"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."

Henry Ford is credited with that quote, and the gist is something we at Blue Planet understand well: Collaboration is fundamental to achieving goals. When members of a team come together to focus on a shared purpose, navigating challenges becomes an energizing journey rather than a daunting task.

And let’s face it, success in modernizing Operations Support Systems (OSS) demands this kind of collaboration between Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and their suppliers. Tackling transformation and automation projects is complex. It requires CSPs and their vendors to team up and work towards a shared vision of success. The traditional business models of the past have to be decomposed, no different than the software and hardware systems that make up our networks.

It’s not just about the technical know-how but about a collective commitment to achieving successful outcomes and leveraging broad experience to save time and reduce risk.

I’ve spent the last 18 months traveling the world and speaking to customers about their transformation projects and all of them are challenging us (and the rest of the vendor community) in the same way, “we want a supplier who understands that collaboration means more than providing a software product or delivery.” Customers are looking for a strategic ally who is open and flexible – and committed to the outcome of modernizing OSS in a shared, DevOps context. I’ll further explain why below, but let’s first address what’s driving the need for OSS modernization.

OSS needs to change, but the transition won’t be easy

Let’s be honest, legacy OSS and ways of working are holding CSPs back. For the most part, the challenges of legacy OSS aren’t new, but if CSPs don’t begin to address them now, you won’t be able to compete with cloud-native operators or monetize new capabilities, such as 5G network slicing.

While CSPs have made significant progress digitizing customer engagement and other Business Support Systems (BSS), their OSS is still highly customized and tightly coupled with network elements. Fragmented and siloed systems require complex, costly, and time-consuming integration, which makes it difficult to move OSS applications to the cloud and implement end-to-end automation. The ‘best in breed’ buying model has exacerbated the issue, placing a significant integration tax on the CSP who is faced with multiple applications, running on different platforms with limited opportunity for integration. CSPs are starting to push back against this, asking for modular, componentized, and standards-based systems that can be integrated easily via well-documented APIs, but the adoption rate among the OSS vendor community is varied to say the least.

Rigid software contracts also hinder progress. Business models need to change to become more collaborative and outcome focused. This includes componentization of products and adopting software-as-a-service (SaaS) where it makes sense. OSS is the last bastion of defense for the perpetual software license, but progressive CSPs understand that they won’t get the full flexibility they need using this model. They’re looking for suppliers who can help them transition to new ways of working seamlessly and turn OSS into a competitive advantage and a new foundation for growth.

OSS is the last bastion of defense for the perpetual software license, but progressive CSPs understand that they won’t get the full flexibility they need using this model.

Evolving to cloud-native in the OSS

At Blue Planet, we have listened. We understand that tackling OSS modernization is complex; it’s a journey.

Key in simplifying the path to success is realizing that you don’t have to modernize your entire OSS stack all at once. In fact, many of our customers are reassessing “big bang” approaches to transformation, preferring to tackle specific parts like inventory first. Then with a good platform that provides a foundation for the cloud-native transition, they can take on new projects like end-to-end service orchestration or AI-based assurance, depending on their business needs. We call this a cloud-native platform approach. What does that mean?

As the name suggests, the platform must provide a cloud-native foundation that OSS applications can leverage. In order to be truly cloud-native, it must support multi-cloud environments and be ready to deploy on AWS, Microsoft, and Google, for example. Furthermore, it needs to provide new levels of convergence – offering shared functions across applications such as common data models and reusable microservices. This introduces new efficiencies and avoids the duplication of functions and the replication of network and service data across the OSS, reducing complexity and footprint. Kubernetes has been fundamental in enabling this improved way of designing and deploying OSS.

Leading CSPs are now adopting Agile and DevOps practices in their IT operations and networks to enable continuous integration, delivery, and testing of software and services. They are embracing Kubernetes and hiring resources with new software skills. To make all this work requires prioritizing openness and working with OSS vendors who share this philosophy and can drive faster outcomes via cloud and SaaS implementations.

Architecting software for a DevOps, cloud-native model

More granular modularity of software products is emerging as a critical success factor in OSS modernization and the adoption of DevOps practices. CSPs globally are making a massive investment in their own IT organizations and DevOps personnel, but building tools from the ground up rarely results in a successful, scalable outcome. However, when you combine this in-house capability with a cloud-native software platform and a progressive commercial philosophy, you can begin to look at the specific set of OSS components or functions that would benefit from modernization. But again, this is bigger than technology. Commercially, this allows our CSP customers to disaggregate the costly and complex custom software development model that large OSS vendors and SIs have been driving for the last 20 years. If there is any message we have been hearing loud and clear from customers, this is one of the most important.

AI can help, and we can show you how

AI is going to continue to become more critical to successful OSS modernization. At Blue Planet, we have predicted this for some time, in fact, AI and machine learning have been part of our OSS strategy and products for years.

Unfortunately, the hype cycle of any new technology can be distracting – and not always with practical outcomes. But while many OSS vendors are “AI-washing” everything they do with little value behind it, we like to talk about “pragmatic AIOps” and proving the value of this technology in real-world applications today. For example, Blue Planet’s Intelligent Automation software can help CSPs implement closed-loop automation, which leverages AI to provide a real-time view of what’s happening in the network. This makes it possible to predict network faults or outages based on data trends and to implement policies for optimizing services like 5G slicing.

Change is not just about the technology

It’s important to understand that this transition is not just about technological change. Cloud-native OSS also requires the whole community (CSPs, SIs, and software vendors) to begin transforming their culture and ways of working, which is perhaps the hardest part of OSS modernization.

The single biggest predictor of success we see here is having a corporate mandate – meaning, cultural change starts with the C-suite and a strategy that is communicated clearly to the rest of the company, including individual operating companies. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and focusing on the same goals.

Shaping the future of OSS modernization together

Whether you are starting your journey to cloud-based OSS or looking to benefit from AIOps, the path to OSS modernization is not a solitary one. It's a shared expedition, demanding the collective commitment and collaboration of all stakeholders. At Blue Planet, we are unencumbered by the legacy approaches to OSS – we’ve always looked ahead of the technology curve and done things differently. The result – we understand the challenges and complexities of the OSS modernization journey and are ready to help you take a different path. We are here to be your strategic ally, offering our expertise, flexibility, and a shared vision of success. Together, we can navigate the challenges, leverage the opportunities, and change OSS from being an inhibitor to a competitive advantage in your business. We are confident that those who join us in this journey will play a fundamental part in shaping the future of OSS modernization - together.