DevOps Culture Takes Root in Telecom
December 07, 2015

Tim Pearson
Ciena

As a result of virtualization and the shift to software-defined networking (SDN), a DevOps culture has begun to emerge in the telecom industry that requires network operators to look beyond technology and the network, and embrace a holistic view of product development, business development, operations and planning. Over the past year, service provider executives have not only been discussing this more openly, but also are beginning to take serious steps to support this new mode of operation. Major business decisions, including CenturyLink's move to build a 30,000-square foot cloud development facility in Seattle, underscores this movement.

But, in reality, there is no choice. As cloud providers such as Amazon and Google rapidly innovate new communications services, traditional service providers know change is necessary for survival. A DevOps approach will help them to integrate development and operations to create an interconnected ecosystem that significantly reduces the time required to offer new services versus the traditional model, in which expensive software professional services and large bureaucratic planning processes are required. DevOps will allow operators to quickly adapt their network services to changes in market needs; to improve service quality, and address the diverse and demanding needs of its users.

The era of truly open, software-defined, multi-vendor networks is here. New software has emerged to help service providers automate services – from creation to orchestration to delivery – across both physical and virtual domains. This reduces operational costs, eliminates network complexity and drives greater competitive advantage through a level of service programmability previously unachievable. Below are five technical concepts service providers should consider leveraging that adhere to DevOps principles.

1. Container-based Micro-Services Architecture

Container-based, micro-services architectures allow rapid customization and accelerated development of new applications, including those from third-parties and based on open source components. Vendors can loosely couple software functions within these containers to create and enable SDN management and control, NFV orchestration, and multi-domain service orchestration. The new architecture also enables disaggregation of the software stack, enabling providers to add their own services.

2. Self-Service Programmability

With TOSCA (topology and orchestration specification for cloud applications)-based service templates, providers can equip themselves with DevOps style self-service programmability of resources (physical, virtual, or cross-domain) for creating, deploying, or enhancing services. This reduces professional services fees typically required by OSS or integration vendors.

3. Simple Migration with Legacy Systems

Support for business process model and notation (BPMN) standard can help DevOps teams simplify integration with legacy OSS/BSS systems as well as providers’ ability to create, integrate and operate new services. BPMN reduces network complexity and improves the ability to offer programmable, self-service tools to end-users.

4. Freedom of Choice

Enabling vendor-agnostic domains (e.g. access, metro, core, cloud) to deliver end-to-end service orchestration is key. This enables providers to select and deploy best-of-breed options at each domain without losing operational simplicity and abstraction. It also reduces vendor lock-in and ensures simple, low-cost operations across multi-vendor physical or virtual functions and domains. This allows service provider DevOps teams to be freed from specific constraints so that they can focus on innovation and create service-rich end customer solutions.

5. Openness

For service provider DevOps teams, the ability to support multiple standards and open source code bases (including ONOS, Docker, LINUX, TOSCA, BPMN, Netconf/YANG) is critical to breaking down the software silos that are prevalent in the vendor community. Bringing together SDN, NFV and service orchestration into a unified, open platform enables service providers to leverage these cutting-edge technologies for building virtualized on-demand networks and cloud-based service offerings.

DevOps has transformed the operational models in many industries by bringing together corporate functions to work together to deliver systems faster and with more targeted functionality.  It is important that telecoms operators make a successful transition from a static, individualized approach to innovation they’ve used for decades and embrace the DevOps culture to optimize consumer satisfaction, revenue streams, and cost savings.

Tim Pearson is PLM Director, Applications and APIs at Ciena

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