It Takes a Village to Deliver a Service: How Networks Can De-Complexify an Expanding Ecosystem

January 12th, 2024 by · 1 Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Kailem Anderson, Vice President, Global Products & Delivery, Blue Planet

When people sit down to watch a movie on a subscription streaming service, they expect it to start playing at the click of a button, without glitch or buffering. But as anyone in networking knows, a lot needs to go right under the hood to deliver that seamless experience.

Unbeknown to the public, the underlying network may demonstrate untold complexity, albeit one that hums somehow in unison to enable a seamless end-user digital experience.  Thus, services delivered over a network – it could be from an Over-The-Top (OTT) provider, a metaverse environment, video conferencing and cloud services among many others – are likely to be delivered by bit parts of many best-in-class providers. These could include retail service providers, wholesale service providers, hyperscalers, technology solution providers, data center providers and others. The network relies on a veritable village of providers working in unison to ensure an application or service is delivered with low latency and without glitch.

But as applications or services continue to evolve and as new ones get created, the network itself will become even more complicated which enhances the risk of network downtime, service delays and ultimately unhappy end users.

So how do we mitigate against these risks?

Addressing the necessity of complexity

This complexity is equally evident in enterprise networks as these networks are now wholly reliant on the services of many network providers, whereby each hosts their own services, and interoperate or interconnect with other providers in colocation sites scattered across the globe.

The underlying infrastructure supporting network-driven services needs to be Application Programming Interface (API)-driven and require standards-based automation between ecosystem players.

Sounds simple, right? Can’t we just plug in the APIs, which have been around for decades, and let artificial intelligence do the rest? If ChatGPT can write a poem, then surely the network can use AI to automate itself to work with other networks and infrastructure.

Realistically, it’s not that simple. This utopia of networking requires the ubiquitous adoption of common standards and automation capabilities that enable plug-and-play interoperability between their respective Operations Support System / Business Support System (OSS/BSS).

Additionally, automation must happen throughout the supply chain where all parties in the supply chain adopt a common, standardized set of processes and APIs at both the business process and operational levels.

Embracing an open networking architecture

The current APIs and automation solutions, therefore, won’t necessarily cut it. While flexible, these APIs are usually customized and designed with specific use cases in mind, and don’t always allow for scale and expansion to adopt new services, platforms and connections.

What’s required is an open networking approach – allowing for the adoption of a myriad of service providers – along with lifecycle service orchestration (LSO): a framework and architecture for automating the lifecycle of a connectivity service end-to-end and across multiple technology domains and provider networks. The LSO approach has two clear benefits among many others: it provides a common and consistent way to implement intercarrier use cases, which shortens integration item and reduces cost; and it enables a streamlined system to change environments and ecosystems, without causing lock-in to a particular provider.

Thankfully, the networking world is making a start on this requirement. Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) research reveals that over 122 service providers worldwide are now in some stage of the LSO adoption lifecycle.

But we also need more intelligent APIs connecting multiple – potentially hundreds or thousands – of business applications. These also need to be easily deployed across the network today and as it scales in the future, with minimal fuss, cost or disruption.

Enter: LSO Sonata APIs, which have emerged to ensure interoperability among providers is easier than ever; they’re an interface reference point acting at the business application level, which can easily and more intelligently connect with one another to provide access or transit services for a service provider’s end subscriber.

Using this API standard will ensure service providers can transition from a complex medley of manual processes and siloed, customized APIs to an open, interoperable standards model at minimal cost and effort. Doing so will allow for the plug-and-play reuse of APIs with any partner and service at scale.

Finally, visibility and control need to be maintained across the entire ecosystem, regardless of its scale and complexity. To enable this, networks can benefit from an automation ecosystem platform that is programmable and open, and supports open standards – such as MEF, 3GPP and TMF – that drive ecosystem standardization.

The beauty of these challenges being addressed is that the end-user has no idea about any of it. They’ll just press play, upload a document to the cloud and/or share files across continents with no fuss, buffer or glitches.

Ultimately, the network will operate invisibly with end users having little to no idea that a veritable hub of service providers are harmoniously working together, taking the complexity out of the delivery of the data du jour.

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Categories: Industry Viewpoint · SDN

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