Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine?

Industry insiders say two of the regional Bells, most likely Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), have issued a request for information (RFI), which may be followed by a request for proposal (RFP) later this year, for optical network management software.

Whoopdee-do, we hear you say. Who cares?

Well, Telcordia Technologies Inc. mainly, as -- since time began -- the RBOCs have relied on Telcordia for the majority of OSS and management software.

In fact, the RBOCs are so reliant on Telcordia’s OSS software, that any network kit must be compliant with Telcordia's OSS before it can even be considered by the Bell operators. The compliance procedure, run and charged for by Telcordia on a monopoly basis, is called the Osmine process (see Telcordia's Osmine Gold Mine).

Whether or not Osmine is good for RBOCs, or the telecom industry as a whole, is questionable. The first dozen or so votes in a poll on the topic on Boardwatch indicates that Osmine isn't wildly popular. In fact, most respondents don't think it's worth service providers insisting on Osmine compliance. They acknowledge that it reduces systems integration work by "a fair amount" but say it bumps up equipment prices considerably and stifles use of innovative technologies.

Overall, 77 percent of respondents say Osmine doesn't benefit the telecom industry and 66 percent of respondents think the whole process should be subjected to an antitrust investigation.

To read more about the poll results so far, please click on this link.

To read the rest of the Boardwatch story about the RBOCs' possible plans to adopt non-Osmine-compliant management software, please click on this link.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

alcaseltzer 12/4/2012 | 11:34:25 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? i think under the agreement to sell bellcore off to saic, the RBOCS obligated themselves to keep demanding osmine to ensure telcordia's survival...for some time period. is that time up?
gea 12/4/2012 | 11:34:24 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? "In fact, most respondents don't think it's worth service providers insisting on Osmine compliance."

This is another fairly unknown reason why so many telecom startups went bankrupt. Many startups seemed to believe they could "overcome" the RBOCs "resistance" to non-OSMINE compliant gear.

However, the real state of affairs (if you've ever seen the big RBOC networks up close) is that the RBOCs have no realistic way around, for instance, TIRKS right now. The size and complexity of those networks is such that they are simply unable to do get around using TIRKs and other Telcordia OSSs.

The way this might not be true in the future if certain service "islands" (such as ethernet) not using Telcordia software grow up. However, in order to scale, there will have to be reasonable replacements...software that does the equivalent to TIRKS (and NMA and...) in the ethernet domain.

Until telecom and metro-ethernet equipment startups start facing this reality, their gear will never be deployed in RBOC-quantity. An RBOC Metro-ethernet network will NOT operate (in the long run) like a giant LAN.
BobbyMax 12/4/2012 | 11:34:18 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? The problem with the Telecom start-ups is that they no real experts who understand the basics of the operating systems. Thet just have bunch of C programmers. These guys from the start-ups have no idea about the functioning of the OSSs. These start-up companies also do not realize that OSS's provide interconnection betwwen the new and nascent technologies. RBOCs have huge investments in OSSs and the start-ups trying to convince RBOCS not to use Telcordia certification process would be a real disservice. The integration of broadband wireless services with the RBOCs is a real challenge.

The development and maintenance of the Telcodia certification process has been very expensive. Charging $5- to-$10 million is a very small price to pay.

Bell South cannot be trusted to make a right decision. It has no expertise in the OSS's but if it encourages the vendors to opt out of the certification process, it would be digging its own grave.

Bell South has earlier tried to do its own research and development, but has failed misrably. The company is guilty of squandering sharehoders wealth.
grapsfan 12/4/2012 | 11:34:11 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? gea, you're exactly right on the "RBOCs don't have much of a choice" part of the equation, as I expected you would be (having worked at Telcordia). I've done pretty hardcore OSMINE in my last couple of jobs, and have suffered along with the RBOCs as they would complain to me about the situation they are in. Everyone knows about the screws that Telcordia puts to the vendor community through OSMINE. What they don't know is that the screws put to the RBOCs are often times even more painful, in terms of exorbitant costs for simple patch releases, sky-high training bills, terrible & late documentations, etc.

You mentioned Ethernet as one place where the RBOCs can break out of the cycle...and that's true, because I don't think any of them have bought into NCON hook, line and sinker yet. Another place may end being DWDM, as the RBOCs don't have a ton of deployment yet, and the TIRKS model has been full of unusabilities (to make up a word) for several years. If another company could come up with a hook into the F1 catalog, so that the RBOCs could inventory the fiber, as well as the OSS to manage lambdas, it'd be the first big crack in the OSMINE armor.
gea 12/4/2012 | 11:34:04 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? "Another place may end being DWDM, as the RBOCs don't have a ton of deployment yet"

Well, although I agree with the rest of your post I disagree with this line. TIRKS already has a lot of hooks for DWDM, and as long as DWDM remains circuit-like in it's functionality, I suspect it will be handled fairly well by TIRKS (and by Dean Rader, who has been instrumental in updating TIRKS for DWDM).

I also know full well that the RBOC-side complaints about OMSINE are actually stronger than the vendors. And I'd suspect that the high-price for admission is actually on some levels welcomed by the big vendors, who can afford to pay (and know how to jump through the hoops), while the price acts as a barrier to entry for potential competition.

But do you want to know the real culrit in making OSMINE painful? This same culprit will eventually cause OSMINE and Telcordia to collapse. The culprit is without a doubt Telcordia's management.
As an example, major upgrades in TIRKS and NMA to accomodate new technologies must be paid for by the vendors! And this costs anywhere from $10M to $30M!! Can you imagine Microsoft saying, "If the computer and game vendors want Windows to support gaming they will have to pay for us to update windows." But believe it or not, this is the way Telcordia management moves their OSSs along...completely and absolutely risk-averse. (This was why I had to leave Telcordia...I couldn't stand the arrogance and incompetance of upper-level management any longer. And now that I work for a good company on Wall Street, I know that everything I believed then was correct.)

Telcordia management functions like a monopoly, because it is, but they refuse to believe that anything will ever shake them. And like so many other mistakes they've made, this will be another and it will cost them dearly one day,
grapsfan 12/4/2012 | 11:33:56 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? TIRKS does have the hooks in place for circuit-behaving wavelength services, and Dean Rader and Sunil Joshi, who worked on this stuff too for Telcordia, are quality engineers. I just know that:

a) the OSMINE solutions for WDM equipment (DWDM and CWDM) were always incomplete at my previous job...I didn't work on that product line, so I can't give a lot of details. But I competely trust the SME I worked with who said that it was a total pain (definitely not aligning with your "suspect it will be handled fairly well" reasoning, unfortunately).

b) it costs a good percentage more to get a WDM box through OSMINE...since a good TIRKS solution is key in keeping OSMINE as simple as possible, I have to draw some conclusion that says that there's a flaw somewhere.

c) only one of the four RBOCs is pretty firmly committed to deploying WDM equipment wholly within TIRKS...the other three are looking for a way out when it comes to WDM (but staying with Telcordia for legacy platforms).

I've used that exact same Microsoft analogy before, along with two others:

- "well, Mr. Customer, you paid for our software that had bugs in it...you also have to pay us for the bug fixes" (at least Microsoft, and just about every other software company on the planet, does patch maintenance and distribution for free)

- my favorite: Telcordia's business model is like the hookers collecting from both the pimps and the johns
stephenpcooke 12/4/2012 | 11:33:44 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? A couple of years ago I was an executive in a telecom testing organization in the US (not Telcordia). The number one inquiry was whether we could do OSMINE ompliance testing. Of course the answer was no. The explanation to our potential customer went something like this:

"OSMINE was designed in the late 1970's, implemented throughout the 80's in technologies that still include the likes of COBOL. It is over 10 Million lines of code which even Telcordia isn't completely sure of. They wrote the spec and the product, have charged billions of dollars in consulting to startups and others to make custom changes and there is absolutely no hope of finding anyone else who would want to touch it."

I am not entirely sure if that is all 100% correct but from the posts of those who have more knowledge of it than I, I would say that other claims of not really being able to support the introduction of new technologies (eg: wavelength switching, Bandwidth on demand, etc.) seem to be accurate.

I was also a consultant for a while and the comments regarding startups, believe it or not the OSMINE ignorance is/was not limited to them, are entirely accurate. Unfortunately, the VC's didn't seem to understand that, to sell to an RBOC, you have to fit seamlessly into OSMINE as well as the operational network. There are no more greenfields applications, certainly in North America, and if there were absolutely everyone would be after them (ie: we get into the bribery in telecom discussions again...).

Here is some bottom line information for us all:
1) Bandwidth needs due to IP, at present, do not have an attached business case that does not include erosion of other, high-revenue traffic. Until this is solved there will not, and should not, be wide scale adoption in the RBOC networks. Unless it can make money without losing more money somewhere else it shouldn't be seriously contemplated.

2) There are few competitors to the RBOCs still standing, and the RBOCs are barely doing that. Therefore, to start a new telecom equipment company you should be looking to solve RBOC-type problems (ie: fancy new technologies that reduce network cost - OPEX/CAPEX - have to fit into existing systems, like OSMINE, seemlessly just to be looked at let alone considered for purchase).

3)New services that can bring in new revenue are always welcome provided that they can be implemented by the RBOC unions on systems that they already understand. Unfortunately we cannot make great leaps with the weight of legacy equipment on our/RBOC backs. The winner in the end will be something that allows for a more subtle morphing of the existing equipment/management system.

4) In the telecom world, anything that is already installed and is making money will not be removed in favor of almost anything, no matter how good it seems. Unfortunate side effects of this include RBOC dependency on OSMINE. It would almost be easier to dismantle the RBOC and start from scratch...yet another reason why the telecom service in developing countries will be better than ours in a few years.

5) The RBOCs caused their own problem with OSMINE by selling Bellcore. To eliminate OSMINE will require the RBOCs to re-acquire Telcordia, and cleanly dismantle it. All RBOCs have their own software development groups that work on their own flavor of OSMINE. Until they get multiple sources of outside help to bring their network data into some more modern format, they will always be at the whim of Telcordia.

6) Due to the exorbitant fees that Telcordia can charge as a monopoly, a false economy has been created that we all are paying for. Several startups that I know of had to raise extra rounds of financing just to cover the cost of the OSMINE consulting and compliance testing. Given that the RBOCs didn't eventually buy their equipment (and hence they didn't recover that development cost from the RBOC), any other customers that they had, did. Such is the story to a greater or lesser extent with every telecom equipment manufacturer who targets an RBOC.
GCLLC 12/4/2012 | 11:33:06 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? That is how I view OSMINE. It is a necessary evil! As far as the former RBOCs finding a new management platform - GOOD LUCK! I have worked for 2 former RBOCs and on specific projects to "replace" Telcordia OSS. Both failed to meet their objective. But that is another long story.

After leaving a former RBOC, I started doing OSMINE consulting independently. Why? Because working for a former RBOC and being involved in new technology introduction, I saw how much wasted time and money the supplier community endured. Today, most if not all former RBOCs do not have an OSMINE staff and certainly not anything like it was years ago. So, the typical response to the supplier question "What OSS do we need to OSMINE to?" the response is ALL! Well, folks, that is minimum 18 months and millions of dollars. So if a consultant just reduces 1 OSS, the supplier is far ahead.

OSMINE is performed on behalf of the RBOCs, for new technology to comply with old OSS that support operations functions for the network and specifically, the traffic carrying NEs. OSMINE covers the Class 5 switch, and also the Access area of pair gain, DLC and NGDLC. It also covers the inter-office transport network based on T1, DS3, OCn and includes SONET and WDM.

If you think OSMINE is THE evil, look at the Telcordia Heritage OSS. Largely, these systems are at least 15-25 years old. Flexibility is not a word in their 'data dictionary'. Most new NE development will need to have their wiz-bang functionality "dumbed up". All in the name status quo.

So, you ask why stick with those OSS? Well,here's why:
1. performance on a large scale,
2. comfortability amongst the telco personnel,
3. a horrendous conversion to any other OSS. Besides, Telcordia seems to always be monitoring NGOSS activity at the former RBOCs and they find creative ways to protect their business.

OSMINE is a necessary process because a supplier cannot sell an NE to these big 'Bell' corporations without having their product managed by the Telcordia Heritage OSS. OSMINE allows the former RBOC to operate with little disruption to their common processes for day-to-day business. Inventory, Alarm Management and Provisioning are just too important to leave to chance or worse yet, full manual activity.
bonnyman 12/4/2012 | 11:33:05 PM
re: Will RBOCs Undermine Osmine? Thanks for the great string of posts regarding OSMINE -- few people know just what a liability is has become for the Bells and their vendors.

One Telcordia advantage remains the scalability and reliability of these systems and the seeming lack of a viable alternative.

Which leads to this question -- what do other big telcos in North America use for their OSS software? None are as big as the Bells, but Bell Canada and Sprint's local operations are still very, very large. GTE's was even bigger before merging into Bell. Do they have the same problems and can any of the software they're using be adopted by the Bells?

Also, the wireless companies have different type networks, but some are starting to get pretty big. What are they using?



P.S. I worked for one of those startups that developed a remote fiber testing system especially for the Bells in the early 1990s. Our senior marketing people didn't even learn of TIRKS' existence until spending $$$ on product development. Then their reaction was to ignore the compliance issue, promising to address it once a Bell placed a big order. You can guess where that strategy went ...
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