Telecoms Case Study
The organisation for Operational Integration Standards (OIS)

Operational Management in the era of SDN & NFV

Traditional Network Management
The answer to the question of how to manage SDN (Software Defined Networks) and NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) starts with  the question 'How do you manage any network, or technology?' 

Operations Systems for telecoms have been a vital part of the Communications Service Provider business since the advent of digital technology in the network, but achieving the necessary levels of integration and automation continue to prove challenging and expensive. Today we have 'vertical' integration of management systems to support operations such as Network Planning, Service Provisioning, Fault and Performance Management and Billing. The vertical reach connects customer to network through layers. The illustration is a gross simplification of the management situation in any major network service operator

Systems are Typically added as new technologies and services have emerged. Each is a hand crafted, custom solution to fit the individual way each operator works, even though the systems carry out essentially the same functions in every operator. Not many systems have regular features and footprints

Virtualised Network Management
SDN and NFV makes the management challenges even more demanding
  • In addition to the traditional vertical integration, 'horizontal' integration is required between management operations, so as to directly link capacity management, service configuration and performance (traffic)
  • A new suite of software systems are introduced to implement the network features and the virtualisation 
  • These new systems must be integrated
  • The solutions must continue to work with existing networks
This represents a step-wise increase in complexity for an already complex environment

The existing paradigm for system integration will not deliver the level of integration required for SDN/NFV

The industry is developing standards, particularly from ONF (Open Network Foundation) and ETSI. Both organisations are collaborating for SDN/NFV. From the perspective of the Service Provider, these standards are restricted to the northbound interface and within the traditional footprint of the device vendor. They do not address the challenges of higher layer management integration

The solution is to Specify and Integrate Standard Components
In short to industrialise Service Provider Management 
In the way network devices have industrialised

The Standard InterOperations Solution

Using OIS methodology Standard InterOperations enables any operator or vendor 
  • to model the essential, unavoidable management operations
  • to converge them with models from their colleagues in the sector
  • to map device level control/responses to the operations

Standard InterOperations promotes and mentors use of OIS in subsequent projects. 
It maintains these models in the Telecoms OIS library and makes them available to all members to contribute and to use

The challenge is two-fold
  • Understanding the essential, inevitable operations and performing them, repeatedly in the best way
  • Automating those operations through device commands directly into network device
The answer is also two-fold
  • Capture the know-how of key subject operations experts and turn it into a converged specifications for operational automation
  • Use the the specifications to standardise and automate management operations

"Traditional network management techniques don't work with software-defined networking. Automation of management best practices is critical for SDN to succeed" SDN Management: Risks And Challenges Cengiz Alaettinoglu CTO Packet Design, in InformationWeek NetworkComputing 2/6/2014
As far as standardisation goes, this is neither:
  • lagging standards - typical of traditional network management standards
  • presumptive standards, forcing commitment while the technology and its management is still developing
It is simply gathering universally required management operations and refining them into standards based on best practice

Standard InterOperations


NFV gives the ability to flex the computing capacity available to each function based on service demand

Network Function Virtualisation has potential CapEx and OpEx benefits by using fewer, less costly and general purpose computing platforms, instead of specialist devices Network functions such as Firewall, Routing, Load Balancing and so on, are deployed and managed as software. However, the actual business benefit is complex to determine and will depend on 
  • actual cost of software funtions
  • performance of software systems compared to dedicated hardware
  • headcount reduction
If these factors are controlled then the flexibility of NFV solutions is new and powerful
NFV Management

The value of NFV can only be realised if it can be managed automatically

Human operators would not be fast enough to respond to fluctuating traffic patterns, even if the effort could be afforded. Today, physical devices are managed by specialist operators with deep experience in the functions they manage. Simply replicating this operational model with NFV will significantly undermine its value. What is required is automation of real-world operational activities and hence the ability to use fewer, more generally skilled operators

The Role of OIS

OIS models the know-how of operational experts at different operational layers
  • Managing specialist network devices
    • Routers, Switches, Firewalls,…
  • OIS Contracts form a library of management operations for specialist network device functions
  • Operational activities for traditional communications Service Providers operations; device, network and Service
    • Commissioning, Providing Services, Monitoring,
    • Configure Firewall for VPN service
    • Monitor Load on Network Function 
    • Modify Processing Capacity of Network Function
  • This is also necessary for SDN
  • OIS Contracts form a library of repeatable network and service operations
OIS reduces the cost of operational effort 
and the cost, risk and delay of re-inventing these common operations in custom software 
by standardising these specialist operations

Converged across sector, OIS Contract libraries stop human experts being a constraint on automation

Standard InterOperations

SDN - Software Defined Networks

SDN gives the ability to flex payload capacity in a network based on service demand

SDN is about additional management capability, rather than any new network technology. The proposition is to
  • redistribute network capacity according to demand 
  • to do so in near real-time, not at Provider service provisioning time-scales
The challenge of SDN is the level of integration and automation that is required in monitoring traffic and re-configuring the network services. Rather than being in different operational departments, with SDN these need to be, effectively in the same software management system 
SDN Automation
Example Operations
  • Monitor Traffic between Service Access Points (SAP)
  • Monitor Network Service Performance on Port
  • Rearrange Network Service Path Between Access Points
  • Reconfigure Network Service on NE
  • Reconfigure Capacity of Network Service Path Between Access Points

When combined with NFV, SDN gives the operator the ability to flex both payload capacity and network functions to meet fluctuating service demands
The result is a network that can operate at higher utilisation, while meeting Service Level Agreements and so defer CapEx. However the required level of automation has never been achieved in the telecommunications sector. The core challenge is that the systems have had to be customised to support the particular processes found in each organisation and even in each operating unit. This must change to enable SDN & NFV

OIS enables operations to be converged 
Converged operations enable off-the-shelf management automation products
Only this will ensure low risk, cost-justified integrations
essential for SDN

Standard InterOperations

The Northbound Interface

The northbound interface connects vendor devices to the management systems of network operators, but it is made difficult and time consuming by a divide
On the one hand, Operator management systems are customised for processes that have evolved over decades and are often specific to each operating division in each Operator
   On the other hand device control interfaces are Vendor specific and often different for each family of devices in each Vendor

This leaves a big gap between two groups of custom systems that must be bridged so that integrations can be built and tested. The integrations may only take a few million dollars to resolve, but it can delay a multi-billion dollar network deployment by 9 - 12 months and prove a constant maintenance cost as both sides make version changes
The Operator has a delay to market and the Vendor's sale is delayed

Any organisation using SDN, or NFV will have this challenge. It is no longer a problem for large network operators, who are already dependent on management systems

Interface Perspectives

Operator Operations

Operators perform management operations, supported, or fully automated in Operations Systems (OS). These systems are customised for the Operator, so the interfaces are also non-standard

However, to a very large extent these system perform the same duties for every operator
  • Mange multi-vendor networks
  • Plan future capacity demand and deploy/commission new network devices
  • Design, configure and maintain network services (to create network structure - it is this that SDN acts on)
  • Design configure and maintain consumer services
  • Reconfigure and rearrange services as required
Unnecessary variation adds cost, risk, delay to market and reduced features
OIS resolves this challenge by providing a bridge between the language of the Vendor commands and the real-world management operations

Northbound Interface

OIS gives responsibility to the correct party to complete the specification of the OIS Contract

Operators use OIS to converge on a set of core management operations for Networks, SDNs, Devices & NFV
Using the language and granularity of operations such as:
  • Monitor Traffic between Service Access Points] (SAP)
  • Reconfigure Capacity of Network Service Path between Access Points
  • Increase Processing Capacity of Firewall
Operators also use OIS to specify operationally meaningful responses

Vendors use OIS to encapsulate their control interfaces within operational activities
  • Vendors specify the device control commands required to perform the operations
    • Using vendor specific commands and the various transport and management protocols that exist
  • Vendors translate their error codes to meaningful operational responses
This mapping of control commands/responses to standard operations is a one-off activity for each Vendor device family

For both Operator and Vendor manageability no longer has to be established afresh for each purchase decision, or each deployment project

OIS standardises common operations
This is the correct level of granularity for an operator
Re-usability focuses on enduring operations, not ever-changing device interfaces