Open systems, microservices, and pragmatism – the fastest route to digital success?


The inclusion of open APIs, open source and virtualisation has become a de facto standard within the software community. For CSPs, who are desperately trying to transform into digital service providers and achieve web-scale success, this can’t have come soon enough.

In order to become digital service providers, CSPs need to run their businesses in a manner that can compete against OTTs like GoogleNetflix and Spotify. This means being able to reduce IT and operational costs, and work in collaboration with a vast selection of partners. And that requires agility and speed – something CSPs have historically struggled with, says Joe Hogan, CTO, Openet.

Open systems are ‘open’ for a reason

Unsurprisingly, the move to open systems has been a harder pill to swallow for mega BSS vendors, who have traditionally made their riches by selling closed, proprietary solutions with long implementation timelines and very expensive up front licence fees. Best-of-breed BSS stacks mark the death of this, releasing CSPs from the mega-vendor lock-in prison and forcing better, symbiotic commercial deals.

And yet, amazingly, many CSPs have fallen into the trap of running open system architecture through a single mega vendor. This completely misses the point of being open. These CSPs are simply going from one expensive, closed-shop system to another. In both scenarios, the CSP is fully dependent on the vendor’s product road map and stringent release policies.

Some CSPs are justifying running a single mega-vendor strategy because of the seemingly ‘streamlined’ purchasing process. But when did purchasing efficiencies dictate company survival? Or maybe I should say purchasing inefficiencies. An open systems approach now means that by the time a CSP has completed the traditional RFI and RPF processes, which can take over a year, they could have had an open, end-to-end digital BSS platform up and running.

Have a little pragmatism

It’s clear BSS stacks need a refresh. For the much-hyped digital, 5G and IoT use cases to live up to their potential and actually generate revenue for CSPs will need to update their OSS/BSS. This isn’t a surprise. Sadly, having bought into the single mega-vendor strategy mentioned above, some CSPs take on “big bang” BSS transformation projects, which – in all honesty – will likely fail.

In March this year Forbes ran an article, which revealed that 70% of digital transformations fail. The cost of this failure is $900 billion (€764 billion) worth of spend that won’t achieve its goals. For large scale BSS projects, the only thing higher than the price tag is the failure rate. In 2016, Openet ran a survey of 112 CSPs to get their views on BSS and Digital Transformation.

68% of the operators surveyed were aware of failed BSS implementations. The research showed that projects that are too complex and too long are the ones most likely to fail. Knock on effects included product delays and OpEx increases. This is the antithesis of “openness” and ignores the benefits that open systems can bring to BSS and the company’s evolution to a digital service provider.

Luckily, there are other, more pragmatic ways to go about BSS transformation than to bet everything on an expensive, high risk “big bang” project. Ways that take full advantage of open systems and open APIs. For example, setting up a separate digital BSS platform. Instead of replacing the legacy BSS, it runs in parallel.

While all new subscribers or identified market segments are automatically moved to this new platform, existing subscribers are moved over as and when they sign up for new offers. As it’s a new platform, and not directly replacing the legacy infrastructure, there’s no huge and expensive integration projects with legacy kit or large-scale data migration issues that traditionally hamper BSS installs.

This approach to BSS transformation is faster and a lot more cost effective than the big bang transformation process talked about earlier. What’s more, the demands on a digital service provider are increasing and ever-changing. For CSPs embracing innovative approaches such as DevOps and Microservices alongside a digital BSS platform, value is being delivered through Continuous Value Sprints. This commonly leads to reduced risk and delivering a faster time to value.

It’s clear that BSS transformation needs to happen. Yet, a pragmatic, open approach must be taken or many operators will miss out on the opportunities that this transformation provides.

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