Mobile Operators Must Automate Their Way to Digital Transformation and 5G Nirvana

Volumes have been written in recent years on the awe-inspiring possibilities of digital transformation, which can be best described as the application of digital technologies as well as the integration of processes to create, enable, manage, and deliver them. By most accounts, hundreds of thousands of enterprises are well underway along their transformation “journeys”. Many service providers have embarked on their journeys as well in search of new business models and revenue streams that will keep them relevant in the coming decades.

The fact is, these organizations may have no choice. While enterprises and service providers try to make sense of exactly how digital transformation will impact them fully, their customers are already seeing it as a foregone conclusion – in terms of positively impacting service delivery and the user experience. A recent Boston Consulting Group study on various aspects of digital transformation revealed this interesting nugget on what exactly customers expect today as a baseline in dealing with their services providers:

Customers increasingly expect service interactions to be simple, intuitive, proactive, and personalized. They also want real-time access to service providers and seamless interactions across multiple channels.

The study goes on to say that service providers, especially telecommunications providers, “often fail to meet these expectations”. The reasons for this may be various but one thing is certain: SPs cannot rely on legacy technologies including networks in order to make the necessary quantum leap to meet this new customer expectation paradigm. This is perhaps why there seems to be so much optimism about how the evolution to 5G networks will serve as the “backbone that makes true digital transformation possible,” as noted in this blog. Hence, the aggressive plans that mobile operators are reporting to adopt (and roll out) 5G makes all the sense in this context:, of course, exists to help mobile operators accelerate their evolution to next-gen technologies including 5G. In fact, our stated mission is to be the leading integrator of open source networking software and technologies to deliver carrier-grade network virtualization solutions that end reliance on proprietary network platforms. We are most associated as being the top provider of open source MANO technologies for NFV, which includes the parallel paths of our own platform and our on-going contributions to the Open Source MANO project through ETSI.

So, we took great interest in this Light Reading recap of an industry survey of 150 service providers who described NFV MANO as a required first step toward reaching the ultimate nirvana of true “network automation”. The article goes on to quote an AT&T rep who describes NFV MANO as a “small piece” of network transformation and, finally, digital transformation.

I suppose we could feel somewhat slighted by the description. Small piece as it may be, achieving effective MANO in the larger NFV framework is still exceedingly challenging, which is why the high degrees of solution interoperability that and many others achieved this year at the ETSI Plugtest was such a celebrated milestone. However, by and large we actually agree with the sentiments raised in the Light Reading piece in that achieving true automation – network automation, process automation, and service automation – is the real objective in making 5G and digital transformation possible.

This is why we position automation as a key pillar right next to orchestration in the value proposition RIFT.ware delivers to our customers. As shown on this graphic, when we speak of automation we’re going well beyond aspects that make our platform easier to use. Instead, we too look at automation in the context of the whole ecosystem – VNF vendors, operators, cloud service providers, etc.

For us, this is more than a vision, it’s now the baseline we’re delivering to with each release of software. Similar to how consumer expectations have become so stringent for SPs, our own customers should expect no less from us. You can expect some major updates from us in the coming months that show we’re successfully delivering to this baseline.