NSN/Ericsson/Huawei MoU raises serious questions over the need for OSS standardization

The announcement that OSS rivals NSN, Ericsson and Huawei have signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreement to cross-license their respective OSS interfaces to one another raised a few questions as well as a few eyebrows. That these players have decided to trust one another and adopt a simpler way of sharing proprietary interfaces is remarkable enough, but the timing of the announcement, coming as it did less than 24 hours before the opening of this year’s TeleManagement Forum’s flagship event was as surprising as it was, one suspects, deliberate.

At first glance the agreement, dubbed OSSii (Operations Support Systems interoperability initiative), throws into question the whole concept of standardized interfaces in the telecoms software sector. Indeed, comparisons between OSSii’s stated aims of ‘simplifying interoperability between OSS systems in a multi-vendor environment’ and TMF’s Frameworkx or the efforts of the 3GPP, are inescapable.

OSS in particular has never been a sector that was heavy on standards but with CSP’s increasingly insisting on a multi-vendor approach to next-generation IT systems, reduced integration costs and fast roll-out times, true interoperability is being forced on an albeit reluctant sector of the industry. Previously, standards for interoperability were at best slow to develop (for example the time taken to develop the 3GPP Sy interface) and at worst only given lip-service while vendors developed proprietary interfaces and work-arounds of their own.

If the new spirit of friendly and open-mindedness OSSii is trying to engender does gain traction and become the industry norm, doubts over the need for standards bodies of one complexion or another will inevitably grow. For this to happen however, the OSSii is going to need a lot more signatories than the current three. Crucial too will be the range of signatories to the MoU, both in terms of size and portfolio. It will be important that OSSii is not seen simply as a means whereby infrastructure vendors can impose their collective will on the OSS market and while the founders appear to have made the process of joining the MoU as easy as possible, it is likely many vendors will take a ‘wait and see’ approach, for the time being at least.

To finish on an observational note, it could of course be argued that if OSS vendors had trusted each other a bit more five or ten years ago, it would have saved everyone a lot of time, trouble and money, but sadly this industry just doesn’t work that way.

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