As Telcos scramble to claim their place in the cloud services market, many are being held back by their legacy BSS/OSS systems. Dominic Smith looks at the back office strategies for taking Telcos to the cloud.
Cloud was inevitably high on the agenda at the TM Forum’s recent Management World event in Nice, but it seems many Telcos are struggling to understand what their role is or can be in the cloud services market. As network connectivity providers, there’s no doubt that Telcos have a vital role to play in ensuring that cloud services ‘just work’. But is that it? Should Telcos focus on being just the connectivity providers or is there a more valuable position to be gained in the cloud value chain?
One presentation in Nice that really stood out came from the CIO of one of the leading providers of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) who attempted to woo the Telco audience with the prospect of partnering for cloud services. And on the face of it, this is a good idea. Most Telcos are struggling against the backdrop of declining voice revenues and the need to grow their data businesses, so cloud is a logical extension or diversification. However, the picture painted was at best naïve and at worst highlighted how Telcos and cloud companies are poles apart.
Central to his presentation was how cloud technology makes everything easier – stand up and shutdown new products quickly; scalability on-demand if a service really takes off; no big upfront investments required; and so on. But he then pitched a slide depicting a layered architecture with Telco network infrastructure at the bottom, cloud infrastructure on top of that, followed by the existing Telco BSS/OSS above. And this is the point where I nearly fell off my chair. The implication was that the cloud infrastructure could just be slotted in and everything else would ‘just work’!
Over the years we have seen many Telcos struggling with the complexities of their BSS/OSS infrastructure and the need to achieve ‘carrier-grade’ performance and system resilience. And the simple fact remains that many are now completely hamstrung by their existing BSS/OSS platforms which are creaking at the seams. So how with this legacy can Telcos effectively move into the cloud services market?
There are two obvious approaches for Telcos to support cloud services:
• Upgrade the existing BSS/OSS platforms, however this will generally mean a ‘transformation’ project which means a long period of instability whilst the systems are updated or replaced.
• Implement new systems specifically designed to support cloud services, but this means creating a new systems ‘silo’ which will make it very difficult to offer convergent services.
So which way now?
Well perhaps these two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Implementing new cloud-based BSS/OSS platforms can undoubtedly solve a short-term problem by enabling Telcos to launch new cloud services fast and without disruption to existing revenue streams. However, the longer term strategy could still be the transformation of the traditional BSS/OSS systems with a view to these supporting all services in the future. Equally, new cloud-based BSS/OSS solutions may prove to be the long term strategy after successful implementations for new services.
Whichever approach is preferred, one thing that is certain is that cloud and Telco infrastructure is anything but ‘plug and play’, and Telcos must act fast or risk missing out on the phenomenal growth opportunity around cloud services.