Partnerships will be key for telcos of all sizes taking advantage of the trinity of open source software, DevOps and microservices.
Several large operators are increasing developer headcount as the trend of operator and vendor co-development of functions moves up a gear.
The TM Forum have just released their latest Digital Transformation Tracker and there is a trend for larger operators taking software development in-house. As Carol Wilson in Light Reading reported recently, “for the largest communications service providers, network transformation is becoming a do-it-yourself operation.”
Any vendor who’s just reaching for the alarm clock for this wake-up call is probably too late. The trinity of open source software, DevOps methodology and microservices is providing the environment to turn traditional telecoms software development models on their head. Vendors who don’t change could be in trouble. However, for vendors who are embracing these advances and work with service providers, there are opportunities.
The Light Reading article quoted AT&T, Telefonica, Verizon, CenturyLink, Telus and Telstra as developing in-house applications using open source and employing agile development methodologies. Typically, a lot of this development is around network virtualization. But it’s fair to say that these trends and practices will work themselves towards the OSS/BSS layers of service providers.
At Openet, we’re already seeing this. We’re working in partnership with some of our customers to develop digital BSS solutions – based on Openet’s library of microservices. We’re using DevOps methodology and working with our customers’ developers to provide solutions. This partnership approach ensures that both parties (vendor and service provider) have skin in the game and the solutions are built from a ‘productized’ library of microservices.
There could be a problem with operators developing bespoke solutions for their own use. They don’t benefit from the economies of scale that vendors can enable and there is the age-old question of what happens when something goes wrong? Having ‘one neck to choke’ is excuse we often hear by service providers who only want to deal with a single mega-vendor. But given the high failure rate of large scale, big bang transformation projects, there must be a few vendors with sore necks.
A partnership approach would make more sense. It gives the service providers the freedom from being constrained by a vendor’s rigid roadmap and release dates. It also enables a better deal for service providers as they can take advantage of open source. Working with a vendor as a partner also gives them a ‘neck to choke’, but tight project management should help avoid too many sore necks.
But not all service providers can afford to hire a team of software developers. Many smaller service providers will still be wholly dependent on vendors. However, these service providers can also take advantage of the advances in open source, DevOps and microservices. Add in cloud native, Open Digital Architecture and digital APIs, then smaller service providers can now get cost effective best of breed digital OSS/ BSS platforms. For many tier 2/3 service providers, MVNOs and start-up second brands, going with the large mega-vendors is not cost-effective and too risky.
The move to open source, DevOps and microservices is enabling large scale service providers to take a degree of control over the software that they use to run their businesses. Vendors must embrace a partnership approach to software development if they want to evolve. Last year, Openet published a paper called ‘Changing the Game’, which called for the telecoms software industry to change, to put service providers first. This change is already happening and service providers are taking action to ensure that they’re in better control of the direction of the software they use to run their businesses.
Written by Tony Gillick, VP of solutions management at Openet