The TM Forum NaaS framework decouples network and OSS to enable dual-speed digital transformation
The TM Forum-proposed Network-as-a-service (NaaS) framework is designed to help communication service providers (CSPs) accelerate digital transformation and enhance service agility by decoupling the Operational Support Systems (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS) from the underlying networks. This framework leverages model-driven abstraction and open APIs to expose all network capabilities and resources – virtual and physical – into a service catalogue so that CSPs can compose services dynamically and automate service lifecycle management.
Another concept of NaaS has emerged, which is a business model that is similar to the popular Software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, where CSPs expose network services to offer enterprise business services and put the end-customer in control of when, what, and how much of those services they want to consume using digital channels such as self-service portals. However, these seemingly different concepts of NaaS are aligned and complimentary. By simplifying and standardizing communications between the OSS/BSS and the network, they will bolster CSPs’ ability to make on-demand services like 5G network slicing a success.
Anil Rao is the Research Director and Lead Analyst for network and service automation research at Analysys Mason, covering a broad range of topics on the existing and new-age operational systems that will power operators’ digital transformations.
His main areas of focus include automation of service creation, provisioning and service operations in NFV/SDN-based networks, 5G, IoT and edge clouds; the use of analytics, ML and AI to increase operations efficiency and agility; and the broader imperatives around operations automation and zero touch networks.
Proprietary integration between OSS/BSS and network create hurdles for digital transformation and service agility
Due to a lack of common standards, CSPs have long used proprietary interfaces to integrate OSS/BSS components tightly with the underlying network, allowing them to launch individual product offers. While this approach provides short term benefits such as time to revenue, it also creates some serious and expensive long-term problems. CSPs need an army of internal and external staff to manage the massive sprawl of integrations, leading to ever-increasing software integration and maintenance costs.
Another resulting side effect of this approach is the over-reliance on inefficient manual intervention for routine service design, activation, and assurance activities. Each integration effort is tactical and product-focused, and even when automation is part of the solution, it is inherently limited, and in many cases, impractical to implement. Network engineering and operations departments develop manual processes to work around these limitations, which ultimately become standard operating procedures, and over time tribal knowledge makes it very resistant to change.
These are some of the biggest hurdles facing CSPs as they seek to increase service agility and accelerate digital transformation in order to:
- simplify and transform the OSS to support new business models such as NaaS,
- reduce time to market for 5G services,
- evolve to lean operations to reduce opex,
- enable network disaggregation and transformation to virtual and software defined networks.
The TM Forum NaaS framework decouples the network from the OSS
The NaaS framework enables CSPs to overcome the challenges of their legacy spaghetti integration architecture by decoupling the network from their OSS/BSS. This is achieved through the introduction of an abstraction layer which masks the complexity of the underlying physical and virtual networks and uses open standard northbound APIs to communicate with the higher layer OSS, and open standard southbound APIs to communicate with controllers in the lower layer network domains. The NaaS framework also supports open APIs and industry standards for ease of integration and consistent communication between the CSP, their customers and partners.
This open approach enables CSPs to adopt a dual-speed digital transformation strategy for the network and OSS.
- Network transformation: strategic network transformation initiatives such as network disaggregation, scaling of software defined networking (SDN), cloudification and automation have slowed because they cannot progress without making significant changes to the OSS at the same time. This is because of the tight coupling of the OSS and the network, and the existing proprietary integrations that have been introduced over the years as vendor-specific NMSs, device-type-specific EMSs and domain-specific interfaces that use a plethora of integration technologies such as CORBA, SNMP, MTOSI, XML, FTP, REST and even CLI. The NaaS abstraction layer masks this complexity by replacing these integration technologies with modern approaches such as YANG for the southbound interfaces into the network devices and ONF and IETF based northbound APIs for integration with the OSS. This allows CSPs to execute on the network transformation strategy at a suitable pace without directly impacting the OSS.
- OSS transformation: modern automated OSS will be critical for the success of CSPs in the 5G era. Capabilities such as self-service order management and service orchestration, real time inventory and end-to-end service lifecycle automation will be needed to deliver a digital service and customer experience to enterprises and support new on-demand services such network slicing, as well as new NaaS-based business models. The NaaS abstraction layer enables CSPs to modernise the OSS with the confidence that the OSS only has to align with the southbound interfaces mandated by the NaaS layer, such as the ONF T-API. Additionally, the NaaS layer provides the service exposure capability to empower CSPs to offer on-demand enterprise business services as part of their NaaS business strategy.
Telefonica’s iFUSION deployment aligns with the NaaS framework
Telefónica Germany has implemented a hierarchical SDN controller architecture for its partially disaggregated optical network, which includes decoupled open terminals (OTs) and an open line system (OLS). It has deployed Blue Planet’s NaaS-compliant MDSO as the software defined transport network (SDTN) controller in order to manage connectivity services delivered across the company’s multi-vendor optical network.
Learn more about this deployment in the Analysys Mason Case Study:
Telefónica Germany is partnering with Blue Planet to execute its iFUSION transport SDN strategy
The TM Forum NaaS framework supports model-driven abstraction and open APIs allowing CSPs to automate the service lifecycle management and lets enterprise customers control those services. Furthermore, this simple, standards-based approach to operations provides the basis for CSPs to accelerate digital transformation and support the adoption of 5G technologies and services.