Mobile & fixed operators have long been looking for ways to decrease their OPEX and CAPEX in their service environment. In recent years, as more and more services were deployed inside the core network, the need to also reduce the complexity of service management has become crucial.
Service Orchestration (SO) is the ability to centrally manage multiple services from various aspects, including:
- Introduction of new services – services are far from being plug-n-play and the service environment needs to be well-defined. However, an SO environment simplifies the integration and configuration of new services as well as provide means to combine them in the general service logic and flows
- Service path selection – the dynamic selection, in run-time, of the services (and their order) that need to be invoked on the specific request or event
- Policy Decision Point (PDP) – a centralized application that defines the possible flows and policies. Flows typically consist of conditions, based on various parameters such as the user profile, context, access network, service specific state, operator policy etc., and may invoke actions (send SMS, insert header, invoke service etc.)
- Policy Enforcement Point (PEP) – PEPs are responsible for enforcing the decisions made by the PDP. Some PEPs may be provides as part of the SO solution while other need to be implemented by various services, such as a Messaging Gateway
- Centralized OSS/BSS interfaces – usually, SO is required to integrate with the operator’s OSS/BSS components and provide other services an API to access the consolidated data. This approach reduces the risk and complexity of having all services integrate with these sensitive systems, and decreases time-to-market for each new service
Some operators refer to this functionality as MSP (Multi-Service Procedure) and such solutions vary in scope and focus depending on the specific operator requirements. One example of such a process comes from the Vodafone group that has issued and MSP RFP more than a year ago. We already see several Vodafone OpCos that follow with their own RFP processes including VF Ireland, VF Czech and more.
One of the new requirements already seen in existing MSP or Service Orchestration processes is the need for mobile-fixed convergence. Some operators already require vendors to provide solutions that work on multiple access networks (mobile internet, mobile broadband, DSL, Wifi etc.).
There are several solutions in the market for handling service orchestration but most of them were designed for IT and enterprise environments and not for telecom services. From my experience, most of the out of the box solutions (e.g., BEA, Oracle) were not designed to support the complex and converged environment of today’s networks.
An interesting company that offers such a service orchestration platform is Unipier with its Intelligent Policy Suite (IPS) product and derivatives.
The IPS is a generic flow engine and PDP that provides code-free definitions of service logic (policies, flows). IPS may be invoked upon an incoming event (e.g., SMS sent, HTTP request etc.) to execute the relevant flows for that event and to instruct the PEP what to do next. The IPS can also invoke actions such as data manipulation, invocation of other services and more.
On top of the generic IPS, Unipier have built several tailored solutions, including Advertising, Promotions & Recommendation, Access Control, and User Privacy.
Another interesting company in this context is Flash Networks with its Harmony platform. Flash Network, which started as a data optimization company has taken a strategic decision to become an MSP player. Flash Networks leverages its deep understanding of service path selection and traffic analysis capabilities to provide an environment for the operator’s services.
I expect more operators to follow these steps as their networks become cluttered and complex and as mobile-fixed convergence gain momentum.Permanent link