OPERATIONAL SUPPORT SYSTEMS: MOVING TO FIBRE

Created May 23, 2023
Technical Features

From having a real-time view of everything that is happening across a network, to rolling out new services and ensuring a positive customer experience, Operational Support Systems (OSS) are the key to monitoring, controlling and monetising networks. Traditionally, these systems have been largely physically part of the network, but the switch from copper to fibre and the move towards running them in the cloud means vendors are having to rethink their offerings. Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes spoke with Johan Hjalmarsson, Product Marketing manager at Swedish OSS vendor NetAdmin about the changing nature of support systems.

PD: As operators switch from copper to fibre, is it a case of rip and replace, so far as OSS is concerned or is it possible to transition existing systems to the fibre infrastructure?

JH: The old systems made for copper have some fundamental issues in their data model that are too specific for copper. They could for example rely heavily on the phone number or the management of copper cable pairs. They were also built many years ago and don’t really use the latest technology. It is unclear how much they are left behind in terms of modernisation. Some systems have been able to modernise, but far from all. When it comes to fibre, the address or delivery point is essential. It is very important that you can model how the address evolves, from planning, to installation and activation. including how you link network elements to the address and perform a successful installation.

PD: Is OSS increasingly moving into the cloud?

JH: Moving to utilising cloud technology, like containerisation is inevitable. It has to do with reliability, scalability, availability and more. However, moving to SaaS or hosting by cloud providers is not necessarily an option, due to the need for OSS being close to the network and being critical to the operations of the network, as well as being affected by different regulations. Cloud can be quite expensive depending on resource consumption, and many telecom operators have their own private cloud, so they are able to rely on that investment for the moment. For start-ups it is a different story, they often benefit from a cloud deployment. When it comes to OSS there are some performance aspects when getting into the monitoring domain. You want to be able to monitor and control your network as close as possible to the network. Even if you have an outage between your network and your cloud provider you still want to monitor and control your network. This is not a big problem however, and you might work around it with local satellites. Another aspect of this is that there are more and harder security requirements, the Telecoms Security Act, Cyber essentials to name but two which are put on telecom operators. They cannot run critical systems on cloud providers outside for example the UK or EU. So, I guess there will be niche players or special setups in the cloud space that can deliver these services.

PD: With an increasing number of altnets/wholesale carriers coming into the market, each carrying a mixture of different traffic types (i.e. mobile xhaul, FTTx, DCI, etc.), do these traffic types need to be managed separately?

JH: When it comes to FTTx you need to have a lot of automation and self-service for that business case to work. If we talk about FTTx in a wholesale/open access perspective, you also need a lot of good APIs and portals for external service providers in order to facilitate the crucial business processes. So far as mobile xHaul and carrier ethernet services are concerned, you often have a more manual approach using more manual quote-to-offer processes and service delivery processes but the potential for automation and standardisation is big. However, monitoring, inventory, address/location management, installation/maintenance procedure support can be shared

PD: How important an issue is vendor interoperability in terms of connecting with other systems?

JH: It is important with vendor interoperability in terms of network vendors. We have seen that you start with a vendor and then switch to another after some year(s) and you must be able to handle that. In terms of connecting to other systems, that is always important. Robust APIs and other integration technology are needed, for example, with events generated to a message bus it is crucial to link the OSS to a GIS system, OSS to EMS, OSS to BSS or invoicing etc. We can also see that the TeleManagement Forum Open API can be a reference point for many of the larger telcos. It’s a good starting point when trying to integrate between OSS and BSS for example or between a telco, acting as a service provider, and a wholesale network operator.

PD: We are seeing data throughput speeds increasing almost monthly with developments in, for example, optical engines network architectures. Does this impact on management systems?

JH: No, not really. It only changes the capacity of the links, and the traffic grows in the graphs but not more than that.

PD: What issues are NetAdmin looking at for future product development?

JH: Currently we are working a lot with cloud technology, wholesale interoperability and different security related standards. Since fibre is becoming a crucial infrastructure, we see more focus on reliability, availability, redundancy, security, and robustness from all parties involved, including the network operator, the customers, and the authorities. We are currently looking into some of the APIs in TeleManagement Forum Open API, and we are working with our implementation of an integration to the TOTSCo OTS hub for switching.

PD: What are the advantages/disadvantages of COTS solutions for fibre networks?

JH: One of the main advantages of COTS solutions is they provide a fast time to market. They also reduce risk and the need for customisation and integration, as well as benefiting from knowledge and best practices. However, compared to developing something on your own, as a bespoke solution, the initial investment can be a hurdle to overcome if you are in a startup phase. However, subscription-based offerings are becoming more common, as network operators begin to understand the effort needed in developing something on their own. Compared to best-of-breed, in all areas it can be hard for COTS products to be the optimal solution, especially in the BSS space where there will be a level of compromise needed. If you are part of a bigger organisation, it can be hard to introduce a COTS solution into an existing IT system landscape. You could either partly isolate the fibre business, or you could slice the COTS product and just use parts of it.

PD: Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johan Hjalmarsson, Product Marketing Manager, NetAdmin.

This article was first published in the Summer 2023 edition of Optical Connections magazine.

operational-support-systems-moving-to-fibre

This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.