Perfect Storm: The Opportunity for Inter-Provider Services Disruption
Enterprises now expect global access to on-demand ICT services. The breakthrough technologies in Networking (SD-WAN, SASE, 5G Private Networks, 5G Access, Satellite), Cloud (Multi, Edge, Unified), and Application delivery (Cloud Native, Containerization, SaaS) are converging with the maturing of global standards for provider inter-operability and the drive to automate.
The result is a major disruption of traditional inter-provider ICT service supply chains. How can providers take advantage of this?
The time for inter-provider services disruption is now!
The question was raised in the CarrierCommunity webinar “The Perfect Storm – The opportunity for Inter-Provider Service disruption”, which was held in May 2021. During the webinar, Michael Kearns, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Amartus, gave a keynote presentation and joined the panel discussion session addressing the topic. The session was moderated by Erik van Stokkom, an ambassador at CarrierCommunity & CCO at GTC, while the list of other panelists included:
- Daniele Mancuso, Chief Product Management at Sparkle
- Divesh Gupta, Vice President – Technology & Sales Operations at PCCW Global
- Gint Atkinson, VP Network Strategy and Digital Architecture at SES
Below we summarize the “The Perfect Storm – The opportunity for Inter-Provider Service disruption” presentation from the webinar, as well as we present key takeaways from the panelists. You are also encouraged to watch the recording of the webinar.
What is inter-provider service automation?
Inter-provider service automation is automation driven by industry-standard APIs that enable providers to seamlessly buy and sell services from each other to fulfill the needs of enterprise customers.
There are several scenarios where there is a need for cooperation between providers to automate buying and selling services in a seamless manner. Examples include:
- An international wholesale connectivity provider needs to negotiate with last-mile providers in multiple locations to provide end-to-end connectivity to Enterprise Customer Sites
- An SD-WAN provider needs to negotiate with a cloud service provider to offer secure networking between its Enterprise Customer Sites
- A Cloud provider needs to negotiate with edge cloud providers in different locations to allow critical applications to run closer to Enterprise Customer Sites
The problem with the current approach to inter-provider service automation
Current cooperation between providers is based on non-standard, proprietary, manual, or at best semi-automated solutions. These solutions are siloed, complex, error-prone and fragmented and were often designed for negotiating individual service types, e.g., last mile.
Subsequently, it is very costly and time-consuming to establish provider interoperability, which results in long customer lead times and inconsistent experience for the end customer. Furthermore, the approach is not flexible to support current and future services, and cannot scale to support the tens or hundreds of partners in a typical provider ecosystem.
Amartus has been working to solve these problems for the past few years. This includes deep engagement with leading standard bodies, including MEF and TM Forum.The solution that we have come up with is to introduce common industry standards APIs and processes. MEF is leading this standards work with its LSO Sonata standard. What this allows for is automated negotiations for all types of products and services. It also allows for rapid plug ‘n’ play partner and customer onboarding and inter-op.
Why we think there is a perfect storm moment for inter-provider service automation?
The combination of breakthrough technologies in Networking, Cloud, and Application delivery combined with the maturing of global standards for provider interoperability and the drive to automate are converging to create major disruption of traditional inter-provider ICT service supply chains.
There is significant work underway at MEF, TM Forum, and other standard bodies to define how best to coordinate negotiation of all of these services and technologies between providers. The ultimate aim is to deliver a seamless experience for enterprise customers.
The inter-provider service market disruption represents significant opportunities for new entrant and existing providers to:
- differentiate service offerings,
- increase customer responsiveness,
- create new revenue streams,
- capture a new market share.
I think people get a little blindsided when they’re starting the process, they say I have APIs, that should be enough, everybody will adapt to my APIs. If they’re non-standard APIs, you’re in trouble because you’re going to have to have lengthy projects with each partner to try to achieve interoperability That’s going to severely limit how quickly you can bring the offering to the market.
So you should pay much more attention to the types of APIs you choose because the real problem is how you achieve plug-and-play inter-op at scale to support tens or hundreds of partner providers.
The challenge is also to change the mindset that we have within telcos. Sometimes you need to embrace things that are a little bit out of your borders. In the past telcos were tending to be in a closed environment, to develop everything in-house. This was requiring tons of investments and timetables that are not consistent with the requirements of today. Today everything needs to be now and on-demand and therefore the old mindset cannot satisfy this kind of requirement.
Open up, embrace new skills and competence, use the cloud services whenever it is possible, don’t consider your network as your network but your network should extend towards your physical boundaries. Also, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Turn to MEF for standard-related support and to companies like Amartus if you need to integrate your existing CRM OSS and BSS stack with the new standards. But hurry up because the time is now. The perfect storm is now and the whole industry needs to move consistently.
So it is very important to have these teams work together. At PCCW Global we adopted the safe skilled agile framework as that common language where these two teams work within close-knit agile release trains and offer that value to the company where you’re doing an automated service.
The second thing is adopting a standard. I think that’s going to be the way to go forward. If you have proprietary API it’s not going to help. We actually contributed with the models on that PoC where we set up LSO Sonata APIs and set up a testbed. That is a good way to start for people who are just starting to adopt the Sonata standard. Take a look at that. There is a GIT repository available from MEF It provides the SDKs, the APIs, and a testbed platform for further testing development.
And we need to drive the software and solution vendors to support this and I would say there is an ecosystem structure that’s way more efficient, where many more of these applications could be running in some type of a cloud marketplace environment. So that everything that is there is no plug-and-play. You just start by playing. You don’t have to plug it together. It’s already done for you.
We need to put pressure on the whole ecosystem to get it structured, get into LSO, get into TMF, and then drive the entire ecosystem to build the best-integrated solution that’s up and running.