How can BOSS apps adapt with 5G?
5G’s advent has been preceded by several technological advancements, business models and market demand for new types of communication services, writes Vinay Devadatta, the practice head for Innovation and Industry Relations at Wipro.
We are now far from the time when the predominant offering of a communication service provider (CSP) was voice calls. Advancements brought by network function virtualisation (NFV), software defined networking (SDN), multi access edge computing (MEC), concept of network slice (NS), as well as generic Information technologies have created new vistas to explore. The highly successful deployment of platform business models in industry sectors like online retail, hotel, travel and others, adds a new dimension to the change that CSPs are embarking on.
Business support system (BSS) and operations support system (OSS) applications, together the BOSS, are the gateway. They make available the communication services offered by the network resources to potential customers and through which they bill and invoice.
Until now, the inception of new technologies has been associated with the addition of new management components like NFV orchestrator, policy managers, SDN controllers and others, to the BOSS/management products. Legacy management products have adopted generic technologies like big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and others, and CSPs have started utilising concepts of the platform business model and application programme interfaces (APIs). While these augmentations and modifications enable deployment of new CSP technologies, they do not allow CSPs to fully use the flexibility of the network and the width of market demand for new 5G services. For CSPs to be able to flexibly and efficiently provide 5G services, the traditional BOSS components need to also transform their architectural capabilities. These include:
5G will support a large variety of services with widely varying criticality, many of which may have short shelf life. The BOSS/management system would need to distribute available resources, efficiently to maximise immediate and future profits for the CSP. This would require management system where the decision-making policies are flexible and amenable based on service types and market demands.
Most traditional management products have static rule-based decision-making systems or static policies embedded into them. Management products must support the ability to dynamically change the policies and the capability to gracefully apply the policy, so that there is no inconsistent behaviour across the BOSS.
In the legacy world, voice communication was the only type of communication service and even when new data services came in, prioritisation was limited to allocation of resources. Also, the prioritising of management actions was based on criticality from network operations point of view. The wide variety of 5G services and the end-to-end quality guarantees associated with 5G network slice, would require prioritisation support to be revisited. Both resource allocation and management actions would need to be prioritised with multiple perspectives of network criticality, QoS (Quality of Service) assured for a slice customer priority and cost. Many of the current BOSS applications would need to be extended to support concept of priority in the APIs they expose as well as, for internal decision making. BOSS applications also need to share priority information to downstream applications.
Many BOSS application support different modes and options, in which the application can work. This is used to support the CSPs chosen deployment, operational and business models. To make use of 5G, CSPs would need to cater to a much wider range of customers and market needs, forcing CSPs to move from choosing a specific model, to supporting in parallel, multiple deployment, operational and business models based on varying requirements. BOSS applications must have the inbuilt flexibility to support this.
5G services uptake across industry verticals will happen only if the services are available at a price point that is economically feasible. This would require CSPs to be efficient, flexible and precise, while balancing immediate and strategic goals. Another constraint that CSPs would have to contend with would be the move from best effort to guaranteed service quality, as this again could stop businesses from embedding 5G communication services in their core business. All this would require not only real-time network operational data, but also predictive information based on which decisions can be made. Most current BOSS applications do not accept data with time stamps ahead of current system time, as data validations at ingestion levels would reject the same.
In order to cater to rapidly changing network technologies, demand for a variety of 5G services by different Industry verticals and the market-driven need to adopt different business models, there will always be new requirements on BOSS applications. Since all future requirements cannot be foreseen, BOSS applications should be programmable and not just configurable.
One of the key business cases for 5G is extending communication services into other industries. This will require easy integration by non-telco players. Standards based Open API interfaces will extend programmability beyond Telco operations and business applications,
The concept of 5G network slice will drive the need for looking at network as a set of logical independent networks governed by slice specific policies. Changing market demand and enabling NFV and SDN technologies would mean BOSS applications would have to contend with dynamically changing partitioning of their governance space. Network slice managers would take care of lifecycle management of Network slice, but the impact of Network slice does not stop at this point. BOSS applications would need to ramp up to meet this need.
The above are some of the key architectural capabilities that will need to be implemented or extended in current day BOSS applications. Some of these capabilities might already be present and others not needed based on the functionality associated with the BOSS application. Capabilities like policies, partitioning and priority need to be consistently understood across the system while capabilities like parallelism can be independently implemented. Standalone components like policy manager, analytics platform for prediction are very much required, but in order to leverage the next generation network technological advancements, the BOSS functional blocks also need to be architecturally upgraded.