When cable operators initially set up high-speed data and voice separate from legacy video services, it seemed like the logical approach. But as has been realized for several years now, the "silo" approach is a real pain for the business support system (BSS) and operations support system (OSS) side of the house.
Often, the extensive databases created for voice, video and data do not talk to each other. (For more background, click here for one integrator’s call last fall to "mov(e) beyond point solutions"; here for an interview last year with then Cox Communications CIO (and now CTO) Scott Hatfield; here for a "Cable OSS Roundtable" from back in 2007; and here for a candid discussion of the "Cable OSS Challenge" as it appeared to one vendor last year.)
The challenge also faces telcos that have layered video and other services onto their own legacy platforms.
"Operators have a lot of data that is unsynchronized and siloed; it’s useless," said Simon Muderack, COO and founder of Tribold, a London-based enterprise software company serving the telecommunications market.
Muderack said: "If I ask an operator, ‘How many products do you have,’ the operator is likely to say: ‘That’s an interesting question. What do you mean by product?’"
Tribold assists operators, such as Australia’s Telstra, by normalizing product definitions across databases. This helps the operator to answer basic business questions such as how many products the company offers, what margins are being generated on each product, and which products have been retired.
While Tribold helps operators get control over their siloed databases, others suggest that the best solution for operators is to choose a single OSS/BSS vendor for all their operations.
Along those lines, it was reported in the trade press at the TM Forum’s Management World conference earlier this month that Verizon uses one vendor, Nakina Systems, as a common element manager to connect its other OSS and BSS vendors.
Suite vendors such as Oracle would rather have operators buy their complete product stack.
"Over the course of the next five years, customers are going to want service on three or four screens," said Arturo Pereyra, director of marketing and business at Oracle Communications. "And they are going to want to be dealing with one account. Those companies still operating with silos are not going to be able to provide that."
Mexico’s Cablevision is using Oracle to transfer its different products onto one common OSS/BSS platform, said Pereyra, who added that the company started with broadband and is slowly migrating wireless and pay-per-view.
Pereyra said: "One of the common things I’m hearing is that (operators) feel their hands are tied by their current BSS/OSS outsource model. It makes that silo situation even more pervasive because if they want to make a change or do wireless service, it’s very painful for them to do that."
He said the "pain" comes from having to request a bid from different vendors for every new feature or upgrade and then endure the long selling cycle before anything can happen. Operators purchase Oracle’s applications and manage them in-house.
"BSS is so critical to a media company," Pereyra said. "It’s the entire knowledge set of your customers and your whole cash register. And in a converged environment, with telcos, cable and ISPs all offering similar services, speed to market becomes really important."
At the TM Forum, Sigma Systems, which provides IP service fulfillment, announced it was committed to helping providers evolve into next-generation operators.
"By moving services out of a silo-based environment and onto a single services platform, the next-generation operator is better positioned to quickly deploy new services, create non-traditional bundles and identify up-sell opportunities," according to Sigma’s announcement.
"If you’re going to enable content applications to be available on different devices, you’ve got to remove those silos," said Preston Gilmer, VP of product marketing at Sigma Systems. "It has to be consolidated and integrated."
– Linda Hardesty
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