|Issue:||Asia-Pacific I 1999|
|Topic:||Service Provisioning is a Part of the Telco Business Processes|
|Organisation:||Oy Comptel AB|
The major issue is the complexity of the services. The market?driven telecommunication business environment of today is served by complex services which requie a different level of management. This does not only relate to the Intelligent Network (IN) services but also to ordinary service packages. The backbone of these packages are based on a number of network elements. Even at this stage, most established digital mobile operators have deployed networks withe HLR, as well as Voice Mail Systems, Short Message System Centres, Over-the-Air provisioning systems and Prepayment systems. Many companies in the industry have greatly benefited from these technologies in terms of growth and profability.
IN creates an even more demanding network infrastructure compared to the aforementioned services . IN is a breakthrough in many ways. It moves the service creation and deploying from specific telecommunication platforms to a more open, standard computing environment. Problems resembling those experienced in the world wide computer and software network industry has began to occur as a result of this move, with the difference of having hundreds of thousands, even millions of users instead of a couple of hundred or thousand. There are various ways of managing the provisioning of these sophisticated services. Some operators have just started to consider the automatic provisioning, while others still relyon the proprietary provisioning tools provided by the network element vendors. A third group are still using solutions that were hastily built during the launch of the network. Without a common standard for the interfaces between business processes and the network one is faced with a problem. ?The interface process is not completely unregulated. There are some standards within the the TMN(?)and a few OSI recommendations but but they are primarily concerned with the level of management. Business Processes and the Network Management Standards However, there are reasons to be optimistic. The committees responsible for standardising the technical frameworks one need to manage networks have begun to realise the synergy between the telecommunication, business processes and more common computer technologies. The Network Management Forum (NMF) has stated as one of their objectives of the future TMN program of standardisation to, Recognise the need for automated, business process flow-through. TMN standardisation should be extended into other areas apart from managing network technologies such as connections between networks and services andbetween technology and customers. A more extensive approach is likely to reap commercial benefits to those involved in TMN standardisation work. Crossovers? At the same time, different committees like the TINA?C? have claimed that the telecommunication industry should benefit from the experiences and development of the computer industry, especially from the recent growth of object?oriented technologies and the Internet. One can see why this synergy should be utilised as the contents of a telecommunication network is starting to resemble very much that of an ordinary computer network. Why develop telecommunications specific standards for object management when for instance the widely accepted CORBA architecture could be used instead? If one reflects upon the developments within the industry itself, in areas such as regulation, it becomes apparent that there is a need to open the network management towards more commonly used standards in the computer industry. The all?encasing network operator has now been replaced by a number of other actors such as service providers, content providers, retailers, brokers and connectivity providers. In order to connect these parties one cannot assume that the use of proprietary technologies. Most of the communication between the actors should be automatic and well standardised if the criteria for fair competition are to be met. Object Oriented Approach to Business Processes In the future telecommunications operators will face a number of business complexities some of which will relate to technicalities. The following diagram presents a solution to the manaing the aforementioned by utilising object oriented, component based design principles. The upper part of the picture depicts a simplified view of the basic sales ? delivery ?billing business process of a telecommunications service including the provisioning of the elementary services in the various network elements. The lower part details the corresponding components of the global information system needed in order to fulfil the task. The central idea related to the architecture of the information system is to utilise the socalled best of breed components . When all the components apply the same object?oriented framework, their interconnection is not as difficult a task as one would imagine. The interfaces between various components should follow a normal object?oriented approach: Clients request services from the servers by invoking methods, which work with object data. The Network Provisioning component has been identified as a separate entity due to following reasons: The complexity of the task due to multiple network elements and their interrelationships. For instance, the activation of a service on a network clement may require activation of another service on another element in a specific order. This relationship is not always known at a sales or order processing level. The inherently network management oriented approach required in provisioning as opposed to the more business oriented view in the sales, order processing and billing. The possible difference in timing between the provisioning and other parts of the process. Possible special activities such as service rollback, various lookup requirements for defining default values for missing parameters, error recovery procedures etc. Although the The illustration above does not show the various business parties responsible for the activities, even still it is possible to implement the depicted model to a multiparty environment. The crucial question will be the definition of the relationship between the components. This has become a much more viable task due to the widely accepted OMG/CORBA framework. With this framework, many issues related to a distributed architecture can be solved as CORBA services, for instance security, naming, transaction and concurrency. Implementation status of the model The first question that arises in the mind of the reader is: How and by whom can this kind of system be implemented? The truth is, we are not that far from the target. Companies like Oracle, Sun, HP, IBM, Compaq, Apple, Netscape and others have already adopted CORBA as their standard in the object world. In the telecommunication industry, companies such as Finland?based Comptel have already now started to implement the new waves of network management thinking. Comptel has a ten year long experience with the service provisioning enigma. They have developed a global Service Provisioning Platform, MDS/SAS, as part of the Mediation Device Solutions family of products. The recent development has been concentrated towards opening the system for the multiparty, multi-technology marketplace by utilising object?oriented principles. All the MDS modules are completely based on CORBA architecture which makes it easy to glue them together with various other systems in the highly distributed, all?encompassing business process network. The identification of the business processes is the starting point. What are the global processes in which the network service provisioning is involved? What type of requirements and variations do the new services pose to the provisioning? How does the change in the business environment influence the number and nature of necessary interfaces between various systems and parties? Conclusions Telecommunication industry is on the verge of stepping into another industrial climate. This climate is not any more regulated by so many government restrictions as it used to be. There will be different actors at the stage of the Theatre. Many of these new players may not be established members of the telecommunication society. They may not necessarily want or be able to play with the same rules. Much can be learned also from the software industry. The rapid development of the object?oriented principles, will be a good basis for budding also the future network management systems. The intrusion of the business thinking on the network management standardisation will speed the modular evolution of the information system architecture. Massive, all?encompassing customer care and billing systems can be split into more dedicated, problem?oriented functional objects. The same will happen also in the network management arena. The work done at the OMG is a good starting point.