Enterprise automation and orchestration: what’s the holdup?

Communications service providers are missing out on significant revenue by failing to exploit automation and orchestration. But exactly what obstacles are they facing, and how do they overcome them?

Dynamic orchestration

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are losing billions in potential revenue as the adoption of cost-cutting automation and orchestration technologies continues to stall. A recent study involving 150 CSPs found that the telecom industry has let up to USD 30 billion slide as a result of poor automation and orchestration.

Yet CSPs clearly recognize the importance of automation and service orchestration in improving profitability, among other benefits. Considerable efforts are currently underway to realize the opportunities these technologies present and overcome innate challenges.

The latest TM Forum report, Enterprise Orchestration Service: Building the Bridge, reviews the role of open APIs and catalogs in orchestration and explores how CSPs are working to overcome the obstacles they’re facing in orchestrating enterprise services.

Here, we outline the key insights from the report.

 

The role of open APIs and catalogs in orchestration

Open application program interfaces (APIs) and catalogs are key components in the network architecture required to fully unlock the power of 5G and support end-to- end dynamic orchestration.

TM Forum is creating a framework, known as the Open Digital Architecture (ODA), which is envisioned as a more agile replacement for traditional operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) architecture.  Its goal is to set a new vision for OSS/BSS, and a de facto standard for the design of open digital platforms.

One key attribute of the ODA (and other open architectures) is that it enables CSPs to create products dynamically, without having to write specific code, thereby reducing costs and time to market. To achieve this, the central product catalog needs to be the storehouse of all relevant data related to products, services and resources and the focal point for monetizing new technical capabilities that are being deployed into the network.

As Ludovic Robert, IT Senior Architect at Orange, explains in the report: “The commercial catalog is the cornerstone to reduce time to market because it enables data-driven order capture and order delivery processes.”

Many CSPs’ current core architecture relies on commercial software applications that have been further developed inhouse, and they often have overlapping functionality or gaps in the end-to-end customer journey. By moving towards an architecture based on open APIs, operators can address these inconsistencies and dramatically reduce the time it takes to deploy new product offers.

 

Orchestrating enterprise services: the obstacles

 The benefits of orchestrating enterprise services using open APIs and centralized catalogs are clear, but in the report, three primary obstacles for operators were highlighted:

  • Slow adoption of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). The evolution of NFV and SDN has been slower than expected, and they have not been as widely deployed as operators would have liked.
  • Legacy IT systems do not support automation. Operational support systems (OSS), including orchestration systems, often fail to support real-time automation which is needed to enable customers to modify services and scale networks. 
  • A lack of relevant skills and competencies. Reskilling the workforce to support a virtual network, specifically 5G, and realigning both processes and mindsets was highlighted as the biggest operational challenge for CSPs.

 However, optimistic outlooks are also shared in the report, with senior CSP stakeholders forecasting that as 5G technology matures, we’ll see increased levels of automation.

 

Moving towards end-to-end orchestration and automation

 Although the telecom industry is yet to fully embrace centralized catalogs and open APIs on a wide scale, there are clear steps that can be taken toward increasing automation and orchestration, and some CSPs are already on their way.  Here’s some of what they’re doing:

  • Moving to an open architecture. Adopting an open architecture is fundamental for efficiently meeting enterprise customer needs, particularly in terms of dynamic product development and offering the ability to control and adapt product offers. 
  • Consolidating catalogs. Creating a centralized catalog ensures consistency and makes updates faster and easier. The resulting consistency also greatly improves the customer experience, reducing interruptions and delays. 
  • Considering SD-WAN. Not only does SD-WAN improve agility, reduce costs and give enterprise customers more control, it also introduces new investment opportunities. Adoption rates among enterprises are high, giving service providers an opportunity to expand their product portfolio and revenue through both connectivity and value-added services.
  • Collaborating on standards. Standards bodies and CSPs are increasingly collaborating to enable new business and operating models and streamline existing operations. This is highly beneficial for operators, who can influence outcomes and expedite the development of industry standards. 
  • Experimenting and learning. We are on the brink of a major turning point for the telecom industry, and now is the time for CSPs to experiment and learn. The rollout of 5G will make it easier to orchestrate some enterprise services, but operators must still prepare for 5G in core networks and at the edge, not just in radio access networks.

 

Want to know more?

Download a copy of the Enterprise Orchestration report for the full findings, insights and case studies.

Download report

 

Read more about network automation 

Read more about service orchestration

Read more about the TM forum’s Open Digital Framework

Learn about the top three benefits of service orchestration

 

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