The TM Forum (TMF) is hoping a new test platform backed by some of the world's biggest service providers and technology companies will spur adoption of ODA, its much-publicized blueprint for interoperability and cloud-native technology in telco IT.
Using the platform, TMF members should be able to check if technologies are ODA-compliant, says Andy Tiller, an executive vice president at TMF. Its sponsors include Accenture, Axiata Digital Labs, Global Wavenet, Globetom, Oracle Communications, Orange, SigScale, Vodafone and Whale Cloud.
ODA, or Open Digital Architecture, aims to do for the back office what open RAN promises for the radio access network – in short, to ensure that operators can easily mix and match products from different vendors. Its set of open APIs (application programming interfaces) would make switching from one vendor to another a lot easier, says the TMF.
"Interoperability and compatibility need to be designed in," Tiller tells Light Reading. "If Oracle is building Lego and Accenture is building Meccano, you can't use them together."
The platform came out of one of the TMF's Catalyst-branded proof-of-concept initiatives that involved all the developer companies minus Accenture and Axiata, which joined at a later stage.
Tiller believes it will make a big difference. "If you are building agile and ODA-compliant architecture, it is very easy to pull something together and ask if it works," he says. "You will end up with a catalog of ODA components that can be sourced on the fly. The longer-term vision is a new software market for components that can be procured and deployed more easily."
ODA and the open APIs initiative have long had support from some of the world's best-known service providers. The difficulty has been encouraging vendors to pay more than just lip service to the scheme.
The wariness is unsurprising given a TMF message that operators can reduce expenditure on IT systems through the use of ODA-compliant software. For companies that have previously thrived, this could sound like a potential drop in sales.
But Tiller thinks vendor intransigence may be in retreat as operators convince their suppliers that savings would simply be invested elsewhere. "If vendors can concentrate on putting differentiating new features in, and deploying for all customers, they will have higher margins," he adds.
The line-up of companies named as platform developers is encouraging, in that regard. Besides telcos, it includes firms from systems integration, software and cloud backgrounds.
"They have all acknowledged the same problem – we can't afford to carry on in old-fashioned ways," says Tiller. "Operators paying lots of money for maintaining custom integration and hugely expensive procurement processes – that is money wasted for the whole industry and operators can no longer afford that."
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— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading