TM Forum says certification way forward for open APIs

Andy Tiller, EVP and head of member products and services at TM Forum, sees growth in the organization's open API certification program as a reflection of maturity, quantity and quality of the APIs themselves.

"About 18 to 24 months ago, the industry started to adopt them seriously," he told Light Reading. "Initially vendors certified APIs in their commercial products but, more recently, CSPs [communications service providers] have been using [TM Forum] open APIs in their live IT and network environment."

There are compelling benefits for both CSPs and suppliers from going down the certification route, maintained Tiller. "It saves time and effort," he said. "You can start from something out of the box. You don't have to start from scratch. Systems are more easily integrated."

(Source: Super Straho on Unsplash)
(Source: Super Straho on Unsplash)

TM Forum, a member-driven organization that is focused on building open digital ecosystems for CSPs and their suppliers, launched its open API certification program in 2018.

On its website there is an open API certification leaderboard, where companies are ranked according to the number of APIs that have achieved "conformance certification."

"Many of our CSP members insist that their vendors certify their APIs with TM Forum and want to see the results publicly displayed on the TM Forum website," asserted Tiller.

Rank outsiders?

The latest open API certification leaderboard that Light Reading pulled from the TM Forum website might come as a surprise to some (the top twenty is reproduced below).

Table 1: TM Forum open API certification leader board (January 2023)

Company name Number of open APIs certified Latest Date
Jio 52 August 2022
Tecnotree 44 October 2022
Totogi 44 March 2022
Whale Cloud 43 January 2023
Comviva 29 May 2022
Axiata 21 January 2023
Inspur 21 January 2022
Globetom 20 July 2022
Amdocs 17 December 2022
Huawei 17 July 2022
Oracle 15 July 2022
Alvatross 14 January 2022
Netcracker 14 September 2022
STL 13 January 2023
6D Technologies 12 January 2023
Verizon 12 December 2022
Aria 11 January 2022
Beyond Now 11 June 2021
Mavenir 11 December 2022
Bell 10 December 2022
Source: TM Forum

India's Jio, an operator, comfortably occupies top spot. Other operators, including Bell Canada and Verizon, also appear in the top twenty. Certification, then, is clearly not just for vendors trying to demonstrate compliance to CSP customers.

Moreover, on the supplier side, arguably much bigger companies – including Amdocs, Capgemini, Ericsson, Nokia and Netcracker – are outgunned on the leaderboard by smaller rivals Tecnotree, Totogi and Whale Cloud. What's going on?

As far as Jio is concerned, the explanation turns out to be quite simple. Its certification enthusiasm, said Tiller, stems from Jio Platforms, which, as part of its portfolio, purportedly offers an "end-to-end 5G" solution. This is not only pitched internally but externally, to different CSPs. In these instances it's acting as a supplier and wants open API certification to showcase TM Forum compliance.

Rakuten Symphony is in the same boat of domestic operator heritage and supplier abroad. Tiller said he wouldn't be surprised if Rakuten started to climb up the leaderboard in the near future.

"This doesn't explain of course why Verizon, Telia and Bell Canada [are on the leaderboard]," acknowledged Tiller. "Although they are not trying to sell systems externally, they are keen to validate they are on track with industry standards and verify what they are doing. These companies, when implementing their IT systems, have in-house teams, systems integrators and software partners. They want to make sure they are standards compliant."

Another factor at play, said Tiller, is operators receiving requests from vertical markets to show they support open APIs.

"Vodafone has gone public with this," he said. "When they are responding to RFPs from enterprise customers, they are receiving requirements for supporting open APIs. It's not just about sorting out your own internal IT spaghetti, it's also about being open to building with ecosystem partners. There's lots of interest at the moment in how CSPs are part of end-to-end solutions with vertical markets, such as smart factories, smart hospitals and smart cities."

The non-certification route to compliance

The question that still remains, however, is why bigger suppliers are not more dominant on the leaderboard?

James Crawshaw, principal analyst at Omdia, a Light Reading sister company, suggests that CSPs are not as enthusiastic about supplier certification as the TM Forum wants to make out.

"Certifying compliance with an open API is a marketing exercise," he argued. "It brings in some money for TM Forum, hence their interest in promoting the leader board."

"But just because Tecnotree, Totogi and Whale Cloud have more certifications does not mean that Amdocs, Oracle and Netcracker products are not compliant with these open APIs. They just haven't paid TM Forum for a certificate. I think the CSPs understand this and do not ask for certificates. They ask for compliance."

According to Crawshaw, it's relatively easy for suppliers to demonstrate open API compliance to CSPs without certification. The TM Forum open API dashboard for December 2022 – 612,741 open API downloads by 37,878 developers from 2,532 organizations – shows considerable non-certification activity.

"Among the vendors, Amdocs, Capgemini, Ericsson and Accenture appear to be consistently the most active [on the open API dashboard]," remarks Crawshaw. It paints a very different picture, he points out, from the certification leaderboard.

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— Ken Wieland, Contributing Editor, special to Light Reading

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