Service automation: For customers, the details matter
Service automation is top-of-mind for virtually every network operator I talk to these days. In my role as Sr. Director of Product Management for Blue Planet, I frequently engage with customers on a wide variety of topics, and I’m often asked to dig into specifics about how our products are built, how they function, and how Blue Planet’s approach is different from our competitors, among many other things.
These customers are leading the roll-out of newer on-demand technologies – such as 5G, SD-WAN and edge cloud – and are laser-focused on improving user experience, so service automation is a critical topic. Invariably, they want to cut through the hype and really understand the key details of our Blue Planet Intelligent Automation portfolio. The late Steve Jobs summed up just how important this diligence is: “The details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.”
Just like Steve Jobs, our customers are really thinking through how their decisions on automation software will impact their ability to maximize their technology investments and profitably deploy new services. This decision is key to their business strategy, and their overall transformation journey.
In these discussions, customers often say they’re frustrated that the ‘intense marketing’ associated with certain technology topics makes it more, not less, difficult for them to clearly discern key differences between automation solutions from competing vendors. They cite key topics like Open, Cloud Native, DevOps and Model-Driven Automation, where it seems that every vendor is claiming first or best.
I share their frustration, and I think you do too. So, let me briefly try to cut through the noise and clearly summarize Blue Planet’s capabilities and differentiation regarding these important topics:
Open is certainly one of the most intensely marketed terms in our industry, in part because it means different things to different vendors. For some, it simply means the ability to work with other vendors, and they tout leadership in openness based on the total number of technology alliance partners or onboarded VNFs they have. I disagree with this narrow interpretation. At Blue Planet, open means fully embracing and adopting open standards, open APIs, and open-source software, which collectively eliminates vendor lock-in and ensures interoperability with other products and platforms - whether or not they are a partner.
A significant differentiation point for Blue Planet is that we embrace all three of these open concepts by:
1) providing a fully technology- and vendor-agnostic platform that’s been deployed with customers worldwide, successfully interoperating with all major network hardware and VNF / SD-WAN software vendors
2) our software is aligned with the significant automation standards and reference architectures advanced by the TM Forum, MEF, ETSI NFV & ZSM, ONF, 3GPP and others, with certified support for a wide variety of related open APIs
3) our software incorporates 30+ different software components from open-source projects including ONAP, Cassandra, Kafka, and others, making it a truly open and modular platform that our customers and partners can leverage to create their own purpose-built, best-in-class automation stacks.
Cloud Native is a big discussion point for the growing number of service providers who are following a ‘cloud-first’ strategy by moving their service lifecycle management applications to the cloud. While some legacy OSS vendors claim they are cloud native when they have simply re-hosted their software platforms in a public cloud, this is over-simplistic.
Cloud native is an architectural approach to developing software applications using flexible microservices that can be deployed and upgraded independently, and efficiently packaged in isolated containers, ultimately to leverage the greater scale and flexibility available with the cloud. Blue Planet is different from monolithic legacy OSS software because it is cloud native by design, and as a result, the full Blue Planet portfolio can be flexibly deployed in any private or public cloud environment, or on-prem, without restriction, and with the exact same feature set. Our customers can even consume Blue Planet software as-a-service (SaaS), in a pay-as-you-go model, which lets them avoid server and license costs and liberates them from performing cumbersome software lifecycle management– including updates and upgrades. For more details on this, watch the on-demand webinar: Migrating OSS to the Public Cloud - What Telcos Need to Know.
Cloud native is an architectural approach to developing software applications using flexible microservices that can be deployed and upgraded independently, and efficiently packaged in isolated containers, ultimately to leverage the greater scale and flexibility available with the cloud.
DevOps Programmability builds directly upon the concept of microservices-based software because it allows customers and partners to change and enhance the software themselves, to take control of their own development destiny. Some OSS vendors will offer DevOps capabilities to customers as a customized professional service, but in this case, getting beyond the hype is simple. Unlike legacy monolithic and tightly integrated OSS software that requires expensive vendor-provided feature development and customization, Blue Planet provides customers and system integrators with a DevOps Toolkit and online resources that enable self-service programmability utilizing their own ‘in-house’ personnel and expertise, as well as co-development in an ecosystem model to accelerate service innovation.
Model-Driven Automation is a key component of many operators’ transformation initiatives because it enables their evolution to an “intent-based approach” for dynamically composing and delivering services. While legacy OSS vendors can claim automation features and capabilities, their software is static and inflexible, with no ability to incorporate new and different service models. By contrast Blue Planet gives customers the flexibility to use standard-based service models or purpose-built models, and continuously monitor the resource states of the service models in real-time to ensure that the service intent is always enforced. This approach is well-ahead of anything provided by our competitors and aligns with our customers objectives to move to open, standards-based service lifecycle automation.
I do believe that these are indeed important technology topics for any network operator who is thinking through their automation and transformation strategy. I also know that these are inherently complex subjects that deserve more than buzz and hype – that the details matter – and I look forward to addressing each of these topics, as well as others, in greater detail in the coming weeks through additional blogs and conversations with industry analysts and customers.
To learn more about the Blue Planet portfolio, visit Blue Planet.