The increased adoption of smart mobile devices since the early 2000s created an explosion in the demand for data and value-added services. Telco service providers found themselves in a constant race to satisfy KPI baseline values under increasing pressures from dwindling margins and prevalent business models in highly-penetrated market. Rapidly evolving consumer and business requirements and the need to develop and deliver cost-effective quality services overwhelmed the imperative to make long-term investments with calculated risks.

In order to tackle these demands, and under the pressure of new economic models, innovation and the introduction of new technical and business use-cases should only be done through incremental changes coming from disparate parts of the network, where investments are dynamically managed and corrected. Network virtualization, automation, management and orchestration are key areas where incremental growth can be applied, and where long-term results will be observed.

The introduction of software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) technologies into the network constitutes one of the first ventures that operators are engaging in to disaggregate software from hardware. Benefits ranging from decreased Capex and Opex, to increased business agility, and reduction of vendor lock-in have been put forward. Vendors are growing products and service offerings, where the more established players tend to virtualize their existing network functions on top of general-purpose hardware, while new entrants take a chance at challenging the hegemony by building cloud- and software- native network functions.

Regardless of the approach, accounts of initial trials and implementations are showing technical, operational and organizational challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, integration of multi-vendor solutions on top of a single hardware platform requires intimate knowledge of the individual capabilities well beyond the promise of advertised plug-and-play. Service providers are also finding a need to acquire DevOps skills while adopting agile methodologies and revamping exiting processes to accelerate delivery and improve quality. Operators succeeding with their NFV implementation are focusing on data normalization and service abstraction models, while automating processes for control, orchestration and management of virtual network functions.

It is evident that the adoption of new service delivery models is incremental in nature as it embraces a continuous development and integration lifecycle. Implemented solutions must cater to specific operators’ needs, where a “one solution fit all” model is unlikely to succeed; operators need to develop and maintain their own systems based on internal processes and services.

For as long as network virtualization remains in the realm of technology implementations, early adopters are not likely to improve operation or increase the ROI of existing infrastructures. Achieving substantial impact requires operators to establish a holistic view of their extended network and develop service offerings that cater to their specific needs, while taking into account long term infrastructure investments that have already been made. Furthermore, operators can optimize service delivery and infrastructure utilization by deploying tools that streamline configuration management audit and remediation. Such tools can provide early detection of configuration errors, reduce down-time, and ensure uniform performance across the network.

SAUGO360, a pioneer in technology development in the Middle East, is working on simplifying service provider network problems by developing solutions that respond to the specific network operational needs. The work encompasses the development of SDN specific modules and network configuration, audit, and remediation tools, as well as developing business solutions for web, mobile, AR, data analytics and AI. SAUGO’s Elastic services Configurator was recently awarded the Most Innovative Solution Award at the 2018 edition of Telecom Review, developing the Configurator for TELUS’ specific needs.