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For communications service providers (CSPs) that are evolving their networks to the telco cloud and transforming their business to become digital service providers (DSPs) MYCOM OSI provides assurance and analytics solutions, and has recently been selected to assure the world's first telco cloud, said Mounir Ladki, president and CTO of MYCOM OSI, speaking to Telecom Review. Mr. Ladki explained how MYCOM OSI is the ideal partner to help transform CSPs into DSPs.

How would you describe MYCOM OSI's solutions and services?
By providing assurance for the world's first telco cloud, we are certainly at the cutting-edge of innovation, but this is really built on 20 years of deep telecom experience, research and development. We have more than 70 Tier 1 CSPs and 8 out of 10 of the global CSP groups as customers of our assurance solutions, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Globe, Safaricom, Sprint, STC, Telefonica, Telenor, T-Mobile, Verizon and Vodafone. Our solutions manage more than one billion subscribers around the world and in some cases, such as Vodafone India, over 200 million in a single solution. Our flagship customers in the Middle East are STC and Etisalat.

Essentially, our solution, called Experience Assurance and Analytics (EAA), provides integrated assurance, automation and analytics solutions for CSPs, simplifying their service assurance ecosystem, which involves maintaining the network QoS/QoE at peak performance, managing network events in real-time, delivering value added network analytics and offering digital service quality management. As per Gartner, CSPs will derive up to 20% of their revenue from digital services and adjacent market opportunities by end of 2017. We will be supporting the CSP in achieving these targets by managing and orchestrating the performance of the digital services as they are rolled out.

We are also helping these operators to build operations centers that are predictive, analytics-driven and highly automated to help them achieve agility and massive opex savings. We believe our solutions can enable order of magnitude efficiency gains for telcos.

Through use of integrated assurance and analytics, CSPs can now monetize their network and its services better, especially as they offer the connectivity of their networks to industry verticals for IoT. With intelligent analytics based on machine learning, we also help operators monetize their investments in big data. Indications from market analysts such as Gartner are that revenue associated for IoT solutions will grow to USD 32 billion by 2020, and we are confident in supporting CSPs achieve such revenue targets.

Also, large-scale big data analytics is becoming the cornerstone for CSP internal and external monetization strategies. Through intelligent integration and our advanced analytics, we ingest raw data and inject “smart data” into big data lakes and big data hubs. These smart insights drive both operational efficiencies as well as data monetization.

I must emphasize that our extensive telecom experience is key to the success of our transformation projects because CSP environments can be complex, custom and challenging. As cloud-native technologies are being imported into telecom ecosystems, we are helping our customers implement practical and measured transformation steps to consolidate their existing investments and proactively migrate with low risk within comfortable timescales.

We also owe our success to being independent and multiple-vendor-capable, within a single open system. This single pane view allows CSPs an unbiased insight into their network and service performance across a horde of technologies, domains and vendor equipment. With the advent of virtualized networks and telco cloud scenarios, resulting hybrid networks will be supported by independent systems like ours, for many years to come.

All the above and our continued focus on agile R&D effort has earned us an innovation leadership position that has been recognized many times over by the industry through many awards and commendations, including a recent Frost and Sullivan/Stratecast 'Service Assurance Strategy Leadership' award.

Can you provide some background about your position, your experience in the industry and MYCOM OSI's objective for the Middle East?
I have a dual degree in communications engineering and business. Starting in telecoms during the boom of mobile communications in the 1990s, I worked in engineering, marketing and R&D initially. I worked with multi-national companies like Matra and Nortel and extensively in Asia Pacific, Europe and the USA, where I helped operators to set up their mobile networks for the first time. At Nortel, I set up the advanced solutions group where we launched major innovations in the market such as micro-cellular networks and fractional patterns. From there I went on to help set up and start the software business of MYCOM OSI and ever since I have been in charge of taking the business to the next level.

On our objectives for the Middle East, we aim to be the provider of choice for CSPs who are transforming to become digital services providers. Many CSPs in the region are world leaders in digital transformation and need to ensure the quality of their digital services and experiences and the performance and efficiency of highly complex networks.  A Tier-1 Middle East operator, who is fast becoming a global digital leader, has recently chosen us for managing and monetizing the quality of its fixed and mobile digital services that include IPTV, VoLTE and IM.

What are the main trends you are seeing in the industry and how is MYCOM OSI addressing these?
CSPs fundamentally want to create new revenue streams by offering digital services. To do that, they need to transform their network and operations to the telco cloud so as to deliver the required agility, scalability and cost benefits. This entails virtualizing large parts of their infrastructure, automating their operations, implementing architectures like NFV (network function virtualization) and SDN (software defined networking), deploying on cloud infrastructures and using agile cloud operations and management processes.

It also means that operations are transforming from the largely manual and reactive operations of today to real-time, fully automated systems using intelligent predictive analytics across integrated network, service and customer data to anticipate problems and identify opportunities.

We recognized these trends several years ago and embarked on developing EAA that pre-integrates our assurance products (service quality management, performance management and fault management) and embeds automation and analytics. We also set about re-developing the core platform underpinned by cloud-native technologies: micro-services, containers, big data architectures, open APIs and open source components.

However, several significant issues need to be carefully considered by CSPs as they plan their digital transformation and telco cloud deployments.

First, this transformation will not happen as a 'big bang' but will be executed as a step-by-step journey. Over the next ten years, networks will continue to be hybrid: partly physical and partly virtualized. For this reason, it is important to have a single assurance solution that correlates and manages both the virtualized /telco cloud part of the network and the traditional physical part.

Second, while virtualized networks might include their own management and orchestration capabilities, however, only a higher level assurance system has visibility of the entire hybrid network and takes network/service quality decisions using network-wide correlations, policies and closed loop automation. As an example, MYCOM OSI's cloud-native platform acts as the central 'brain' that commands and controls the automated orchestration of the hybrid network. All of the scaling requests and reconfiguration of the networks, etc., are decided at this level.

Thirdly, keeping track of the configuration and topology of the hybrid network will be very challenging due to its real-time and dynamic nature. Advanced hybrid network and service models need to be continuously fed by automated real-time discovery of all the changes in the network.

Finally, although CSPs will deploy big data and machine-learning/AI capabilities to drive predictive analytics, deep telecom expertise is still required to seed the systems with the optimal algorithms and network characterizations for end to end predictions and sending commands to the virtualized and physical orchestrators. As a step in this direction, we have helped a Tier-1 European CSP to use our analytics to identify revenue generating locations, handset capabilities, customer behavior, video traffic consumption, etc. to optimize network investments and maximize business from directed marketing campaigns.

Do you see OSS-based automation helping CSPs achieve higher efficiencies or improved quality of service?
Automation of operations centers is key to achieving the benefits of the telco cloud. CTOs of major operators today have a vision of 'zero touch operation center' which expects the entire process of monitoring, analyzing and remediation to be conducted automatically, without human intervention.

MYCOM OSI are involved with TM Forum's ZOOM (zero operation orchestration and maintenance) initiative that aims at defining the framework and the architecture to achieve this vision of 'zero touch'.

Our solution offers high NOC and SOC process automation, which means it can save massive amounts of opex for operators. Initial savings for operators are typically estimated at 30-50 percent.

Automation also plays an important role in reducing capex. With a combination of automation and analytics, CSPs can be guided to make optimal investments in order to get the highest return on investment. We have developed specific capabilities that automatically identify the areas where CSPs need to invest in capacity based on subscriber consumption, type of subscribers and the return potential of subscribers.

Through such optimized investments, productivity achievements and agile operational benefits, we aim to add to the overall profitability of the CSPs.

Do you often encounter resistance from companies who at first are willing to go through digital transformation but then get cold feet when they realize how much is involved?
Although the end state of digital transformation and a telco cloud is compelling, operators are rightly concerned about how to get there whilst leveraging their existing investment in technologies, processes and people. Implementing new architectures and technologies that require new investments and skills is also a mammoth task. To address this, we have developed a seven step transformation process to leverage the CSPs existing assets and to ensure further investment is future-proofed. Each step has a separate business case and uses an agile DevOps implementation methodology so that changes are introduced in short cycles, with customer feedback. 

Digital transformation involves automation which can be construed by the CSP as losing control over their network. To address this, we offer semi-closed loop automation where the CSP can validate the actions that the automation system has recommended. In addition, all our automation algorithms are open and programmable offering logging and audits, so that the operator can view the algorithms as they are being executed in the network.

Can you share some recent examples of MYCOM OSI's success in empowering communications service providers (CSPs)?
MYCOM OSI is playing a key role in enabling the transformation of many of our customers globally, which include Tier 1 CSPs such as Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, STC, Telefonica, Telenor, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. We will soon announce a major contract to assure the world's first telco cloud where we are providing assurance of a core network running on cloud-native infrastructure with NFV and SDN. We are also extending our footprint in traditional physical environments to consolidate discrete OSS systems and incorporate management of virtualized networks to provide full end-to-end assurance of hybrid networks.

We also continue to enjoy success with our traditional telecom network solutions. For example, at Vodafone India we have helped to put in place their highly automated next-generation service and network operation center. With this, Vodafone has achieved 30 percent increase in total network equality index in key 3G regions, 20 percent gain in operational efficiency plus productivity, and also a 46 percent reduction in data customer complaints year on year.

At Telefónica Germany, our value-based capacity planning solution uses advanced analytics and combines network technical information with subscriber information to optimize capacity allocations - deciding what and where they need to invest. The objective is to achieve 5 percent capex reduction per year. With what operators spend on network Capex per year, 5 percent adds up to significant CSP savings in the long-run.

At Vodafone Netherlands our service quality management and real-time service impacting solutions were used to monitor and assure services delivered to corporate accounts and helped them reduce the corporate customer churn to zero.

We often bring massive rationalization and simplification to the operator's service assurance landscape. We recently consolidated and replaced 26 different systems at a major South Asian operator. This brings major IT Opex and capex efficiencies.

With 5G and IoT on the horizon, what can you tell us about MYCOM OSI's role in helping CSPs adopt new technology while also making the most of their existing infrastructure?
As CSPs extend their networks for connected industry verticals, the low latency and high data speeds of 5G enable them to deliver enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable, low-latency and massive machine-type communication services. With 5G, we expect telecom to become embedded in industry verticals and their industrial processes. CSPs then have the opportunity to deliver intelligent analytics and connectivity services to the industry verticals; this is what we are helping CSPs achieve.

A key concept of 5G is network slicing where certain SLA (service level agreement) targets like latency or bandwidth are guaranteed for specific applications such as connected cars, smart energy or connected factories. Closed-loop assurance systems are required to assure and orchestrate the 5G slice in real-time as the CSPs are expected to maintain very stringent SLAs. At a recent TM Forum catalyst project sponsored by many major operators, we demonstrated how our assurance software can carry out closed-loop assurance of a 5G slice for connected factories, and instruct the orchestrator to reconfigure the network in order to maintain the guaranteed quality of service for the specific 5G slice.

IoT management involves ensuring IoT data reliability and assuring that the IoT network and devices are operating in a faultless manner, thus delivering on the promise of 100% availability and reliability. Enabling the CSPs by an assurance platform that offers centralized intelligence and is highly automated to support the on-demand needs of 5G slices will lead to new revenue streams for the CSPs.

By offering industry-specific analytics, such an assurance platform can enable the CSP to become a managed service provider who can guarantee the end-to-end availability, quality and analytics for an IoT player.

Take a smart energy service, for example, where a cloud platform collects data from smart meters and then automatically sets the thermostats and various parameters at the consumers' house to reduce the energy bill. For this service to work, you need to have all the devices in the home working - such as sensors and smart meters - and all of these are connected to a central box which needs to be working. Then the connectivity between the central box and the cloud needs to work, as does the cloud platform.

Through a suitable assurance platform, the CSP can ensure the integrity, availability and quality of end-to-end IoT connectivity. They can also become the first line of support for the IoT services and share part of the revenues with the IoT players.

What does the future hold for MYCOM OSI?
MYCOM OSI will continue to innovate around telco cloud (NFV/SDN) assurance and focus on maintaining our market leadership position to drive global customer adoption. As part of this we will continue pushing our concept of integrated assurance, analytics and automation to enable a 'brain' that gives real-time visibility of the network and drives the entire orchestration and management of the network.

Another important topic for us is preparing for 5G. We are members of the 5G Innovation Center at the University of Surrey in the UK and our software assures their 5G testbed. Through this and further work with TM Forum Catalyst POCs and NGMN we will drive innovation around network slice management to help operators deliver ambitious SLAs for industry verticals and other parties.

Through our involvement with standards bodies such as the TM Forum, we are driving for the adoption of open APIs. Last month, we were one of the signatories to the Open API Manifesto with many other leading operators and vendors to drive the open architectures and open ecosystems that are cloud-based and will drive massive efficiencies for operators. Through this we aim to play a major role in the private and public cloud OSS services and solutions market.

We are also aiming at playing a key bridging role with some of the leading open source ecosystems such as AT&T's ONAP and we will continue to invest and enhance in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Finally, I am seeing some interesting use cases for our assurance, analytics and automation platform beyond telecom networks through the management of IoT devices, connectivity and applications, so we are doing some proof of concept studies, for example, in the energy management and smart city space where our platform helps to deliver and optimize intelligent energy management services for their customers. We believe this can be delivered to IoT service providers directly or as a managed service by CSPs to help monetize the IoT opportunity.