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A demonstration project led by Oracle's communications technology unit didn't win an award at a conference held earlier this month by industry group TM Forum in Nice, France. But Oracle Communications officials hope the effort to build a network as a service (NaaS) platform with zero-touch provisioning and orchestration capabilities will help point the way toward more flexible and cloud-friendly enterprise connectivity offerings from communications service providers (CSPs).
The Oracle-led initiative was one of 19 projects in the Catalyst program showcased at the TM Forum Live! event. The Catalyst program involves proof-of-concept projects with participation from multiple companies, both large and small, looking to find a solution to an industry challenge.
Oracle's project demonstrated the deployment of a Carrier Ethernet service across a hybrid network that included a mix of physical equipment and an infrastructure supporting network functions virtualization (NFV). Performance management tools vendor InfoVista and networking equipment maker Juniper Networks also participated in the zero-touch NaaS project. In addition, the effort was supported -- or championed, in TM Forum's parlance -- by the MEF, a trade group for Carrier Ethernet providers formerly known as the Metro Ethernet Forum, and by telecom companies Axtel, PCCW Global and Spectrum Business.
Jennifer Faulkner, director of product marketing for business services solutions at Oracle Communications, led the project team, which started its work last summer and was chosen to go forward at a proof-of-concept showcase held during a MEF conference last November. For this month's TM Forum event, Faulkner's job was to implement a simplified user experience with self-ordering features for configuring a complex Carrier Ethernet service.
Hybrid network design adds challenges
The NaaS setup needed to be fully integrated with business and operations processes across the hybrid physical and NFV network, and to add to the challenge, the infrastructure included equipment that would be on-premises for the customer. Additionally, all of this needed to be accomplished using zero-touch provisioning and installation technology not requiring any external inputs from network administrators when the equipment was installed.
Jennifer Faulknerdirector of product marketing for business service solutions, Oracle Communications
Rajeev Tankha, senior director of product and solutions marketing at Oracle Communications, explained that the Catalyst project was designed to address issues that CSPs face with how to provision and virtualize NaaS implementations. For example, he said, on-demand self-service, which enables the provisioning of cloud resources as needed, can be a challenge, as can transitioning from physical to virtualized networks and coordinating between them.
However, Faulkner said the real driver behind the effort was growing interest among CSPs in advanced networking technology like NFV and software-defined networking, as they look for increased agility and flexibility with lower costs.
Enterprise view of networks needed
Enterprise customers, Faulkner said, want more control of, and visibility into their networks, including more network status information and a seamless experience across multiple providers. Furthermore, if CSPs want to move part of their own network from on-premises to the cloud, they also want someone else to manage it. "[CSPs] are trying to match the on-demand nature of the Internet and how you can access it anywhere," Faulkner said. "But because these are mission-critical services, they need to be backed by strong assurances."
Based on those requirements, the proof-of-concept project needed to change how operations runs the network, improve service for business customers and bring together operations and billing by creating a single billing system for both operations and the network. It also included self-service quoting, auto processing for NFV and service assurance.
According to Faulkner, a major worry many CSPs have regarding virtualization is whether it would create another silo. But what made the Catalyst initiative different, she said, is that Oracle and its partners took "a much more holistic approach to the problem" instead of building a piecemeal system. "Enterprises want to move to the cloud," Faulkner said, "and they really need the network to support them."
Find out more about the demo of Oracle's Catalyst project
Learn about Oracle's network service orchestrator for communications service providers