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Blog Post

Cloud: Lessons LearnedFrom the Front Lines

Delivering on cloud demonstrates how the technology enables a more dynamic, resilient, nimble culture that makes agile innovation possible and amplifies business success

By John Giere, CEO • March 3, 2021

Everywhere you turn, there is enthusiastic talk about the telco cloud and its transformational possibilities. There is a seemingly endless string of predictions, promises, and prophets declaring that the sky is the limit. However, I observe a scarce supply of actual insights and data to back it up. Perhaps this is because it can only come from people with real hands-on experience in deploying a telco cloud, which is also in scarce supply.

Thus, I decided to see how I could connect the dots. So, I reached out and asked my Optiva cloud BSS team, who are doing this work in real life. I asked them to share what they have learned — and what I should know about — when it comes to deploying a telco cloud, and here are some of the lessons they shared with me.


1. Be Committed To Automation

The cloud is all about the capability to leverage an automated CI/CD Kubernetes-based pipeline and automated test tools. We saw the impact of this firsthand when we spun up a global MVNO customer and developed an Optiva test framework (OTF), which automated over 5,000 manual tests. Today, we continue to leverage this test case framework and add new ones to deliver high-quality features via better test coverage and high velocity through faster execution time to all our cloud customers.

In this MVNO example, Optiva exposed our CI/CD pipeline right from the start of the delivery phase. We worked very closely with the customer to define and align our Optiva CI/CD pipeline and OTF to ensure it covered the customer’s specific use cases. The result was that we were able to deploy the generally available (GA) solution just four weeks after kickoff. Further configuration was performed jointly on the system in two-week cycles and tests automatically via the framework. This was performed until all of the pre-defined scope was available for market launch.

One excellent by-product of this framework approach is that customers have a more complete, real-time visibility of the project’s progress. It makes project delivery more transparent and predictable. In turn, it fosters collaboration and trust between Optiva and our clients.

Lesson learned: Cloud flips the traditional BSS delivery script. The automated CI/CD pipeline and test tools allow for installation first, then configuration. Operators enjoy faster execution, shorter project deployment timelines, and faster time to market with new services. The OTF framework then provides automation and monitoring to support the continuous delivery of new features and functionality.


2. Get In The Grownup Sandbox And Speed Up Your Product Cycles

Sandboxing is an essential cloud tool. This step in the cloud process enables you to reimagine delivering new functionality and service capability at a fraction of traditional timelines and resource costs. It enables an improved discovery phase that enhances the development of functionalities and capabilities based on a customer’s specific needs.

Sandboxing also allows for more rapid testing and new functionality validation. Our customers use this process to gain greater insight into defining features and requirements as well as their business ROI and customer experience viability. In parallel to the core BSS, sandboxing provides a full, generic version that is installed, configured to specific needs, and allows for use cases to be tested and honed. The approach is especially effective for ideation work — preparing for future opportunities, technology, and requirements — and having the capability to rollout new functionalities and pods rapidly with cloud automation, testing, and tools.

We witnessed the benefits in action when working with a tier 1 Asian operator that serves over 320 million prepaid and postpaid subscribers. The operator requires continuous innovation to serve its customers and provide leading offerings for a first-class customer experience to compete in one of the most aggressive markets in the world. The operator deployed the latest cloud-native version of Optiva Charing Engine™ in a pilot production carrying live traffic on the operator’s private cloud.

During the pilot, sandbox environments allowed the operator to explore and experiment hands-on with creating and delivering new cloud-based plans using technologies such as Kubernetes containers. The operator was also able to test and evaluate the validity of specific operational KPIs and cost reduction benefits versus their current bare metal way of working in a live cloud production environment.

Lesson learned: Sandbox environments offer ubiquitous on-demand experimentation and test access. It means you can operate with a cost-effective fast fail model that enables you much greater service velocity and flexibility to meet rapidly changing market demands. It is critical if you hope to compete — to rapidly explore, analyze, and test configurations to expand offerings, business lines, and markets and develop your 5G, IoT, edge, and future technology roadmaps. Ahead of your competition.

3. Profitable Growth Must Be Aligned To Cloud-Driven KPIs

Every cloud initiative starts with the same drivers — better, faster, cheaper. As is the case, the devil — and the success of the project — is in the details or, more specifically, the KPIs. We learned early on, the hard way, that to have the best chance of success, we must collaborate from day one of the pre-sales process with our customers. This allows us to identify and articulate well-defined KPIs with measurable, actionable targets, and specific underlying plans that navigate us to achieve the desired outcomes.

For example, we had a customer who set the KPI for revenue generation through the enablement of rapid rollout of new services. We went off the first time and tried to build the solution and then set the KPIs — it didn’t go well. In the next attempt, we started with the KPIs and created a detailed plan of actionable items for improving time to market through operations. We ended up with a number of successes, including hot patch reduction times, which went from 250 to 20 minutes, and new functionality rollout releases, which went from 15 hours to 2.5 hours. We also significantly reduced the operational costs with an active-active setup instead of dedicated disaster recovery environments.

In the end, this customer modernized its charging system through architectural simplification and operational streamlining covering multiple OSS/BSS stacks across its different instances and regions. The business case savings are forecasted to exceed 24% savings over five years.

Lesson learned: Clear, well-defined KPIs tied to actionable, measurable targets with underlying detailed implementation plans are essential to cloud success. This requires, much like choosing a doctor, working with a team that has a lot of experience in cloud deployments and knows the right questions to ask. Taking the time to review business objectives, analyze current performance, and determine the KPIs that best align with individual operators maximizes the power and potential that cloud offers telecom operators for profitable growth.

4. Can’t Leap To The Cloud Without Close Vendor Collaboration

Getting your business cloudified is a journey. There are many unknowns to be answered and challenges to be addressed. You better like the partner and people you pick to make the cloud journey with you.

The steps to a true telco cloud-native platform elevate the importance of collaboration between vendor and customer. It is crucial, especially in the mission-critical BSS domain. The need for successful collaboration starts right at the beginning. The CI/CD pipeline and test automation by design require a collaborative process, necessitating that you listen to, understand fully, and incorporate the customer’s use cases and service plans from the start.

In the case of the tier 1 Asian operator, an enormous effort was made up front to define and align the use cases and service plans that would migrate to the cloud. The sandbox process, CI/CD pipeline, and automated testing framework enabled Optiva to execute and migrate existing plans to the cloud-native technology flawlessly. This was achieved while also ensuring the new instance was compliant with its security and performance requirements while maintaining 100% business continuity.

The timeline from installation to full traffic migration was a groundbreaking four months. More importantly, we achieved full compliance with the operator’s performance and customer experience KPI requirements.

The ubiquitous access to sandbox experimentation supports cross-functional and cross-company collaboration on a scale not previously possible in pre-cloud, bare-metal days. The result allows cross-functional teams greater influence on the feature definition and requirements tested in the staging process. Teams can also quickly spin up individual sandboxes and explore, test, and analyze ideas in parallel. Further, the availability of canary deployments on the cloud provides teams with the ideal, early-detection customer test environment to look at new features and functionalities and measure KPIs.

Lesson learned: In pre-cloud days, collaboration was more siloed, and teams did not have the agility and flexibility to experiment, collaborate, and test use cases and KPIs to the degree of success that cloud delivery enables. Collaboration is critical in a cloud environment and allows for real-time, rapid engagement to deliver on the customer’s specific needs and requirements.

The Bottom Line: Cloud Can Be Transformational To Your Business If You Plan In Detail Upfront And Execute To Well-Defined Business KPIs

Optiva lessons learned delivering on the cloud demonstrate how cloud technology enables a more dynamic, resilient, nimble culture that makes agile innovation possible and amplifies business success. From managing risk to fostering experimentation and collaboration, cloud enables Optiva and our customers to adapt to change and accelerate our technological innovation journey. This translates into true digital transformation that allows for ambitious KPIs aligning with specific needs, use cases, and business strategies. Cloud allows Optiva to equip and prepare operators to be future ready — scale easily, expand rapidly, seize opportunities, and put robust quality customer experiences and value at the forefront.

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