NEW YORK -- Ethernet & SDN Expo -- One persistent message coming from this event is that today's operations and support systems (OSSs) are thoroughly unprepared to address the requirements of the virtualized networks that service providers are planning to deploy.
This view was repeatedly shared, often in bleak terms, in multiple Wednesday panels and in a Heavy Reading analyst wrapup Thursday morning.
- "The OSS needs new clothes." -- Nirav Modi, director of software innovations, Cyan Inc.
- "We need to re-evaluate the whole architecture, radically." -- Margaret Chiosi, distinguished network architect, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)
- "The OSS will have to evolve significantly." -- Manish Gulyani, vice president of product marketing, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)
- "The current OSS is broken and must be replaced. It's been patched for the last 20 years." -- Ralph Santitoro, director of strategic market development, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc.
- "SDN/NFV will require a complete transformation of the OSS and tremendous re-skilling by the operators. It will also mean significant redundancies... whole groups and departments may go away." -- Graham Finnie, chief analyst, Heavy Reading
The opinions that were offered were complex but not always detailed. Chiosi talked about three critical areas that have to be reformulated: orchestration for datacenters, network management for network functions virtualization (NFV), and SDN controllers. She said AT&T needs self-provisioning capabilities for its customers and self-optimizing networks (SON).
And though she stressed open application programming interfaces in her earlier presentation, Chiosi said standardized interfaces are hardly enough to address the OSS issues. Instead, the entire OSS infrastructure needs an overhaul -- a commonly held opinion that leads on to wonder whether this is a job for software engineers or demolition experts.
Several speakers discussed the possibility of creating layers of abstraction that essentially surround the legacy OSSs and pull data from them, as needed, without using them as management tools. Prayson Pate, chief technologist at Overture Networks Inc. , suggested creating abstraction at different layers, so that necessary controls are housed within each layer but aren't shared among other layers, which might create unnecessary complexity.
The other commonly discussed approach seems a lot like a cap-and-grow strategy. It involves investing in more flexible technology to manage newer services and virtualized infrastructure while allowing the legacy OSSs to continue to handle legacy services -- perhaps in the belief that they'll quietly fade away.
That doesn't mean there wasn't some specific advice. Heavy Reading senior analyst Caroline Chappell said that carriers often cite the need for OSS updates as an excuse for not shortening their often months-long provisioning cycles. "The tools exist today to do this in minutes. I've seen it done," she said. "There's no reason why service providers can't be [turning up] services much faster than they do today."
But much of the discussion around preparing OSSs for the future virtualized network is still theoretical, which is what made for very lively debate here at the ESDN Expo.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading