While some of the largest players such as IBM and Accenture have provided a service delivery platform or two (IBM for Sprint and India’s Bharti Airtel, Accenture for Turkcell), a strike force of small independent software vendors (ISVs) has been crafting and deploying SDPs for broadband operators. And some of IBM and Accenture’s fellow heavyweights not only have taken notice but have taken out their checkbooks to bring some of that upstart-developed goodness home for the holidays.
With competition from every side, service providers must roll out a great many new services and features in the next few years to slake the thirst of overheated markets. We’ve talked about service delivery platforms (SDPs) that can slash the time, cost and risk of doing that, not just for today’s services but by providing a platform for services we haven’t even thought of yet. SDPs also lend a hand with the cost side of the equation, which is helpful because while service providers gamely strive to reach consumers and businesses with every conceivable service on every possible device, they must also improve operational efficiency to align their cost structures with revenues. SDPs help ease capex by employing more enterprise networking devices that on average are far less expensive than telecom equipment, and because their service-oriented architecture (SOA) structures enable service providers to leverage network capacity, content and other service components from a myriad of other sources instead of having to build it all themselves.
“Went looking for wireless apps and what did I see…an SDP looking back at me.”
Over the years the longest-running publications in our industry have done a lead story or two based on our research, not because OSS or BSS sent a Chris Mathews-style thrill up their leg but (of course) because of the services they enable. Well designed and executed B/OSS is truly a marvel to behold, but it’s a means to an end. If you don’t believe me you can ask the hundreds of hot software shops in our industry who met the cold front of market reality and whose businesses either came to a stormy end or were blown off their original course into entirely different industries. The elements upon which we build today’s networks are no longer dimwitted devices waiting to be managed, they’re rolling off the assembly line smarter and more self-managing than ever before, with more robust element managers built either by the manufacturers themselves or by the likes of Nakina Systems.
In an earlier entry on service delivery platforms (SDPs) I did my best to put the spurs to service providers to crack down on systems integrators running the same horses from their stable of software steeds in every race. On the one hand, you can’t blame the SIs for doing what works. If they have a few long-running, you-wash-my-hand-and-I-wash-yours relationships and the service providers are willing to bet on whatever they bring to post, it saves them from actually auditioning new vendors to jockey for position with the usual suspects.
On the other hand, these comfy feet-in-stirrups arrangements take service providers into an entirely different realm where they continue paying more than they should for “icebergs”: Software products that look manageable on the surface but cost $5 or more in integration for every upfront software license dollar, whose integration headaches and hidden costs can sink your next B/OSS project.
As most of you have heard by now, the TeleManagement Forum has acquired the IPsphere Forum (IPSF). The TM Forum said it will integrate the IPsphere Framework into its Service Delivery Framework program, creating a pre-commercial test bed for pilot programs and multivendor interoperability. The TM Forum’s Service Delivery Framework focuses on enabling control of service lifecycle management across all execution environments, allowing flexibility in binding services with product catalogs.
That’s quite a mouthful. Whether the market swallows what the IPSF (and now TMF) is proposing will depend on fidelity to the core aims of the IPSF and delivering something as market-worthy as what is on the drawing board.
Cable MSOs and other broadband providers need to continue growing revenues and boosting profitability to keep investors and other stakeholders happy as they sink resources into new service offerings and try to become everyone’s “friend in the digital age.” Meanwhile, Verizon is working to transform itself from a ‘telco’ into a communications and entertainment company-a model being replicated across the telecom landscape.
So in what is still thankfully a competitive market, it is counterintuitive that so many continue to manage their service offerings in the least efficient, highest-cost ways and place themselves at a competitive disadvantage.