Significant changes are occurring in the underlying technology that delivers enterprise data services from service provider networks, which in just the next few years will make data services more agile and accessible via the cloud.
Service orchestration, or lifecycle service orchestration (LSO), is a new concept taking hold in the service provider community. This group of standards-based software technologies is coming in response to the advances in cloud computing, which had the effect of moving many enterprise applications to the cloud.
The next phase of cloud will be about provisioning networks in the cloud in addition to software. While Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) are now practically household words, the fact is that most enterprise data services are still tightly coupled to proprietary hardware, requiring manually configuration and involving legacy service models. This is all about to change with help from LSO.
So what is LSO and why is it important to you? LSO is about service orchestration and automation: putting more power into the customer's hands.
Think of how you order a book or even a mobile phone service on the Web. If you want to order a mobile phone and service, for example, you can do it on phone company website, which sets off a cascading chain of automated service-orchestration functions. Similarly, an online order for merchandise is tied to complex automated logistics process (supply, packaging, delivery). Nobody is getting on the phone from Amazon to call UPS to delivery your book; it's automated.
But what about ordering an MPLS circuit? It's still a long, manual, and painful process that usually involves multiple phone calls and/or truck rolls. You cannot order an MPLS circuit on Amazon, at least not yet. Many business-to-business (B2B) network services such as Ethernet, IP VPN, and optical circuits are still manually provisioned, requiring a human to either plug something in or flip a switch. This lack of automation means that new services can take days, weeks, and even months rather than minutes or seconds to deploy.
In February, I wrote about the delivery of more flexible WAN services in the cloud. This will expand to a wide range of enterprise data services, including security, hybrid cloud, and dynamic private-line Ethernet. LSO technology will enable this by giving service providers to tool to build customer provisioning through web portals.
The LSO vision looks like this: Software provisioning and automation enables a customer to look at new enterprise data services offerings on a web page, select what he or she wants, and then press a button to provision the service. The service or software can be used in a matter of minutes. It can also be adjusted on demand, rather than requiring a locked-in service contract.
LSO is being shepherded by two of the largest service provider organizations: the Metro Ethernet Forum and the TM Forum. It involves a collection of standards, including ETSI Management and Organization (MANO) model for NFV, the MEF's “Third Network” initiative, OpenStack, and the YANG and NETCONF development models in the IETF.
Service providers cite the need to quickly provision, launch, and manage dynamic services as the top reasons to move to LSO, according to the results of the LSO survey conducted in partnership between my firm, the Rayno Report, and the MEF: “Emerging Dynamic ‘Third Network’ Services & the Role of LSO.”
Service providers I interviewed for my recent report, "Service Provider Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Overview and Market Forecast," described a scenario in which the global service provider networks start to look more like IT cloud operations. The operations support systems (OSS) is evolving toward open standards.
This movement toward service automation will have tremendous upside for IT managers. Just as you hated spending time on the phone to change your data plan, you don't want to spend painful hours negotiating new data services or changing configurations. You want to be able to do this online, in automated fashion.
This will also create new opportunities for enterprises to partner with service providers on applications. Think of what open web technologies did for the cloud: They opened up huge markets in online consumer applications. The advent of a software-driven telco network has huge potential in enabling the creation of dynamic enterprise data services.