Light Reading

OSS Changes Vital to Sprint's Network Vision

Carol Wilson
8/22/2014
50%
50%

A lot of attention has been focused on Sprint's network and its new CEO's determination to bring in customers with new pricing plans of late, but behind the scenes another major transformation is taking place within Sprint that is getting less attention, even though it ultimately affects every part of the big carrier's business and its future success. (See Sprint CEO: Price Cuts First, Best Network Next .)

As part of its NetworkVision 2.0 strategy, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is currently moving to an automated process of tracking its network inventory, working with OSS vendor NetCracker Technology Corp. to define and put in place a new way to identify and track all the moving parts of its end-to-end networks. As part of that effort, Sprint is determining which legacy processes and systems it can leave behind, even as it actively builds out not one but two new wireless networks -- its enhanced 4G LTE network and the Spark network. (See Sprint Sparks to Reduce Churn, Save Unlimited , Sprint Sparks Up Vendors for Faster 4G LTE and Sprint Chooses NetCracker for OSS Network Vision.)

"At the same time you are doing all those things, you have to make sure there is minimal or no impact on the customer," says John Dye, director of IT application development at Sprint. Members of Dye's teams are participating with network engineering teams of each domain and members of the IT staff to incorporate new OSS automation processes in its new networks from the outset rather than later, as an afterthought. It is a major endeavor for both Sprint and its vendor.

NetCracker has been involved in many network transformation processes but the Sprint effort is a bit unusual, says Ed Feingold, the vendor's director of strategy.

"They are focused on the network inventory piece, which, in most cases, wouldn't be all that exciting," he says. "But Sprint is different because, first, they are working at extremely large scale and, second, they are doing three things at once: creating a new centralized network inventory repository that over time will decommission some of their legacy systems, but also building new systems to support the 4G network vision and now Spark."

Why inventory management?
Knowing what is in the network doesn't seem to be that big a deal -- unless you have acquired companies, run multiple lines of business, and migrated traffic from one network to another -- all of which Sprint has done. As Dye describes it, moving to a single view of the Sprint networks, which are constantly and automatically being updated and reconciled, is not only important to meeting customer demand and providing a quality of service customers expect, but also to protecting both the capex and opex budgets.

"We need to have a strong view of what is really in the network and not just what was designed or planned for the network," he says. "The currency factor, the ability to discover the network and be able to reconcile all that data and keep that current for everyone is critical."

As demand for data in particular skyrockets, Sprint must target its infrastructure investments to where they are needed and know that existing investments aren't being stranded or under-utilized. At the same time, the carrier needs to accurately track the "before and after" of new network and equipment deployment.


See what other telecom players are doing to transform their operations and support systems on our OSS channel here at Light Reading.


Sprint initially used NetCracker to help in the OSS transition to the all-IP world, then applied the vendor's inventory model to its radio access network. Now as it builds out the 4G LTE and Spark networks, it is using the same model to ensure consistency in building and deployment activities, so that as things are added, the inventory is kept current and all elements can be validated and accepted.

"With that, you can go straight through to a service assurance model, and that drives the ability to do accurate performance management," Dye says. "Performance management drives many things out there -- how you look at capacity management, how you look at performance and the availability of the network; also, how you look at driving customer experience management to make sure what you have done and what you are doing going forward is the right thing for customers."

By tracking all this information and making it available across the network organization as Sprint goes into a new deployment, the carrier targets its network spending more carefully, on both the capex and opex sides, Dye says.

"Obviously we want to keep our capex down as we are spending all this deployment money so that we don't over-provision because someone doesn't have the right capacity and configuration data," he comments. "And we are also keeping opex down because we can use our partners effectively -- minimize the amount of effort on their parts, which keeps their costs down, saving money which they pass back through to us."

Another place where Sprint expects to save money is in retiring legacy OSSs that are no longer needed. But determining what can be retired and managing that is an exacting process in itself. It often involves extracting legacy data from existing systems and populating that in the new system, NetCracker's central repository, in a different way.

"We are constantly looking at that portfolio, assessing it as we look forward to the Spark network and the future technologies there, doing application rationalization, and determining how we can consolidate that best," Dye says. "We have a long history of legacy apps, and we definitely want to get those out and reduce our opex for maintaining those."

That is often a staged process, he adds, with detailed transitional plans to phase out applications partially or completely as they aren't needed. By eliminating systems that aren't needed, Sprint can also reduce licensing costs and overall operations budgets, Feingold notes.

The hard part
NetCracker right now has a team of people in place working alongside Sprint to implement the new inventory management process. One of hardest parts of this entire process is change management -- training people to do things differently on newer systems.

New systems mean new user interfaces, new data entered differently, and new functions for back office staff, and adoption often goes slower than expected, Dye says. "Getting people used to the system is always one of the biggest challenges -- it's a people challenge, not a technology challenge."

Ultimately, it is likely that fewer people will be needed but those people will need a broader range of skills, Dye says, encompassing both telecom and IT training. Sprint's new CEO has also said job cuts are inevitable and will based on necessity.

Sprint will look to incorporate virtualization in its OSSs where and when it makes sense, Dye adds. He sees some value in reducing the number of boxes deployed through the software-centric model but admits concerns about customer impact. "It's a little too early to know what impact this might have," he comments. "I want to see this stuff working in the lab before we use it."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/25/2014 | 5:06:52 PM
Re: How dependent
If you mean does the hardware vendor have to make all this work, no I don't believe they do. Depending on the type and age of the gear, they do have to have definable interfaces but these in many cases aren't open. 
Atlantis-dude
50%
50%
Atlantis-dude,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 3:59:39 PM
How dependent
is this effort on the infrastructure hardware-equipment vendor?
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/25/2014 | 10:40:50 AM
Re: OSS the Backbone
I think what Sprint is facing here is what every telecom carrier is also facing - they need new skills, more IT-oriented, and they need more automation to take the human factor out of the process where possible, but the transition is going to be very tough. 
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 9:56:10 AM
Re: OSS the Backbone
As noted, "One of hardest parts of this entire process is change management -- training people to do things differently on newer systems." Getting those folks to learn anew, is going to be a challenge. Especially, if as planned, they're going to be reducing the workforce, and depending on the remaining people to handle a bit larger work load and expecting them to handle more areas of expertise well.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/25/2014 | 8:42:02 AM
Re: OSS the Backbone
Phil, 

Customer service is definitely a big driver here, as is cost reduction from eliminating OSSs that don't have valuue going and automating processes that will help trim staff. 

I think what Sprint is doing is what all long-time network operators are likely working at as well - rationalization of their OSSs. 
Phil_Britt
50%
50%
Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 8:37:16 AM
OSS the Backbone
You are right that all of the moves Sprint is making means little without the OSS to support everything In fact, if the OSS doesn't support the moves, it could hurt Sprint now and in the future. After dealing with very poor service from a carrier, which is likely without the right OSS support, how likely would one be to go back? Unless, of course the other carriers prove to be worse.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
The Swedish vendor has undergone a significant transformation during the past few years, adjusting to the demands of next-generation communications companies.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accounting for Better Solutions

4|10|15   |   02:31   |   (1) comment


Murad Yousuf, CTO at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Zakat & Income Tax), talks about the benefits of deploying router technology from Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
What's in Store for Huawei & DataCore?

4|10|15   |   05:44   |   (0) comments


At the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, George Teixeira, CEO of software-defined storage (SDS) specialist DataCore Software, explains why he has just signed a partnership agreement with Huawei Technologies.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Du Puts Its Faith in Huawei's Routers

4|9|15   |   3:42   |   (0) comments


Adnan Masood, director of Enterprise MS Solutions Marketing at du, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) operator also known as Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, explains why his company chose to use Huawei's multifunctional AR routers as part of its managed enterprise services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Gets Active in the Data Center

4|9|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


With enterprise users looking to maximize the use of their data center assets, Huawei’s Chief Architect & Technical Director of IT Data Center Solutions, Bruce Su, explains how the company's six-layer active-active data center solution is eradicating the need to deploy passive, redundant data center assets.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Blue Consult & Huawei for a Better Solution

4|8|15   |   4:01   |   (0) comments


Martin Rott, CEO, and Marc Metzler, head of sales virtualization, from Germany's Blue Consult discuss their collaboration with Huawei and TrendMicro to develop a secure, scalable IT platform that can meet the needs of the most demanding enterprise users.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Beach Petroleum on eLTE & Mining

4|8|15   |   3:09   |   (0) comments


Network systems integrator Jeremy Hamlyn explains how Huawei's secure packet-based trunking communications system, eLTE, can help remote communities and companies in the mining, oil and gas sectors, deploy efficient communications networks that are perfect for video and data as well as voice.
Upcoming Live Events
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Network Instruments, a JDSU division, shares results from its 2015 State of the Network, a global survey on security.
Hot Topics
Verizon Scores New OTT Content Deals
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/16/2015
Can WiFi Calling Find Its Voice?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 4/13/2015
Senator Proposes New 'Title X' for Net Neutrality
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/13/2015
Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent in Merger Talks
Iain Morris, News Editor, 4/14/2015
Nokia & Alcatel-Lucent: What's Going On?
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/15/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Data Center Interconnect, or DCI, is one of the hottest sectors in telecom currently. Since coming back to Light Reading last year, prodigal-son style, I've ...
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.