For today’s communications service providers, the network revolution is here.

Personalized on-demand services are now expected from an increasingly demanding customer base, traffic volumes are increasing as new services consume larger quantities of bandwidth, and competitive pressures are hitting from all sides of the industry.

If you are triple or quad play provider today, the migration to next generation services means finding the appropriate balance between investments that improve the digital experience, but don’t break the bank.  It also means a renewed focus on maximizing market power through service diversity, the ability to bundle the right services to the right customer at the right time.

SDN/NFV technologies are now becoming mainstream, as most large operators are well underway in their network virtualization strategies. Investment is one thing, but commercializing and monetizing are the next two critical steps to delivering on the promise of both operational efficiency and increased revenue from service diversification. Network and service virtualization have become more than concepts; they are business imperatives that necessitate effective transformation methods, proven technology and solutions that are ready for the rigors of a dynamic marketplace.

Paul Hughes
Director of Strategy, Netcracker Technology

Is it a simple and easy process? Hardly. Service providers who are in the process of virtualizing today are oftentimes still struggling to roll out virtualization at scale, and many believe that technology shortcomings, lack of operationalization skills, lack of integration and business-case challenges are still major barriers to commercializing SDN and NFV. Generally speaking, the technologies within traditional physical networks are not yielding optimal results for service providers when it comes to managing hybrid networks.

While there have been many trials and proofs of concept that focus on upgrading networks with the help of virtualization, few have focused on how to deploy these technologies at scale or how to use them to generate revenue. Barriers to virtualization often stem from legacy systems, outdated processes or misaligned organizational structures that do not support software-based networks and services.

Take a look inside a typical service provider and you’ll see an organization that is designed around managing existing technologies and processes. The transformation to SDN/NFV requires an organizational transformation as part of the long-term roadmap to repurpose or retrain the appropriate people to engage in what will likely be a significant transformation of both technology understanding and new responsibilities.

Service providers must realize that SDN and NFV won’t have a realistic impact on their businesses until their infrastructure can support on-demand services and hybrid networks. This requires the eventual changes to their business at a foundational level. In order to reap the full benefits of SDN and NFV, services providers need to move forward with five critical projects as part of their network and service transformation and all involve working with partners to achieve success.

  1.  Enable simple VNF onboarding and license management.

    Service providers need an app-store approach to SDN and NFV that makes onboarding virtual network functions (VNFs) as easy as downloading and installing an app. With VNF’s likely coming from third party partners, creating an environment that allows partners easier access, and carriers easy usage makes the delivery easier and the monetization of the services fall in to place more seamlessly. In this case, greater efficiency up front means faster time to revenue.

  2.  Implement a comprehensive partner management program.

    SDN/NFV success will come from a much partner driven ideology that embraces third party technologies for the benefit of the customer. The good news is that most service providers already work with a plethora of partners in the traditional sense. However, the dynamic nature of SDN/NFV means each partner relationship is also as dynamic, thus creating relationships that will benefit from automated, efficient onboarding, agreement management and reliability tracking capabilities.

  3. Deploy self-service and cloud-ready marketplaces.

    Ease of access to new services is a plain and simple way to increase exposure to new services. As such, service providers need to be able to publish services in digital marketplaces that allow customers to order those services easily.

  4. Enable real-time transaction management.

    Service providers must be able to monetize virtualized offerings without having to overhaul their business systems. Service provider BSS systems have always been the backbone of revenue management and collection, and as such, these systems must be able to support real time rating and charging, with enough flexibility that ensures that complex pricing/charging doesn’t become the primary bottleneck to service profitability.

  5.  Use a virtualization-ready and dynamic catalog.

    Digital services bundle underlying resources from both physical and virtual network functions, and many of those functions, sourced via partners, will have a dynamic nature to them, as the services evolve and mature. A service provider's service catalog must be able to handle any type of network function and be flexible enough to be updated and changed in real time. This creates a need for a dynamic catalog that alleviates any issues around delays in offering specific bundled services, bundle pricing variations, as well as provider and partner-based service changes.

Essential Guidance

In the end, success in SDN/NFV will be about delivery and how service providers give customers the products that they want. In today's competitive environment, taking too long to deliver a service may mean that the customer simply goes to a competitor that works faster. If service providers are to remain relevant and keep their customers happy, they need to leverage their partners and establish collaborative environments that support faster service creation and delivery. By reducing the time it takes to bring a service to market to a matter of weeks, rather than months, service providers will find themselves much more capable of meeting customer expectations, and service provider will reap the profits in a much more timely fashion.

Paul Hughes has over 20 years of telecom industry experience and as director of strategy is responsible for all aspects of Netcracker's strategic initiatives across BSS/OSS, customer experience and cable specific business lines. Before joining Netcracker, Paul was program director for IDC's Storage and Data Management Services practice, where he provided research, consulting and marketing support to communications, media and cloud service providers in the areas of digital transformation, customer experience, business requirements for new revenue models and new product strategy and development.