If the telecom industry uses virtualization to make networks more dynamic without also having agility, flexibility and automation in their operations and business support systems, then very little will be accomplished, says Oracle's Leonard Sheahan, senior director of product management.
"It will be a lot like driving a Mazerati in first gear," he comments.
In an interview with Light Reading at the company's annual event for customers, Sheahan and Susan McNeice, marketing director of thought leadership at Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), explained how the software giant is both leveraging its expertise in the OSS/BSS arena and working with groups such as the MEF and TM Forum to advance the cause of concepts such as network-as-a-service and more.
Having worked closely with network service providers to help them automate processes that cut across their traditional service silos and deliver capabilities such as customer control of network resources, Oracle doesn't think the move to adopt SDN and NFV needs to be a step backward operationally, Sheahan notes.
"If you have agility, flexibility and automation on the operations side and the same thing in business operations, you will fundamentally change the business," he says.
The same kinds of automation that are used to pull resources from respective silos and reassemble them into a new service offering, for example, can be used to assemble services from "bits of software" that comprise virtual functions, Sheahan notes.
In the automation realm, Oracle has become well-known for its Rapid Offer Design and Order Delivery, commonly called RODOD, and also RSDOD, for Rapid Service Design and Order Delivery. Now, Oracle is advancing the cause of orchestrating virtual networks via its Communications Network Service Orchestration Solution, unveiled earlier this year. (See Oracle Demos New NFV Orchestration Smarts and Oracle Orchestrates Carriers' NFV Moves.)
One of the promises of automating the process of orchestrating virtualized network resources is the ability to bring automation to the enterprise service space, where traditionally services are more customized and contractually based, and thus have resisted some aspects of automation.
"What we see with NFV and SDN, in our work with the MEF, is I have bits of software I need to reconfigure or instantiate and turn up or provision," Sheahan says. "Instead of doing manually and error-prone, there is the opportunity to introduce automation in B2B services."
NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) is already using Oracle components in its network-as-a-service offering to large enterprise customers, which goes beyond a customer portal that administers the network to include applications programming interfaces so systems can automatically reconfigure the network on demand, combining operations and business service orchestration.
"The work we are doing with the MEF builds on Carrier Ethernet 2.0, which proscribes interoperability at the network level across operators," Sheahan says. What that can enable on the network side is delivering of a customer order, say for an Ethernet VPN, that includes both physical facilities of the serving network, so-called "leg-in" network segments, and those of partner network operators, or "leg-out" segments, with configuration requests being passed automatically from one operator to another, and service assurance being supported by information on data usage that is passed back and forth as well.
"This is the Third Network vision, which we have already demonstrated with Infovista," he says. That demonstration took place last November at the MEF's Gen14 event as a proof-of-concept for NaaS with automated orchestration and service assurance.
PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008), the Hong Kong-based carrier which relies heavily on "leg-out" connections outside its geographically small physical base, is also pushing forward with this kind of deployment, Sheahan adds.
Much of the advancement of NaaS is based on existing physical devices but is beginning to incorporate virtualization as well, particularly at the customer premises and the provider edge, he notes. And that's where he sees the work of the MEF coming together with the TM Forum's Project Zoom to deliver both more agile services but also the automation required to allow those services to be robust and fully featured, including service assurance.
"If I look at where NFV and SDN are headed, they are providing a lot more agility, and MEF is providing the connectivity solutions, so now we are working with the TMF Zoom project on the business and orchestration side," he comments. The joint work is expected to be on display in Nice at TM Forum Live this June, as the two organizations continue to explore the mutual benefits of their efforts.
Oracle is interested in seeing that work succeed as part of its goal of bringing its customer base and the industry as a whole forward in one broad effort and "not creating a chasm that can never be breached," between what the network can do and what operations can support, Sheahan notes.
And that brings him back to making sure the Mazerati actually achieves its full potential. "We think making a dynamic network is well and good but if your ability to offer that network exposure to the customer is limited or if your systems are inflexible, then it doesn't really help you achieve the larger goals," he comments. "So what you need is operations agility, flexibility and automation and the same thing on the business operations side."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading