Who moved our cheese? China Mobile’s all IP network

Originally posted on 19May10 to IBM Developerworks (9,582 Views)

TeleManagement World conference, 2010.  Nice France.

Keynote Speaker

Lui Aili, Board Director for China Mobile

Lui Aili, Board Director for China Mobile presented this morning at the TeleManagement World conference in Nice, France.  Mr Lui spoke of China mobile’s challenges. For them, Internet based competitors posed a real threat, despite the size of China Mobile (more than 528 million subscribers) they see companies like Google (with GTalk) and Skype, but also device manufacturers such as Apple and Nokia as providing on device applications and value added services on their own devices which reduces China Mobiles function down to a bit carrier. As Mr Lui put it, these companies “moved our cheese” ūüėČ

For China Mobile, to compete with these Internet based companies, they needed to radically reduce their costs – to do this, they started a project about six years ago to move to an all IP network from their existing legacy network.  This architectural move reduced their Capex by a massive 68%.  The reduction was through reduced administration and management costs (by re-organising their operational management system and spreading it across all of their IP networks)

Strategy for IP transformation

China Mobile’s network services are predominantly occupied by low value services – straight 2G services.  They undertook a detailed analysis  to look at network utilisation and management tools to better manage their network and control the customer experience.  For them, ALL IP is not the same as All-in-one IP.  they are separating their IP customers into high and low value services with security barriers in place – they have a separate virtual network for high value services and for low value standard services.  He did not state it directly, but I took it to mean that they have different Service Level Agreements (SLAs) associated with the high and low value services.

From a network administration perspective, they have implemented network management agents at as many points as possible – including every router to enable efficient and rapid fault discovery and correction.

For China Mobile, IP skill levels among their staff was a key success factor – Mr Lui spoke of it multiple times, including implementing comprehensive training schemes for their staff. 

“IP Transformation has been a huge task… the job is fare from finished” Mr Lui said.  Despite this, he also said that right now, almost all of their voice traffic is already carried over their IP infrastructure 
In summary, Mr Lui made the following points:

  • IP transformation simplifies the network, but males O&M more complex.  . 
  • Operators must invest in OSS systems to make IP networks and transformation more efficient.

Impact 2010 – ICE and CAFTA Next Generation OSS/BSS

Originally posted on 06May10 to IBM Developerworks (16,509 Views)

ICE present at Impact’10

In Costa Rica, the government owned telco – ICE is being forced to open up it’s market to competitors because of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that Costa Rica has joined. This represented a huge change for ICE who were a Power and Communications provider, without a competitor in their market, they didn’t have any competitive forces to push them to modernise their systems and processes. For instance, fulfilment of basic services took weeks as a result.

GBM, an IBM business partner and IBM Software group proposed to ICE that they base their new OSS/BSS architecture on the TeleManagement Forum’s Frameworx (eTOM, TAM, SID, TNA) – for which they used the WebSphere Telecom Content Pack and IBM Dynamic Process Edition to ensure ICE would have the standards compliance and dynamic BPM capabilities. By using WTCP and DPE, ICE reduced the effort required to build and deploy their new processes by an estimated 20-50%. A fundamental principle of Dynamic BPM is the Business Services layer which sits on top of the BPM layer which in turn sits on the SOA layer. A Business Service is abstracted up from the physical process. For instance, a business service might be ‘Check Technical Availability’ which would apply regardless of the service you are talking about – mobile, POTS or xDSL. These business services are defined within the Telecom Content Pack which enables system integrators like GBM to accelerate the architecture work on projects like this one for ICE.

GBM made use of IBM’s Rapid Delivery Environment (RDE) – where they sent a number of their architects to the IBM Telecom Solution Lab in Austin, Texas for six weeks to conduct a proof of concept and to learn how to apply WTCP to a real customer situation such as that faced by ICE. The RDE allowed GBM to work with the IBM experts to build the first few scenarios so that GBM could continue the work locally in Costa Rica without a lot of assistance from IBM. The other benefit of using the RDE is to get access to the eTOM level 4,5 and 6 assets – the connections to the physical systems that the RDE has previously developed. For instance, the connection to Oracle Infranet Billing engine which can then be reused by other customers who also engage with the RDE.

GBM and ICE have not yet been able to measure that acceleration that WTCP and DPE provided, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it was significant. In preparation for CAFTA, ICE have already launched a 3G network and are preparing to launch pre-paid services in preparation to compete with several new operators that will enter the market this year.

Impact 2010 – AT&T, Using SOA & BPM to accelerate business value

Originally poster on 05May10 to IBM Developerworks (16,501 Views)

AT&T are part way through a major SOA/BPM project which if you know a little about their history* must be an enormous task. They are introducing modelling tools and reverse modelling their existing systems as well as using a tool from iRise to prototype the user interfaces and reduce the risk of not hitting the business requirements.

They have deployed Rational Requisite Pro to capture requirements without the need to get users away from their beloved MS Word. In the last five months, their requirements have gone from 15,000 requirements registered in January to over 30,000 now. Certainly illustrates the traction that they are achieving with their business people. Users access Req Pro via Citrix sessions and the tools are available to thousands of business users.

AT&T are also exposing WebSphere Business Modeler and iRise to a smaller set of subject matter expert users – building a Centre of Excellence in UI design and Process Modelling. So far, they have modelled over 800 process flows base on eTOM models which have been extended to meet their specific requirements. All of these are stored within a common Rational Asset Manager instance which helps their business analysts to improve asst use and reuse.

Those process models feed directly into the model driven development method which is aligned with the requirements and process models. That MDD method uses WebSphere Integration Developer(WID), Rational Software Architect (RSA) for development and WebSphere Process Server (WPS) runtime. WebShere Business Modeler and WebShere Services Registry and Repository (WSRR) in support of the runtime. IBM GBS have put in place processes to support AT&T’s development life cycle and governance requirements.

Key success factors that AT&T see include:

  • Solve Critical Business Problems
  • Win over senior Exec support
  • Achieve Business Partner Alignment
  • Integrated Tools Approach
  • Organisational transformation
  • Infrastructure investment
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate!

* AT&T have been through multiple de-mergers and mergers and acquisitions over the past 10 years resulting in a hugely complex IT environment.

Impact 2010 – BPM in the Cloud

Originally posted on 05May10 to IBM Developerworks (10,946 Views)

I have just seen Amy Wohl of Amy D Wohl Opinions present on Cloud computing, she was going through the various cloud models and spoke about Community Clouds. What she means by that is multiple community focused clouds as part of a larger (private) cloud. An example of that is the Vietnam Government that bought an IBM Cloudburst to provide multiple virtual private clouds to small businesses in Vietnam so that they can have access to computing power that they otherwise now be able to afford. For Telcos, this could be an offering to their local community groups – perhaps a local schools, bar, sporting clubs, service clubs etc but also potentially for commercial organisations – perhaps to small businesses.

She also made the interesting point that (in her opinion) we are too early in the cloud evolution to actually define standards. She believes that any standards set now would stifle innovation in cloud technology and interoperability. I was interested to hear about this since I attended a web conference call a few weeks ago run by the TeleManagement Forum’s effort to create standards around clouds, particularly For Enterprise use rather than public clouds. I guess the Enterprise cloud market is the most likely type of cloud user that will need interoperability first, thus the emphasis on standards.

John Falkl from IBM

Amy co-presented with John Falkl from IBM who discussed BPM within the cloud. Given BPM is a business function, items subjects such as Security are usually one of the biggest hurdles for Cloud Services. There are multiple factors that fall under the title of ‘security’ such as encryption, roles, authentication (especially when using federates or external authentication services), legal data protection requirements and authorisations. John also pointed out a number of considerations that should be considered in enterprise cloud services including Governance models (which he sees as an extension to normal enterprise governance models). John’s view of standards for Cloud services is that it will most likely start with Web Services standards such as WS-Provisioning and mentioned that there were multiple efforts around cloud standards. I might see if I can have a chat to both John and Amy after the session to get their views on the TMF’s efforts around cloud standards. If that discussion is interesting, I will report back.

Amy made a really interesting point during the Q&A – she said that when she was at Microsoft a few weeks ago and asked about transactional activity in their cloud – they said that MS could not do it…. Very interesting especially when you consider that transactional integrity is a core capability on IBM’s cloud capability.

I asked Amy about the TMF Cloud standardisation – she hadn’t heard about it, but did say that she thought that TMF’s approach was right – asking the enterprise customers to specify their requirements – she also thought they were probably the right place to start for any cloud standards too.

Impact 2010 -Orange France, Decreasing the development time for Telco apps

Originally posted on 05May10 to IBM Developerworks ( 8,995 Views)

Orange in France are using WebSphere sMash to provide an easy development environment using PHP and Groovy to build Telco enabled applications that consume Orange Application Programming Interface (API) which are exposed through pre-built widgets. The custom Orange API is not compliant with either OneAPI or ParlayX and I would normally not endorse a custom API like this, but time to market forces meant that Orange had to move before the (OneAPI) standards were in place. What I would take from their experience in France is their model and use cases. All of which could be done and (now) use standards for those APIs. Interestingly, I think that Orange could also use IBM Mashup Center to support developers with even less skills that the PHP and Groovy developers they’re currently targeting.


Impact 2010 – Gridit case study

Originally poster on 05May10 to IBM Developerworks (13,014 Views)

Gridit is a Finnish company that is providing online retail services which was only founded in 2009. They are owned by nine local network providers. Think of them as an aggregated application store that sells a broad range of services and products from those nine network companies as well as third party content providers. They plan to sell services and content such as:

  • Music
  • Games
  • e-books
  • Access
  • Data storage
  • Information Security
  • Home services
  • VoIP
  • IPTV

They do not make exclusive agreements with the content/service providers and provide their customers with freedom of choice. For Gridit, the customer is king – they will seek out new content providers if there is demand from the customers. Gridit also interact with local network providers and 3rd party content providers giving the customers a single point of contact and billing for the services that they resell.

What Gridit are providing is pretty similar to an app store solution we deployed last year in Vietnam which was also a joint venture by a number of Telcos and a bank which provided a retail online store for products and services from those communications providers as well as 3rd party content providers except that Gridit are also offering a hosted wholesale service – I could go to Gridit and build my new company ‘Larmourcom’ and offer products and services from a range of providers that Gridit front end for Larmourcom. Gridit can stand up an online commerce portal for Larmourcom and also provide an interface to the back end providers to allow for traditional and non-traditional service assurance, fulfilment and billing processes.

To achieve this abstraction from the back end providers, Gridit have used WebSphere Telecom Content Pack to provide an architectural framework and accelerator for all of those services. IBM has helped Gridit to map those processes as defined within the TeleManagement Forum’s standards (eTOM, TAM, SID) and map them to the lower level processes to wherever the content or services come from.

Like the Vietnamese app store, Gridit are also using WebSphere Commerce to provide the online commerce and catalogue. For Gridit, the benefits they expect to see (as a result of a Business Value Assessment that was conducted) was 48% faster time to value by using Dynamic BPM and Telecom Content Pack versus a traditional BPM model. That is real business value and a great story for both Gridit and IBM.

Impact 2010 – Telus overview – Ed Jung

Originally posted on 04May10 to IBM Developerworks (9,176 Views)

Ed Jung, Telus Canada

Telus is a Communications Service Provider in Canada, the second largest in their market with 12M connections (wireline, mobile and broadband). Telus have a very complex mix of products, services and systems and they need to maximise their investments while still be able to grow and maintain a lid on their costs. New projects still need to be implemented through good times and bad, so they need an architecture that will allow Telus to continue to grow and maintain costs through a range of economic conditions. Telus selected an agile method/strategy where a reasonable investment early on with the plan to become agile and support new ‘projects’ through small add ons in terms of investment. Ed Jung from Telus characterised the ‘projects’ in the later stages as rule or policy changes which may or may not require a formal release.

To achieve this agility, Telus are using WebShere Telecom Content Pack (WTCP) as an accelerator to keep costs down, while still maintaining standards compliance for their architecture. He sees key success factors as:
Selecting a key implementation partner (IBM)

Using standards where possible to maintain consistency

For Telus, they elected to start with fulfilment scenarios within their IPTV system. The basis for this is a data mapping to and from a common model – within the TeleManagement Forum’s standards, that relates to the SID. Ed sees this common model as key to their success.

Dynamic endpoint selection is used within Telus to enable their processes to integrate and participate with their BPM layer. Ed suggest the key factors for a successful WTCP project are:

  • Adopt a reference architecture
  • Select a good partner
  • Seed money for lab trials
  • Refine architecture
  • Choose correct pilots
  • Put governance in place (business and architects)
  • Configure data / reduce code

Ed thinks that last point (configure data / reduce code) is the best description of an agile architecture that really drive lower total cost of ownership for projects as well as a lower capital expenditure for each project.

Am I the only one over the Apple hype?

Originally posted on 21Apr10 to IBM Developerworks and got 8,859 Views

I am sitting here in Singapore and reading¬†today’s Straits Times, keeping up with the affairs in the region and around the world where on page 3 (the most important page in a newspaper after the front page) is an article about the leaked/lost next generation iPhone that¬†Gizmodo¬†reportedly paid US$5000 dollars for (other online reports that I’ve read have suggested other amounts such as US$350.¬† I’m not sure who is right).¬† The article occupied almost half of page 3.. for the next gen iPhone…¬† that seems excessive to me for a non-specialist publication, but I guess it is¬†reflective of the general hype that exists around Apple products.¬† The previous hype was around the next gen MacBooks with faster processors and prior to that the iPad.¬† I’ve read articles suggesting that the iPad will revolutionise newspapers and home computing and telcos.¬† I’m not so sure.¬† While I think a lot of iPad will be sold worldwide (once it is released outside of the USA), but I also think a lot of those devices will get a lot of use through a honeymoon period and then sit idle until they are eventually disposed of.¬† I am so sick of the hype around all these Apple products.¬† There are some things that Apple do really well (UI and Design)¬†and some they do really poorly (Business use¬†support, locking in users).¬† I respect them, but I do not like them.¬†It reminds me¬†of a ¬†great parody that¬†The Onion¬†did a while ago:
Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Towards a Future in the Clouds (for Telcos)

Originally posted on 15Feb10 to IBM Developerwork where it got 12,073 Views

A colleague of mine at IBM, Anthony Behan has just had an article published in BillingOSS magazine.  I’ll admit that I have never heard of the magazine before, but this particular issue has quite a few articles about Cloud computing in a Telco environment. I don’t agree with all of the content in e-zine, it is still an interesting read none the less.  Check out the full issue at http://www.billingoss.com/101 and Anthony’s article on pp48.
The image is a screen capture of Anthony’s article from the billingoss.com web site.

A tale of three National Broadband Networks

Originally posted on 21Feb10 to IBM Developerworks where it got  12,303 Views

Providing a National Broadband Network within a country is seen by many governments as a way to help their population and country compete with other countries.  I have been involved in three NBN projects; Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.  I don’t claim to be an expert in all three projects (which are ongoing) but I though I would share some observations and comparisons between the three projects.

Where Australia and Singapore have both opted to build a new network with (potentially) new companies running it, New Zealand has taken a different path.  The Kiwis have decided to split the incumbent (and formerly monopoly) Telecom New Zealand into three semi-separated ‘companies’ Retail, Wholesale and Chorus (the network), but only for the ‘regulated products’ which for the New Zealand government is ‘broadband’.  They all still report to a single TNZ CEO.  I have not seen any direction in terms of Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the Node, just defined the product as ‘broadband’.  The really strange thing with this split is that the three business units will continue to operate as they did in the past for other non-regulated products such as voice. 
As an aside, the Kiwi government not regulating voice seems an odd decision to me – especially when you compare it to countries like Australia and the USA where the government has mandated that the Telcos provide equivalent voice services to the entire population. Sure, New Zealand is a much smaller country, but it is not without it’s own geographic challenges in providing services to all kiwis, yet

Telecom NZ is now Spark

A key part of the separation is that these three business units are obliged to provide the same level of service to external companies as they provide to Telecom and it’s other business units.  For example if Vodafone wants to sell a Telecom Wholesale product, then Telecom Wholesale MUST treat Vodafone identically to the way they treat Telecom Retail.  Likewise Chorus must do the same for it’s customers which would include ISPs as well as potentially other local Telcos (Vodafone, Telstra Clear and 2Degrees).  This equivalency of input seems to me to be an attempt to get to a similar place to Singapore (more on that later).  Telecom NZ have already spent tens of million of NZ$ to this point and they don’t have a lot to show for it yet.  It seems to me like the Government is trying to get to a NBN state of play by using Telecom’s current network and perhaps adding to that as needed.  For the kiwi population, that’s not anything flash like fibre to the home, but more like Fibre to the node and then have a DSL last mile connection.  That will obviously limit the sorts of services that could be delivered over that network.  When other countries are talking about speeds in excess of 100Mbps to the home, New Zealand will be limited to DSL speeds until the network is extended to a full FTTH deployment (not planned at the moment as far as I am aware) 

Singapore, rather than split up an existing telco (like Singtel or Starhub) have gone to tender for the three layers – Network, Wholesale and Retail.  The government (Singapore Ltd)  has decided that should only be one network and run by one company (Nucleus Connect – providing Fibre to the Home), that there would be a maximum of three wholesale companies and as many retail companies as the market will support.  A big difference to New Zealand is that the Singapore government wants the wholesalers to offer a range of value added services – that they refer to as ‘sit forward’ services to engage the population rather than ‘sit back’ services that do not engage the population base.  Retail companies would be free to pick and choose wholesale products for different wholesalers to provide differentiation of services.

Singapore, New Zealand and Australia are vastly different countries – Singapore is only 700km2 in size, Australia is a continent in it’s own right and new Zealand is at the smaller end of in between.  This is naturally going to have a dramatic effect on each Government’s approach to a NBN.  Singapore’s highly structured approach is typical of the way Singapore does things.  Australia’s approach is less controlled – due to the nature of the political environment in Australia rather than it’s size and New Zealand’s approach seems somewhat half-hearted by comparison.  I am not sure why the NZ government has not elected to build a new network independent of Telecom NZ’s current network. 

In Australia on the other hand, the government have set up the Communications Alliance to manage the NBN and subcontract to the likes of Telstra, Optus and others.  The interesting thing with that approach (other than the false start that has already cost the Australian Taxpayers AU$30 million) and the thing that sets it apart from Singapore is that the approach doesn’t seem to have any focus on the value added services (unlike Singapore’s approach) – it’s all about the network, even the wholesaler plan for Australia is talking about layer 2 protocols (See The Communications Alliance Wiki.  All of the documents I have seen from Communications Alliance are all about the network – all very low level stuff. 

Of course, these three countries are not the only countries that are going through a NBN project.  For example the Philippines had a shot at one a few years ago – the bid was won by ZTE, but then a huge scandal caused the project to be abandoned.  It came back a while later as the Government Broadband Network (GBN) but that doesn’t really help the average Filipino.  It’s interesting to see how these projects develop around the world…