BSSaaS: It’s BSS Jim, but not ‘aaS’ we know it

BSSaaS: It’s BSS Jim, but not ‘aaS’ we know it In the first of a two part blog, Richard Doughty looks at the increasing demand for ‘cloud-based’ BSS offerings and explores what is really meant by CSPs when they ask for this and what it means for vendors wanting to supply it.
 
No I haven’t fallen asleep with my face on the keyboard, BSSaaS, or to give it its full name “Business Support Systems as a Service”, is a topic that’s getting more and more traction in the telecoms industry. In fact, over the last twelve months we’ve seen an increasing number of requirements from Communications Services Providers (CSPs) asking for ‘cloud’ within the context of their BSS requirements, all detailed in the RFXs they issue. BSS is an area that has traditionally been a bastion of the large software delivery model and it is understandable that the industry is asking vendors to move with the times and change what they can deliver and how they do so.
 
Cerillion has had a foot in both camps for some time now – Cerillion Enterprise addressing large turnkey BSS projects and Cerillion Skyline for usage-based billing and subscription management in the cloud. However, we are increasingly seeing the convergence of the two – the push up from the generic platform of usage, one-off and recurring charges billed in a cloud model, and the push down from the all-powerful, complex and usually highly-configured, on-premise BSS installation; an implementation that usually includes billing of course, but also online charging, CRM, order decomposition and elements of OSS.
 
We’re all quite familiar with the traditional BSS model – either best of breed individual applications or the pre-integrated end to end suite. But what does cloud-enabled BSS actually mean? In this context what is the cloud?
 
In reality we’re seeing several different interpretations, or to put it another way there are a number of different cloud formations

Evergreen software
- The ‘evergreen’ software model common to cloud, where there is only one software version, which is regularly and automatically updated to the latest and greatest release. All customers use exactly the same software.
The super-lightweight interface
- Designed for the web browser and accessible from anywhere on any platform. The essence of what most people think of when cloud comes to mind.
The cloud money-model
- An all-in-one price: Software setup, hardware, hosting, licences and support, all included in a single monthly fee, usually with no CAPEX.
It’s in the cloud!
- You don’t know where it’s hosted and maybe don’t even care. It’s just available when and where you want it.
 
So is this possible?
 
It’s quite understandable that this should be the Holy Grail of software delivery for the benefits that these capabilities provide to CSPs. These needs arise from the well-established challenges of large BSS projects, such as:
 
•    Large up-front investments associated with multi-year implementation projects.
•    Perennially being at least one version behind the latest that a vendor is offering.
•    Complex software such as charging and billing being designed for technical staff (i.e. IT) rather than business users.
•    The pain of requiring a substantial investment in hardware and third party products and in particular the variable need for these resources as software moves in and out of development, testing, pre-production and live.
 
Many vendors are well on their way to changing their approach to delivering the software and the commercial model that supports it in order to meet these requirements. However, requirements aren’t always what they seem, and CSPs need to be crystal clear about which attributes of the cloud they are really looking for and to make sure that prospective suppliers are talking the same language.
 
Look out for part two of this blog, where Richard digs deeper into the requirements for ‘cloud BSS’ and identifies the key considerations for CSPs choosing to follow this path.