One is to achieve a Cloudified hyper-scale infrastructure and the second is to enable more rapid and agile development of new digital services.
‘Cloud Native OSS’ highlights that there are different layers to the Cloud Native transformation of Telco networks relevant to realizing these different goals.
Understandably most of the focus is at the core infrastructure level where Kubernetes is used to implement CNFs to containerize and hyper-scale network functions, however equally we are seeing the principles of microservices software architecture et al being applied to their business systems.
For example Amdocs are applying the microservices architecture to the OSS/BSS layer, creating Microservices360 (MS360), an end-to-end carrier-grade accelerated microservices development platform for its own new generation of products, with a full SDK for cloud-native code development and deployment.
Other vendors like Accolite and Intraway are also fully embracing the trend. Accolite describes the benefits of their Cloud Native OSS architecture and Intraway are offering a SaaS-based OSS/BSS built on Cloud Native principles including ‘ChatOps’ features.
Of course the critical point is that there are no distinct layers, not of technology. There is different levels of functionality but ultimately the primary objective is a single Cloud platform that is used to host and orchestrate any and all software functions, whether they be networking or business applications. Telcos can invest in a single large-scale Kubernetes cluster farm and look to it for delivering *everything* they run, this is the hyper-efficiency Cloud Native makes possible.
Indeed as CSPs want to evolve from being a Telco to a Techco, they will essentially move into the domain of SaaS (Software as a Service), as they will want to deliver the enterprise apps that power solutions for sectors like Healthcare or Logistics, and ideally do so in a modular way that is natively integrated with their core network services.
Low Code Software Factory
A formula key to this success is the implementation of a ‘software factory’. McKinsey describes a ‘Digital Factory’ approach for Digital Transformation, moving to self-organizing Agile Squads to increase ‘Developer Velocity’.
The ideal is applying insights and designs derived from the world of manufacturing such that software development can be managed and accelerated in the same way production through a factory is improved, using techniques like Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints. For telcos this increased capacity means an increased ability to deploy new digital services, applying DevOps for Telcos Best Practices.
Telecom Review describes how Nexign has enabled Megafon to build a ‘microservices factory‘ that underpins their strategy to act as a digital ecosystem platform, one providing services that may vary from ordering a cab to delivering groceries through AppleMusic subscriptions. It sits in the middle layer between the unified billing foundation and the front-end platform on the operator’s side and leverages DevOps, CI/CD automation and cloud deployment.
This highlights the importance and role Low Code will play in realizing the ultimate objective of a Cloud Native strategy and how it enable a Digital Ecosystem platform, as the two essential dynamics are i) the ability to rapid create and customize new workflows that form digital services, and ii) that the Low Code designer can invoke services from across a unified landscape of enterprise and telco services.
For example they may want to create a workflow that is triggered by an IoT sensor event in their supply chain, which then updates a SAP back-end application and automatically activates a telephony call to a manager. This would require the Low Code environment to have integrated API access to all of these systems.
This highlights the importance of initiatives such as the TMF’s Open Digital Architecture, where the end goal of creating API interfaces to telco services is so that they can be addressed through developer tools like Low Code builders.
The foundation blocks for this type of integrated technology ecosystem are currently being laid, such as OutSystems mapping their Low Code toolset on to the full suite of AWS services. It is only one small logical step for telco network services to become part of this suite.