It isn’t easy standing out in the crowd in today’s telecom environment. The commoditization of telecom solutions has made it more difficult for communication service providers to demonstrate true value to both potential and existing customers.
With an influx of competition and different players undercutting one another on the service cost front, many in the telecom world feel like they are stuck in a race to the bottom. But cost cutting has its limits, and it certainly isn’t a viable business strategy in and of itself.
To weather the storm and emerge stronger than ever, CSPs need to rethink their approach to service development and delivery. By taking a page out of the playbook of other, forward-thinking industries, telecom service providers can effectively reshape their delivery models and become more agile, scalable and flexible than ever before. The architectural principle that makes much of this possible is microservices.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are microservices?
As things currently stand, many CSPs are beholden to inflexible, legacy systems that prevent them from dynamically scaling up service creation and delivery. In particular, traditional OSS/BSS assets are overwhelmingly transactional, requiring a good deal of manual processing. As such, it’s impossible to provision and deliver new services to users in a timely fashion.
The main idea behind microservices is to break down a large, complex ecosystem, application and/or platform into more manageable chunks organized more around business functions. Microservices operate independently, allowing teams to develop and tweak new solutions without having to worry about the ramifications they may have on the larger system.
Embracing a microservice architecture enables CSPs to accelerate time to market on new services, giving them a considerable competitive advantage. Furthermore, with microservices, it’s far easier to update existing services in alignment with business-functions in order to better meet customer demands.
While microservices may be a relatively new concept in the telecom space, this approach is essential to the proliferation of popular digital services like Uber and Airbnb. By taking inspiration from these innovative companies, CSPs can develop dynamic digital solutions that go well beyond traditional telecom services.
Implementing microservices design principles
Unlike digital innovators like Amazon, CSPs don’t have the luxury of building their architectures from scratch with microservices in mind. They need to revamp their massive, complex environments to support this approach to service delivery. It may seem like a tall order, but the reward is well worth the effort: The best approach is to segment the capabilities of your systems and align them to specific business functions. This allows for a small-company approach where decisions are more self-contained, can be made knowledgeably and quickly.
Properly developed microservices allow for a layer of abstraction between business functions and the systems/modules that support them. According to Gartner, businesses that move to a microservices architecture improve their time-to-market speeds by as much as 75 percent.
The challenge that CSPs will undoubtedly encounter when adopting a microservices architecture is the fact that these design principles fly in the face of traditional telecom operations and software development. There’s a decent chance that stakeholders will run into resistance in certain corners of their organizations, where innovation may not be viewed as worth the cost of making drastic changes to established workflows and protocols.
“The move to microservice architecture will not happen overnight.”
In addition to facilitating a cultural shift that is more receptive to the benefits of microservices architecture, CSPs need to first lay some groundwork to make this approach viable.
As Gartner’s Martina Kurth noted, DevOps practices and pervasive automation should already be adhered to before branching out into microservices design principles, as they will support faster service development and delivery.
CSPs must also plan for their microservices architecture by moving toward a hybrid environment involving both physical and virtual assets. To that end, introducing a Platform-as-a-Service layer can be hugely beneficial, making it far easier to build and launch applications.
The move to a microservice architecture will not happen overnight, and the telecom industry certainly has more work to do than cloud-native businesses. The payoff of embracing microservices design principles is massive, however, opening up new revenue streams and improving service quality and delivery speed.
Change is coming to the telecom industry, and forward-thinking CSPs will lay the foundation for innovation before their competitors have a chance to act.