ZTP Catalyst at TMForum Digital Transformation Asia’19

We’ve been back from Kuala Lumpur for a few weeks now and while we didn’t win an award for our Catalyst project (think of catalysts as Proof of concepts with participants from a variety of vendors and supported by multiple telcos), we did get a log of interest in it.

The Zero Touch Partnering catalyst for Kuala Lumpur was the third stage of the project where we extended the system to an IOT model introducing a new vendor (Unico) to the project with their eSIM entitlement server.

The basic premise for the catalyst is to enable telcos to deliver products and capabilities that are actually provided by a third party WITHOUT the need to integrate systems, build integrations or develop code – in fact without IT involvement at all. The way we can do that is to use the TMForum OpenAPIs to:

  1. Determine what products a 3rd party is prepared to sell to me (using the Product Qualification TMF679 OpenAPI)
  2. Fetch the product specifications that I need to successfully order that 3rd party product (using the Product Catalog TMF620 OpenAPI), then
  3. Order the 3rd party product from the 3rd party (using the Product Order TMF622 OpenAPI)

All without IT getting involved…

I recorded a short video presentation about the catalyst

Overview video presentation of the ZTP Phase 3 catalyst project

If you want to see a demonstration of the catalyst in action – onboarding 3rd party products live, then adding them to a product offering and then buying the new product offering including onboarding of a water level sensor via a QR code to activate the eSIM for the device, then check the video below:

Demo of the ZTP Phase 3 Catalyst

I think the ZTP catalyst is a great demonstration of why standards matter – when a telco says to me “What’s in it for me?”, these are the sorts of examples I like to show – that demonstrate standards in action and make it easy and fast to integrate different vendors without the need for lots of IT involvement.

Progress on the miss-match between the TMF SID and TMF API Data model

Originally posted on 4Sep17 to IBM Developerworks (10,430 Views)

I wouldn’t normally just post a link to someone else’s work here, but in this case Frank Wong – a colleague of mine at my new company (DGIT Systems) has done some terrific work in helping to eliminate the miss-match between the data model used by the TMF’s REST based APIs and the TMF’s Information Model (SID). I know this was an issue that IBM were also looking to resolve.  In the effort to encourage the use of a simple REST interface, the data model used in the TMF’s APIs has been greatly simplified from the comprehensive (some might say complex) data model that is the TMF’s Information Model (SID). This meant that a CSP who is using the SID internally to connect internal systems needed to map to the simplified API data model to expose those APIs externally – there was no easy one-to-one mapping for that mapping which meant that the one could not simply create a API for an existing business service (eTOM or otherwise) – a lot more custom data modelling work would be required.

This interview with Frank by the TMF illustrates some of the latest work to resolve that miss-match – read it at https://inform.tmforum.org/open-apis/2017/08/apis-need-good-parents-catalog-success/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTm1aa1pUVXhOR001TkRFMSIsInQiOiJXbEpaajNHRmR1Rm9meTZzQlMzMnJRODJDNlllUjdsdFk2RUxNMDVRS25HMEdlOTZzK3NDNkx5YkZXSjlyQW42eDkrQW5lT0pkRVFpdm5lNXJIdW9STGpaYWV5aHZiald0b1JBenhlSTFRV2FUMVhFNXBLUlRkZ05MV2ZZK1JSViJ9

Business Agility Through Standards Alignment To Ease The Pain of Major System Changes

Originally posted on 21Mar14 to IBM Developerworks (14,349 Views)

Why TMF Frameworx?

The TeleManagement Forum (TMF) have defined a set of four frameworks collectively known as Frameworx. The key frameworks that will deliver business value to the CSP are the Information Framework(SID) and the Process Framework (eTOM). Both of these can deliver increased business agility – which will reduce time to market and lower IT costs. In particular if a CSP is undertaking with the multiple major IT projects in the near term, TMF Frameworx alignment will ease the pain associated with those major projects.

Without a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), such as many CSP’s have currently, there is no common integration layer, no common way to perform format transformations with that multiple systems can communicate correctly. A typical illustration of this point to point integration might look like the Illustration to the right:

Each of the orange ovals represents a transformation of information so that the two systems can understand each other – each of which must be developed and maintained independently. These transformations will typically be built with a range of different technologies and method, thus increasing the IT costs of integrating, maintaining such transformations, not to mention maintaining competency within the IT organisation.

A basic SOA environment introduces the concept of an Enterprise Service Bus which provides a common way to integrate systems together and a common way of building transformation of information model used by multiple systems. The Illustration below shows this basic Services Oriented Architecture – note that we still have the same number of transformations to build and maintain, but now they can be built using a common method, tools and skills.

If we now introduce a standard information model such as the SID from the TeleManagement Forum, we can reduce the number of transformation that need to be built and maintained to one per system as shown in the Illustration below. Ensuring that all the traffic across the ESB is SID aligned means that as the CSP changes systems (such as CRM or Billing) the effort required to integrate the new system into the environment is dramatically reduced. That will enable the introduction of new systems faster than could otherwise been achieved. It will also reduce the ongoing IT maintenance costs.

As I’m sure you’re aware, most end to end business processes need to orchestrate multiple systems. If we take the next step and insulate those end to end business processes from the functions that are specific to the various end point systems using a standard Process Framework such as eTOM, then business process can be independent of systems such as CRM, Billing, Provisioning etc. That means that if those systems change in the future (as many CSPs are looking to do) the end to end business processes will not need to change – in fact the process will not even be aware that the end system has changed.

When changing (say) the CRM system, you will need to remap the eTOM business services to the specific native services and rebuild a single integration and a single transformation to/from the standard data model (SID). This is a significant reduction in effort required to introduce new systems into the CSP’s environment. Additionally, if the CSP decide to take a phased approach to the migration of the CRM systems (as opposed to a big bang) the eTOM aligned business processes can dynamically select which of the two CRM systems should be used for this particular process instance.

What that means for the CSP.

Putting in place a robust integration and process orchestration environment that is aligned to TMF Frameworx should be the CSP’s first priority; this will not only allow the subsequent major projects integration and migration efforts to be minimised, it will also reduce the time to market for new processes and product that the CSP might offer into the market.

Telekom Slovenia is a perfect example of this. When the Slovenian government forced Mobitel (Slovenia) and Telekom Slovenia to merge, having the alignment with the SID and eTOM within Mobitel allowed the merged organisation to meet the governments deadlines for the specific target KPIs:

  • Be able to provide subscribers with a joint bill
  • Enable CSR from both organisations to sell/service products from both organisations
  • Offer a quad-play product that combined offerings from both Telekom Slovenia and Mobitel
  • All within six months.

Recommended Approach

When a CSP is undertaking multiple concurrent major IT replacement projects, there are a number of recommendations that IBM would make based on past observations with other CSPs that have also undertaken significant and multiple system replacement projects:

  1. Use TMF Frameworx to minimise integration work (requires integration and process orchestration environment such as the ESB/SOA project is building) to be in place
  2. Use TMF eTOM to build system independent business processes so that as those major systems change, end to end business processes do not need to change and can dynamically select the legacy or new system during the migration phases of the system replacement projects.
  3. To achieve, 1 and 2, the CSP will need to have the SOA and BPM infrastructure that is capable of integration with ALL of the systems (not just limited to (say) CRM or ERP) within the CSP in place first
  4. If you have the luxury of time, don’t try to run the projects simultaneously, rather run them linearly. If this cannot be achieved due to business constraints, limit the concurrent projects to as few systems as possible, and preferably to systems that don’t have a lot of interaction with each other.

Telco standards gone, dead and buried

Originally posted on 22Auc12 to IBM Developerworks (13,006 Views)

Further to my last post, it now looks like the WAC is completely dead and buried. One thing that is creating a lot of chatter at the moment though is TelcoML (Telco Markup Language) – there it a lot of discussions about it on the TeleManagement Forum (TMF) community site and while I don’t intend to get in a big discussion about TelcoML, I do want to talk about Telco standards in general. The Telco standards that seem to take hold are the ones with strong engineering background – I am thinking of networking standards  like SS7, INAP, CAMEL, SigTRAN etc, but the Telco standards focussed on the IT domain (like Parlay, ParlayX, OneAPI, ParlayREST and perhaps TelcoML) seem to struggle to get real penetration – sure standards are good – they make it easier and cheaper for Telcos to integrate and introduce new software; they make it easier for ISVs to build software that can be deployed at any telco. So, why don’t they stick? Why do we see a progression of standards that are well designed, have collaboration of  a core set of telcos around the world (I’m thinking the WAC here) yet nothing comes of it.  It we look at Parlay for example, sure CORBA is hard, so I get why it didn’t take off, but ParlayX with web services is easy – pretty much every IDE in the world can build a SOAP request from the WSDL for that web Service – why didn’t it take off?  I’ve spoken to telcos all around the world about ParlayX, but it’s rare to find one that is truly committed to the standard – sure the RFP’s say must have ParlayX, but then after they implement the software (Telecom Web Services Server in IBM’s case) they either continue to offer their previous in house developed interfaces for those network services and don’t use ParlayX or they just don’t follow through with their plans to expose the services externally: why did we bother? ParlayX stagnated for many years with little real adoption from Telcos. Along comes GSMA with OneAPI with the mantra ‘ParlayX web services are too complicated still, lets simplify them and also provide a REST based interface’.  No new services, just the same ones as ParlayX, but simplified. Yes, I responded to a lot of Requests For Proposal (RFP) asking for OneAPI support, but I have not seen one telco that has actually exposed those OneAPI interfaces to 3rd party developers as they originally intended.  So, now, OneAPI doesn;t really exist any more and we have ParlayREST as a replacement.  Will that get any more take up? I don’t think so. The TMF Frameworx seem to have more adoption, but they are the exception to the rule. I am not really sure why Telco standards efforts have such a tough time of it, but I suspect that it comes down to:

  • Lack of long term thinking within telcos – there are often too many tactical requirements to be fulfilled and the long term strategy never gets going (this is like Governments who have a four year terms not being able to get 20 year projects over the line – they’re too worried about getting the day to day things patched up and then getting re-elected)
  • Senior executives in Telcos that truly don’t appreciate the benefits of standardisation –  I am not sure if this is because executives come from a non-technical background or some other reason.

 What to do? I guess I will keep preaching about standards – it is fundamental to IBM’s strategy and operations after all – and keep up with the new ones as they come along.  Lets hope that Telcos start to understand why they should be using standards as much as possible, after all they will make their life easier and their operations cheaper.

TeleManagement World 2011

Originally posted on 25May11 to IBM Developerworks (12,766 Views)

 I am in Dublin at the moment for TeleManagement World 2011  which has changed locations from Nice, France last year. it looks to be a very interesting conference.  I’ve already done two days of 

training and now, we’re beginning the sessions. the keynote  session has the Irish Minister for Communications, Mr Rabitte who is talking about the challenges that CSPs face all the world around.  He is also talking about an innovation programme that the Irish Government have started called ‘Examplar‘ which is part of their NGN Trial network. i’ll see if I can get some more info over the next few days… 

Steven Shurrock, CEO at O2  Ireland

Steven Shurrock, the new CEO at O2  Ireland  who has been in the role for just six months is very bullish about the opportunities in Ireland for data services. After Steven, we saw a host of Keynote speakers who have been focused on a number of themes, but many common presenters included:

  • Standards compliance – including certification against standards.  Particularly with the TMF Frameworx standards
  • Horizontal platforms and moving away from silos is their IT strategy
  • SOA is the basis for all of the new IT initiatives

I have recorded a number of keynote speakers as video, but for the time being, those files are very large.  Once I have had a chance to transcode them to a smaller size, I’ll add them to the blog as well – while not particularly technical, they’re very interesting for a Telecom perspective.

IBM at Telemanagement World 2010

Originally posted on 19May10 to IBM Developerworks (9,827 Views)

While IBM missed out on winning the TeleManagement Excellence awards this year (congratulations to those four competition winners (see the winners on the TMF web site) we do have a great stand with multiple demos (I haven’t counted, but I think there are six demos) and a small meeting area.  Check out the photos below:

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” 😉

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.