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“Our network is so complex that it is impossible to automate”

The headline could be a quote from one of our many meetings with potential customers. Somewhere there is an understanding that automation is the way to go in order to make time available for developing new services. However, the perception that one is stuck in existing structures is deeply ingrained, as well as the culture that “we have always done like this”. Among those responsible a certain resignation is present, based on the fact that on the one hand they want to be able to introduce new services quickly and smoothly. On the other, the knowledge that they have tens or even hundreds of different IT systems which need to be updated in various ways when new services are introduced. Much of the energy and resources are also spent on updating the switches and routers manually to keep the networks running. All this takes time. Not seldom does it take between 18-24 months for each new service to be implemented.

Operators all energy is occupied to maintain the daily delivery and at the same time they experience declining margins in the existing business. Operators see themselves reduced to a mere “Internet pipes”, where the only means of competition is who can carry X Mbit / s cheapest as revenues from the old services, such as telephony and television are falling steadily. To protect themselves they desperately try to block services such as Skype for their customers. In reality, this means that the power of innovation does not exist within these companies.

The end result is that operators existing structures are maintained and that the new innovations tend to come instead from third parties, such as Google or Netflix. These companies thus “owns” the relationship with the end customer and in the end also earn major part of the money.

To be able to reverse this situation, operators must become more innovative and agile in their service packaging. In this situation they cannot be limited by technology or structures. And thus operators must be released from the hardware connection in their networks. That is a prerequisite for creating the faster innovation cycle that operators need. One core solution to the problem can be spelled “network harmonization”, where an abstraction layer is created between the network and the systems above. The major benefits of this approach are twofold:

  • The abstraction layer isolates the overlaying OSS and BSS systems from the network structure. By doing this, the introduction of services is considerably faster as the systems in the OSS/BSS layer do not need to consider how new or changed services are realized in the network.
  • The automation makes network changes in minutes instead of weeks or even months. This is especially valuable in large and complex networks using many network technologies and topologies.

In our next blogpost we will look at another myth that abound – the risks of reforming the network. In our experience, as we shall see, the risks are part of the deep-rooted mythology as there are ways to transform the network, without having to end up in the “big bang” situation.