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Home | New Service Delivery | Cisco Systems, Managing Network Solutiions
A Common Network Management Solution - transforming the OSS

Service provider networks have grown into highly complex islands of infrastructure from multiple vendors, covering multiple technologies and each with its own management system. Complexity is making it harder and more costly for service providers to create, deploy, provision, monitor, control, troubleshoot and bill services effectively and quickly enough to stay ahead in today's intensely competitive markets. The situation will worsen only as fixed-mobile convergence progresses and end-users increasingly demand tailored packages of services available anywhere, anytime and on whichever device they choose.

The Operations Support System (OSS) is how service providers manage their networks and the end-user services it provides. Controlling thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of network components, the OSS is the critical mechanism for turning network investments into revenue. Yet nearly all OSSs are highly fragmented, built up piecemeal over the years by adding a variety of systems from vendors of all types to meet the needs of the moment. And each provider may have 1,000's of individual applications that must work together to support the management of the network.Against this background, a fundamental question must now be asked: Is the current process of building, maintaining and operating OSSs sustainable in the coming years?

Cisco and Nokia Siemens Networks have joined forces to collaborate on a project that will redefine the OSS. The aim is to solve the major problem facing service providers - that of the high cost and extreme complexity of OSS applications interacting with devices, which can consume as much as 35% of ISV development costs. Ultimately, the collaboration will help service providers to move from managing discrete islands of technology to treating the network as a strategic asset for service delivery.

Change is Afoot

To secure their future, service providers must address key issues as they search for improved efficiency in their operations and advanced services that will win lucrative new revenue streams. Converging services and new technologies Customers expect a set of fully integrated services tailored to their needs, regardless of their location or the device they are using across a converging set of technologies and media. Service providers able to deliver converged packages will have a strong competitive advantage over those selling single, isolated services.

Rising complexity

Service providers have to deal with a constant stream of new technologies that add complexity to their networks and management systems. Providers maintain a highly complex landscape of network technologies implemented across multiple vendors' equipment and bridging new and legacy equipment and systems.

Telecommunications Management Network Model. Source: Blue River Management

Faster pace of business

The pace of technological development is accelerating relentlessly as the cycle of innovation becomes ever shorter. Being first with a new service provides essential competitive advantage; lagging behind costs precious market share.

The OSS Should Harness the Strategic Network Assets

Service providers must be able to create provision, deploy, monitor, control, troubleshoot and bill all services accurately and efficiently. The Operations Support System (OSS) is vital in enabling service providers to create new services, launch and operate them efficiently. What should be a straightforward answer is made difficult by a lack of agreed, industry-wide definitions and standards. And while there are a large number of standards and approaches, but the almost limitless combinations make it nearly impossible to standardize a full working OSS. Not surprisingly, there is no consistent definition of the OSS either amongst consultants, vendors, or customers either. But the problem gets worse:

Current OSS infrastructure is disjointed

Most OSSs are highly complex back-end systems built up from disparate sets of point solutions from different vendors. For a mid-sized operator, there might be about 160 different systems within its OSS, all created at different times and for different purposes. In a large service provider, it is not unusual to have several 1,000's of OSS applications. The piecemeal nature of many OSSs also reflects the fragmented nature of the OSS industry as a whole, with several hundred vendors selling a wide range of products offering different approaches for the delivery of services.

Service deployment is human intensive
Today, when new elements and devices are added to the network, a great deal of low level work is needed to hand-code the necessary interfaces. This work is difficult and time-consuming, adding no real value for the service providers' customers. Furthermore, as is typical with software development, custom coding is prone to errors and introduces unnecessary risks.

A fragmented OSS is costly to operate
Many analysts that follow the OSS industry say that 50-70% of all spending on an OSS goes on systems integration and maintenance of legacy systems. A significant portion of this spending goes into training to ensure that a service provider's personnel are equipped with the knowhow to use the various systems effectively. These costs can only rise as the demands on the OSS increase with the development and availability of new technologies and services.

Reliance on scarce resources
Integration work is also specialized, leaving service providers dependant on costly and scarce programming personnel or being forced to rely on integration services. This situation is no longer viable and reducing the amount of integration work needed to deploy new elements and new services is needed to reduce costs and time-to-market.

All of these issues add up to a significant drain on a service provider's resources that could be better spent on improving their business performance and meeting rising competition and technological complexity. For many service providers, OSS inflexibility hinders their growth and business flexibility. Modernizing the OSS is truly a make or break issue.

The Solution

Achieving this aim requires nothing short of a complete redefinition of the OSS - as proposed by Cisco and Nokia Siemens Networks - is to structure the system into a customer-facing OSS and a network-facing OSS. The customer-facing OSS includes the business and service management layers while the network-facing OSS comprises parts of the service management layer, the network management layer and the element management layer, the mediation interface between the network-facing OSS and the strategic assets making up the network.

The proposed platform will provide this exact type of common environment for all OSS applications, such as performance reporting, provisioning and service assurance. Third party vendors will have access to open APIs and will focus more of their development resources on creating innovative and useful customer-facing functionality, rather than on the interface with the network, the low-level and error-prone nuts and bolts of making an OSS application work with network elements.

Eliminating OSS fragmentation

To eliminate today's fragmentation means building OSS applications on a network-facing OSS that provides a common model that they can use to to meet customer and market demands. The platform must be vendor-neutral and support all technologies both new and legacy.

Typically, OSS standardization has focused on defining interfaces for collecting management data. However, since each OSS application or vendor has a different application and network model, interoperability is difficult and costly. To solve this, the proposed solution supports all technologies and vendors and fully abstracts the network, its topology and capabilities from the physical elements. It provides visibility of the network topology, the services created on top of the networks and the status of the whole system. In doing so, the network-facing platform can reduce the amount of low-level systems integration work needed to deploy the OSS on a given network, reducing lead-time and risks significantly.

The next-generation OSS - with the network-facing aspects providing a common network model - would then be built from a suite of applications capable of supporting all network types and architectures. The OSS would have full access to continuously updated information about the network's assets, its resources and the end-user services it provides. The applications can use the consistent network models and data and more easily link together and interoperate to provide a single, all-encompassing view of the network and services.

Commitment to a solution

Cisco and Nokia Siemens Networks share a common vision and commitment to delivering an open, vendor-neutral, standards-based network management platform. To achieve this aim the two companies are entering into a multi-phase agreement to bring together the best network management and operational support systems technology from the IP management and mobile environments.

Cisco and Nokia Siemens Networks believe they are well matched and that this initiative will benefit from their:

  • established expertise in network evolution
  • deep understanding of network complexity
  • long-term commitment to network technology
  • extensive R&D resources
  • commitment to openness and industry standards
  • commitment to inviting other vendors to participate

Ultimately, the key to the platform's success is to make interoperability across the entire network a straightforward proposition for service providers. In short, the result of this collaboration will accelerate both the service provider's ability to manage their network and the ability of vendors to build and deploy new and integrated OSS applications more quickly and efficiently.

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