Orchestration beyond your four walls
Every day our conference rooms here at Ericsson are filled with white board sessions and enthusiastic debates on how we might help operators to maintain and/or regain their relevance in the era of the digitally-savvy consumer. How do we help drive digital transformation across disparate organizations? What application modernization will be required to participate in emerging platform ecosystems? How do we manage the potential onslaught of network slices?
But while much of these discussions are focused on helping a particular operator to differentiate and compete, there is also a tremendous amount of effort expended, often behind the scenes, and very much extending beyond our four walls, to lift up our industry as a whole. While individual operators work feverously to improve the ways in which they face and serve their customers, the industry is also collaborating on how to make telecoms easier to access and do business with.
One such example can be found in the recent MEF announcement of a joint standard for inter-provider service ordering and orchestration of Carrier Ethernet services worldwide (see Ethernet Ordering Technical Specification: Business Requirements and Use Cases). The collaboration with ATIS leverages the great strides made within North America to mechanize processes between service providers and access partners that were heretofore manual. Very manual (a spreadsheet-based underground economy). The work is hard. Given the remarkable complexities in play, making anything easy in our industry will be hard work. But the participants recognize that to make telecoms easier for the consumer—easier to buy, easier to use, and easier to enjoy—we may often need to first make it easier for service providers to do business with each other, globally.
Standards body collaborations, where vendors like Ericsson get the chance to work side-by-side with a variety of global services providers on technical solutions to nagging business problems, often reveal pain points and process obstacles that don’t readily surface in isolated commercial engagements. In this case, we needed to define requirements that would be suitable for many operators, providing an interesting window into our quest for automation.
Driving digital transformation across borders
The need to operate on a higher plane of agility, assurance and orchestration in our industry has placed a spotlight once again on automation as an essential means by which to dramatically reduce costs and improve performance. We can envision what automation looks like, but do we know how to get there? What we take away from standards body work is that processes must be first understood clearly before they can be automated. Automating inefficient processes could scale into higher costs per transaction. Automating outdated processes could become an exercise in industrializing the nonsensical. For example, we don’t want to be automating the root cause analysis in a trouble-to-resolution process involving virtual machines where we will just spin up a new one rather than fix the broken one.
In some ways, it’s natural to want to jump past the mechanization phase and to try to flip a proverbial switch between manual and automated. The subject matter experts participating in MEF and elsewhere instead know to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. They may see it as organizing would-be chaos—as orchestrating a complex, global ecosystem of interconnected networks. Some of us see it, too, as only one of the many small steps that lead to giant leaps on the journey, for the industry's staying relevant as a global ecosystem partner.
Let's then celebrate all our heroes who do the diligent work in the standardization and open source forums. These are our ICT heroes that will help increase our industry's relevance in the broader ecosystem.
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Dawn Kaplan of Ericsson discusses coordination of OSS/BSS business operations between carriers.