Eye on the Money

September 01, 2011

Management of SDP Services - the Long Pole in the Tent

When I began writing this issue’s column, I began with the acronym OSS and quickly scratched it out. Part of the problem is that we think about OSS, which inevitably leads us to technology and constrains our thinking. Rather, I want to discuss the process of managing services that are enabled by SDPs. If we focus on the management processes not on the technology (OSS), we might just do something innovative.

Back in late 2005, TeleManagement Forum (News - Alert) Chairman Keith Willetts and I shared the idea that the very nature of services was changing. Previously services were essentially facilities – voice/tie/DSL lines, etc. In mobile they were shared networks associated with a billing plan and a specific device. These traditional services had certain characteristics:

·         very few existed (handful to dozens);

·         they were primarily mass market ( millions of subscribers each);

·         they generally were administered via CSRs or store employees;

·         they caused activation processes in networks (DSLAMs, HLRs, prepaid systems, etc.);

·         they were not used by third parties; and

·         they were complete services – not components or building blocks.

This lent itself to a few, big, monolithic, expensive, entirely internal, massively scalable management processes, exhaustively tested.  Traditional mass production.

The nature of our business is changing. To some it’s not as obvious for the simple reason that telcos are currently losing out on much next-generation services revenue to over-the-top companies like Facebook, Google (News - Alert), Microsoft, Amazon, etc. But the business is changing.

Tomorrow’s service environment will be different. Everyone will have an IP connection or two, fixed and/or mobile, and once established the management of that connection is fixed for a long period. The services will be activated virtually, via configuration settings in servers. No additional facility changes will be required, although application-specific bandwidth and/or QoS settings may become commonplace. Those services may be created entirely within the CSP (News - Alert); via a third-party relationship; or in a hybrid mode in which various components on the public and private clouds are stitched together in what the web community calls a mashup. This environment includes:

·         a huge number of services (thousands to millions);

·         targets micro-segments of the market, with fewer subscribers;

·         typically involves self-service for sign-up, etc.;

·         does not require network configuration changes (instead, new behavior will have to adjust bandwidth dynamically, based upon the needs of different applications – via PCRF);

·         multi-party mash-ups, many of which will be components of the end application – not an entire application unto themselves; and

·         accessiblity by third parties – charge to bill; QoS/bandwidth APIs, etc.

As you can see, the characteristics are very different; consequently, we can assume that the characteristics of their management processes will be too. The biggest difference I see is that software-enabled services will be simpler, but there will be many more of them. Furthermore, the web model is one of experimentation – a Darwinian environment trialing services, and, if they succeed, they scale.

But many don’t succeed. We need economics that work to create 100,000 services and most fail, but a few scale. Under these circumstances it can’t take 18 months and millions of dollars to generate management support – it must be a small fraction of the service cost and be available on Internet time.

The process requires faster, cheaper development of management support. It must allow management support to be built up out of component services, pretty much like service composition itself.

Over time, the TM Forum (News - Alert) effort we started came to similar conclusions, and recently issued them as TMF-061. TMF-061 distinguishes two interfaces for each service – the functional one that does something like deliver a video, and the management one that allows you to perform, well, FCAPS. Ultimately, TMF-061 will encompass configuration (fulfillment), assurance, accounting (usage, rating, charging), assurance, and lifecycle management, so that services can not only operate, but be comprehensively managed. Good.

This process looks very similar to the one needed if CSPs are to offer wholesale interfaces to channel partners and to each other – enabling the assembling of global networks from components and other carrier-carrier business relationships. Within Telcordia (News - Alert) we call this the service factory. What’s fascinating is that they are so conceptually similar.

When independent thinking begins to converge, the idea is worth watching. The concept of component assembly of services and management functions is worth taking seriously. It helps us in re-use, agility, reduced maintenance, and reducing costs. It makes extensions and permutations faster and easier.

So what’s not to like? Progress may be uncomfortable, but it takes us forward. Let’s embrace it.

Grant F. Lenahan is vice president and strategist for service delivery solutions at Telcordia Technologies (

TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Rich Tehrani,
Since 1982 Rich has led TMC© in many capacities. Rich Tehrani is an IP Communications industry expert, visionary, author and columnist. He founded INTERNET TELEPHONY® magazine...Read More >>>
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Paula Bernier,
CTO & Executive Technology Editor
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