By Ari Banerjee, senior vice president, strategy, Netcracker Technology
Communications networks are transforming like never before, and to survive, CSPs need the flexibility to accelerate innovation, rapidly bring new services to market and constantly surprise and delight their customers. To achieve this, they need a comprehensive cloud transformation strategy, including for their business support systems (BSS).
Migrating BSS to the cloud is critical if CSPs are to thrive in the future. However, many CSPs are lagging in their plans for cloud migration, stepping hesitantly into the new world and adopting a “bit-by-bit” approach to deploying truly cloud-native BSS.
From Legacy to Modernized
There is no doubt that the major barrier to migrating to the cloud is the inflexibility of legacy networks’ monolithic BSS. Some CSPs started their IT transition to the cloud by taking their legacy BSS/OSS applications and running them as is on virtual machines, so they could get to the cloud quickly. This lift-and-shift approach is bound to be counter-productive, as the real benefits of the cloud can only be achieved with fully cloud-native BSS/OSS applications that have been modernized and redesigned for the cloud.
In today’s networks, BSS capabilities need to be built for the cloud and should be designed to work seamlessly across both telco and public clouds. True BSS in the cloud gives operators the freedom to select the most appropriate BSS applications, including charging systems and campaign management, which gives operators the flexibility to develop an approach to business operations that best suits customers, the network and economic requirements alike.
This scenario is achievable if CSPs utilize a modular microservices architecture that can be leveraged to design the telco cloud configuration that best matches operational needs. Building this architecture to industry standards and using standardized APIs are essential in order to develop BSS applications that behave consistently across multiple cloud hosts.
Container-ready microservices enable product portfolios to be enhanced and expanded, introducing non-telecom services to provide innovative bundles that can be precisely targeted at different vertical markets. A microservices architecture brings the capability for greater differentiation in terms of loyalty-centric, real-time and context-driven services through efficient transaction management.
Microservice architectures create a pathway for continuous functionality upgrades to a cloud-based solution without interruption to existing operations and also provide scalability to address real-time business needs. This translates into extended business agility and reduced operating expenses, allowing CSPs to vastly accelerate time to market for new service offerings. Breaking a software function into microservices and running them in containers provides significant benefits, including:
- Independent deployment, scaling and upgrading of microservices
- Faster release of services and upgrades
- Failure isolation without impacting the rest of the software app
- DevOps processes with continuous integration, testing and deployment
- New SaaS commercial models with evergreen upgrades
Only in the cloud can DevOps practices be implemented, combining software development and IT operations to increase the quality of software while reducing development time. Following continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) methodologies means that code changes can be more reliable and achieved more rapidly. Automation of software management means releasing resources to focus on customer-facing and customer-critical areas such as service continuity and security.
Deploying BSS in the cloud also brings benefits in terms of leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Although legacy BSS systems already perform automated repetitive tasks, any changes to the processes or the data input need to be made with human intervention.
Including AI and ML in the workflow means that activity can be monitored and analyzed in real time, with dynamic adjustments executed in terms of bandwidth or latency requirements. CSPs will have the opportunity to take personalization to unprecedented levels by offering upgrades and offers in near real time. Key to this ability will be the evolution of BSS in the telco cloud that will enable the application of the intelligence provided by AI and ML to monitor and analyze customer behavior in order to drastically enhance customer experience and increase loyalty.
Focus on the Customer
In a market as competitive as today’s communications environment, the capabilities of cloud technologies and 5G networks are putting the spotlight firmly on the customer experience. There is no excuse for CSPs not to leverage this powerful combination, and the cloud transformation of BSS will catalyze huge advancements in the quality of interaction between CSPs and their customers. This is relevant both in the consumer market and in vertical markets, such as retail, healthcare and utilities, where 5G business cases are demonstrating the potential of the technology.
There are arguably limitless opportunities out there for CSPs that fully comprehend the benefits that can be gained from BSS transformation. Migrating BSS to the cloud is a fundamental innovation that CSPs must address, and with a clear plan, it can be a seamless operation.
Netcracker has worked with a number of CSPs around the world to modernize and transform their BSS. Netcracker’s Cloud BSS solution will provide Zain Saudi Arabia with a single platform for transformation and convergence across all payment types and optimize support for B2C and B2B customers. Zain benefits from a lower TCO and accelerated time to market, while its customers will be able to enjoy a premium digital experience.
Vodafone Oman, a newly formed mobile network in the Sultanate, has deployed Netcracker Cloud BSS as the foundation of its BSS2Cloud Initiative, which will give the operator greater automation and speed to differentiate itself from the competition. The operator has benefited from reduced time to market for new services and improved visibility and control of its customer management, onboarding and service delivery.
du selected Netcracker Digital BSS for its digital transformation program. du is migrating from a legacy system to a unified platform to support next-generation services and enhance its customers’ experience. The aim of this transformation is to enable du to grow its business, monetize its 5G investment, improve time to market and expand automation and digital capabilities.
CSPs worldwide have invested heavily in creating 5G networks with low-latency connectivity and accelerated broadband speeds. While every operator is certain that these investments are crucial to their future competitiveness, not all of them have a practical plan for realizing the benefits of 5G. Industry leaders have shifted to BSS and the cloud as crucial areas for developing new revenue streams and leveraging 5G agility.
BSS in the cloud will provide CSPs with a single platform for transformation and convergence across all payment types and optimize support for B2C and B2B customers. With lower TCO, an accelerated time to market for new services and a new capability to provide customers with a premium digital experience, there is no excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity.