It's hard to imagine that anyone would ever say "OSS is sexy," but right now it's hard to identify any issue that's more critical to the future of communications networking than management and network orchestration (MANO) for NFV.
I've been loitering with intent to understand the OSS sector for the past 15 years, attending the annual TM Forum events in Nice and Dublin and engaging with the various developers of OSS and BSS systems (large and small). In that time I've watched the sector blossom from a specialist niche -- "It's the back office… nothing to do with us" -- inhabited by specialists to one that is now front and center in the transformation of networking strategies, populated by the biggest names in telecom and (tellingly) IT, and at the heart of service providers' customer experience management (CEM) efforts.
For an example of the importance of OSS to CEM stategies, take today's announcement about how Etisalat Egypt is going to target resources and investments in its mobile network based on the information generated by a network planning and optimization system sourced from JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU). (See Etisalat Egypt Deploys ariesoGEO.)
What is weighing even heavier than ongoing CEM efforts is quite how network operators, so used to managing static networks with traditional OSS tools and a team of telco engineers, are going to control dynamic networks that are a broader mix of telco and IT systems, and which incorporate some virtualized functions. It's a different ballgame: Telco operations teams will essentially be tasked with running an ever-shifting connected cloud infrastructure. And some of them won't want to.
The challenge is enormous -- that's why alarm bells are ringing about MANO issues. Here, in essence, is the current state of affairs, as stated in Carol Wilson's excellent recent article, Analysts Warn of Major NFV Gaps:
- Caroline Chappell, principal analyst, Cloud and NFV, at Heavy Reading, and Tom Nolle, president and founder, CIMI Corp., both say there still is no clear definition of what orchestration functionality virtual network functions (VNFs) need to run within the network nor any clear assignment of management duties among the different layers of the NFV architecture. Without these key elements defined, network operators who want to deploy NFV will be reliant on vendor-proprietary solutions to plug those gaps.
And proprietary solutions, along with silos, are not what this industry needs, as stated today in a guest column on Light Reading. (See Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos.)
A good place to start, then, is to figure out what needs to be addressed, and learn from some of the companies that have started that process and, in some cases, are already learning from some early real-world experiences. (See Colt Preps Next-Gen OSS for NFV, SDN and Meet the Phantom Network for NFV.)
That's why the upcoming OSS in the Era of SDN & NFV: Evolution vs. Revolution one-day conference in London (November 6) -- hosted by the aforementioned Caroline Chappell from Heavy Reading and featuring key presentations from the likes of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Colt Technology Services Group Ltd (which is unveiling its next-gen OSS strategy at the event) -- is going to require a great deal of focus and attention.
OSS is hot -- it's official. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading