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Telecoms, networking & broadcasting Technical Next generation OSS - the impact on legacy systems by

Telecoms, networking & broadcasting

Technical

Telecoms, networking & broadcasting Technical Next generation OSS - the impact on legacy systems by Mark

Next generation OSS - the impact on legacy systems

by Mark Acton, Mobinomics

The next generation network (NGN) service provider’s challenge will be operational systems.

Much of the attention surrounding NGN has been focused on the technical and marketing dimensions. For example, there has been extensive coverage and discussion over WiMax, 3G and WiFi as competing components in providing access to NGN core networks and services.

On the marketing and service development front, there has been much speculation regarding what the killer NGN application will be. Will it be media services such as interactive

television delivered via internet protocol (IPTV) or ubiquitous voice over intenet protocol (VoiP) – or hopefully both ?

Ultimately, all service providers and operators (hereafter referred to as telcos) will have access to the technologies and network platforms that will enable them to deliver similar competing services.

The basis for competitive differentiation will be getting innovative service offerings to market as speedily as possible. And at a price that will be

Brief overview of TM forum’s NGOSS artifacts

The TeleManagement Forum provides leadership, strategic guidance and practical solutions to improve the management and operation of information and communications services.

Enhanced telecom operations map (eTOM)

The eTOM serves as a reference framework for categorising all the business activities of a service provider and analyses them into different levels of detail according to their significance and priority for the business. The eTOM structure establishes the business language and foundation for the development and integration of business and operations support systems (BSS and OSS respectively).

Shared information/data model (SID)

The Sid model provides the telecommunication industry with a common vocabulary and set of information/data definitions and relationships used in the definition of NGOSS architectures. Used in combination with the eTOM business process and activity descriptions it becomes possible to create a bridge between the business and information technology groups, thereby providing definitions that are understandable by the business, but are also rigorous enough to be used for software development. In short, The SID provides the NGOSS information model that is a representation of business concepts, their characteristics and relationships, described in an implementation independent manner.

Telecom application map (TAM)

TAM is a formalised way of grouping together function and data into recognised components, which would then be regarded as potentially procurable as either applications or services. It describes and names a set of applications, together with the data they act upon/use and the function/process they perform and an element of decomposition/grouping.

Technology neutral architecture (TNA)

The TNA sets out the principles and approaches for defining a component based, distributed system architecture and an associated critical set of system services that this architecture requires.

Source: http://www.tmforum.org

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difficult for “followers” to beat. Over and above this, to reduce customer churn, a strong brand association will have to be nurtured in the mind of the user.

What can be done that will give telcos the ability to drive prices downwards (through reduction of operational costs); enable the transforming of great ideas into available services faster than the competitors; and increase levels of customer service that will reinforce the users brand association?

New generation operational systems and software (NGOSS)

The TeleManagement Forum (TM Forum) advocates the NGOSS program as a solution to the challenges confronted by telcos in their transformation to becoming a “lean operator”. The forum argues that the majority of operational problems experienced by telcos stem from the underlying business processes, systems and data - “ High operating costs, poor order-to-cash cycles, high levels of customer dissatisfaction driving high churn rates and long lead times for new products are not the hallmarks of a successful operator in a brutally competitive market” .

NGOSS provides a “framework of frameworks” for the development of both flexible and stable operational system designs for the new generation network telco.

Providing detail of these frameworks is beyond the scope of this article, and interested readers can refer to the side box for more detail concerning the frameworks.

Benefits for telcos aligning with NGOSS

The following high level benefits can be attributed to implementing NGOSS:

• A carefully formulated set of ideas that have been developed in a collaborative fashion by the telecommunication industry community. The global membership of TM Forum includes leading international telcos and OSS vendors;

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• A coherent set of principles to organise around, which do not unnecessarily limit the freedom of the telco nor the vendor community. It can be applied based on their own unique contexts and understanding of customer needs;

• A frame of reference - it does not dictate how processes should flow nor what fixed set of information is needed.

• It aligns telco and vendor thinking, and thereby improves communication.

Measuring NGOSS alignment

TM Forum have also implemented a NGOSS compliance initiative. The purpose of the initiative is “to provide the telecommunications industry with a comprehensive set of testable criteria that constitute an OSS solution or OSS product that is compliant with the NGOSS.”

In doing this, they have adopted an “assessment continuum” approach, with “compliance” on one end of the spectrum and “conformance” at the opposite end. Compliance refers to hard rigorous testing whereas conformance refers to softer, more subjective tests.

The International Telecommunication Union and the TM Forum are also liaising with the view of NGOSS being adopted as an international standard.

The impact of NGN and NGOSS alignment on legacy networks and systems

Legacy networks and their role in the evolution towards NGN are clearly acknowledge in the ITU’s definition of an NGN where “Inter-working with legacy networks via open interfaces” is included as a fundamental aspect characterising an NGN. For most established telcos, the network will evolve towards realising the NGN concept (as opposed to a “big bang” approach which new market entrants can adopt).

For example, broadband DSL internet services coexist with circuit switched voice and dial up internet services; voice traffic is mostly being transferred via circuit switch technology; and many internet access networks used to reach the IP core networks are using legacy constant bit rate technologies.

Given the above, the next question logically follows: Can legacy OSS can be accommodated within a real world “NGOSS aligned OSS eco-system”?

And can the business cases behind this transformation compete with commercial off the shelf” (COTS) solutions whose purposeful design intent is to be a NGOSS-aligned solution?

Exploring the distance legacy OSS and NGOSS alignment

The reality for established telcos is that many legacy OSS applications have evolved over time and been refined to meet the needs of the business stakeholders.

These legacy systems are often deeply entrenched within business operations and have been customised to the operators unique context and requirements. These systems also represent significant capital investments and might already support a substantial number of broadband services delivered over an NGN.

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Fig. 1: TeleManagement Forum SANRR methodology Fig. 2: Alignment to NGOSS It can therefore be

Fig. 1: TeleManagement Forum SANRR methodology

Fig. 1: TeleManagement Forum SANRR methodology Fig. 2: Alignment to NGOSS It can therefore be argued

Fig. 2: Alignment to NGOSS

It can therefore be argued that legacy may not always mean redundant. It may be worthwhile, in these cases, for operators to explore retaining certain legacy OSS investments within the NGOSS ecosystem.

What follows is a brief illustration of how NGOSS could be used as a tool to perform this exploration, and determine whether aligning legacy with NGOSS is a reasonable path to follow.

A

methodology

practical

approach:

using

the

SANRR

1 describes the TM Forums’ SANRR

methodology. The methodology defines an

Fig.

“approach for the analysis, specification, design and implementation expressed in terms of NGOSS artifacts such as eTOM and SID …” Applying the SANRR methodology (in an iterative manner) to explore the distance of the divide between legacy OSS and a NGOSS aligned implementation could take the following form:

Step 1 – Scope: Set the boundary for the exploration using eTOMas a reference. Identify the business process that the legacy system ought to realise (For example, service configuration and activation processes); and define the mission (In this example to explore the business case for leveraging existing legacy

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to be aligned with NGOSS so that an informed comparison can be made between legacy and COTS).

Step 2 – Analyse: Document the legacy system using a technology-neutral description. This can be achieved by reverse modelling the legacy OSS into a blueprint design using UML and a lightweight but robust modelling framework which embodies the NGOSS principles.

The modeling would also include all interface points to external systems to highlight the degree of interconnectivity.

Step 3 – Normalise: Map the documented legacy system to eTOM and SID;

Step 4 – Rationalise: Identify gaps between the normalised model of the legacy OSS and the NGOSS frameworks (e.g. Are there any processes defined by eTOM which the legacy system is not realising; or information gaps when mapping legacy data to SID?)

Step 5 – Rectify: Determine if there is a business case and what the effort to resolve the identified gaps would require in terms of skills, time and money.

Comparing legacy with COTS offerings

If at some point in iterating through SANRR, it is found that it is not feasible to align the legacy to NGOSS, then the modelling exercise could be used as a means of analysing the differences between what business has today versus the NGOSS Aligned COTS offering, and whether the full cost of implementing a COTS application is understood.

Differences can quickly and proactively be identified and discussed between business and vendors.

References

[1]

NGOSS Distilled, The essential guide to next gen- eration telecom management, pg. 4.

[2] http://www.tmforum.org/browse.aspx?catid=1686

[3] The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has a NGN-Global Standards Initiative that focuses on developing the detailed (techni- cal) standards necessary for NGN deployment to give service providers the means to offer the wide range of services expected in NGN

(http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/studygroups/com13/

[4]

ngn2004/index.html)

NGOSS Distilled, The essential guide to next gen- eration telecom management, pg. 24

Contact Mark Acton, Mobinomics, Tel 021 422-5881, mark@mobinomics.com

March 2007 - EngineerIT