delivering improved time-to-market, interoperability, and innovation.
Only through a collaborative approach, will operators be able to combat fragmentation, and take full advantage of the opportunities created by the virtualisation of networks, the availability of open source technologies, and the willingness of consumers to embrace new services.
Collaboration will not just be the glue that holds the industry together, it will help operators build and develop a new ‘platform as a service’ approach that can attract innovative partners and fuel new applications and services.
Ultimately, while DevOps and microservices are ways of minimising the risk of introducing new services, enabling more flexibility and the introduction of new business models; to be really successful they require an ever-evolving mix of partners and collaborators able to take advantage of the eco-system created.
The operator community needs to move away from vendor lock-in and towards true digital transformation. And it needs to do that at speed. Microservices, DevOps and a move towards operator and vendor collaboration can ensure that, from the BSS side, the foundation is there to drive digital transformation.
The author of this blog is Tony Gillick, VP Solutions Management, Openet