Virtualization and BSS Transformation: The Fast Road to Innovation

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third-party contributors to submit analysis on a key topic affecting the telco industry. In this piece Corine Suscens Senior Marketing Manager at Openet examines the advantages of deploying virtualized BSS, which include shorter time to market for new services and enabling a smoother transition to NFV.

A recent survey by Telecoms.com Intelligence (“Operators’ BSS Strategies”) showed that 66% of operators have deployed or are planning to deploy virtualized BSS by 2016. Beyond the cost optimization that virtualization promises, operators are leveraging virtualization concepts to transform their BSS environments in order to innovate more rapidly, drive new revenues and better compete.

Virtualization makes it easier for operators to deploy and manage BSS software through the use of virtual machine images where a single host can be shared by multiple virtual machines. This approach removes the need to create a full new hardware based environment for each service introduction, with its full procure-design-integrate-test-deploy cycle. This simplifies the deployment process, enabling operators to focus on innovating and creating new revenue streams more rapidly, without having to worry about integration, deployment and infrastructure management. Offers can be more efficiently tested and launched on the same infrastructure, without the need to create a separate test environment. The time from test to scale production can therefore be reduced from weeks to hours. Services can also be rapidly scaled up or down as required, allowing targeted services based on geography or customer sets to be introduced more rapidly.

Overall, BSS virtualization accelerates the cycle of innovation and the time to market for new services. As an example, a tier one North American mobile operator is now able to introduce services in days which previously would have taken months without virtualization. As reported in telecoms.com, in Europe, Telefonica has indicated that its UNICA virtualization infrastructure can reduce deployment times from about 4 months to less than 4 days.

Virtualization also makes it easier to test new services with minimum risk as these can be rolled out or rolled back, without committing resources that cannot easily be reused elsewhere. In the above mentioned survey by Telecoms.com, 73.5% of operators said that virtualization enables them to trial new services and business models with minimum disruption. A key advantage being that it’s easy to then go from a small scale trial to full scale production in a virtualized environment. Furthermore, once the initial service is up and running, operators can far more quickly and safely perform in-service, automated upgrades and modifications. The adoption of open standards also removes vendor lock-in, reducing the need for vendor specific skills and simplifying the integration of new components to the existing network.

Besides operational efficiencies, BSS virtualization enables operators to more easily deploy new business models by quickly and securely opening up their BSS, via APIs, to third parties. This can include MVNOs, OTT/content partners, business customers, IoT providers and any other ecosystem provider and partner. This open approach, illustrated in figure 1 below, enables operators to much quicker execute on new business models and take advantage of new verticals.

Whilst many operators are beginning to virtualize their network operations using the network functions virtualization (NFV) initiative launched in October 2012 by thirteen of the world’s leading telecoms network operators under the auspices of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), BSS virtualization is an essential step.

In fact, given that a full end to end NFV may take many years to roll-out, some operators are considering virtualizing BSS first to create more flexible service innovation environments. Operators can adopt a phased approach to virtualizing BSS. Because virtual functions can be built to handle a specific service or target a specific market segment, everything does not need to be ready on day one. For example, an operator can start with a particular application to virtualize, such as Policy and Charging Control (PCC). The deployment can be started at modest scale, for instance as an adjunct deployment to handle a specific business case and then be scaled and/or additional functions can be virtualized as opportunities or needs demand. Areas where the functionality can be isolated such as VoLTE, MVNOs and M2M schemes may be the early deployment choices.

Virtualization and NFV concepts need to be applied to the BSS to accelerate the cycle of innovation and the time to market for new services but also to easily enable new business models. According to Current Analysis, operators are “using virtualization to drive innovative service creation, especially the creation of services and apps that require time to market intervals of only days, even hours. Many operators view NFV as a key ingredient in their OSS/BSS transformation objectives, offering an escape from the legacy 12-24 month service creation cycles that handicap their long-term competitiveness”. Many operators are adopting BSS virtualization and more are expected to follow as its promises are realized.


openet-corine-suscensAbout Corine Suscens

With over 13 years in IT/Telecom marketing, Corine Suscens has been developing leading edge thought leadership content for the industry. During her career, Corine has helped leading companies to explain their technical offerings in order to maximise industry understanding. In her years at Openet, Corine has written several whitepapers tackling key business challenges that operators have been facing. She is currently responsible for thought leadership marketing programs globally. Corine holds a Master of Science in Management from Grenoble Ecole de Management.

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