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Evan Linwood – Managing Director

Welcome

Welcome to the ArenaCore Blog! Some years ago I had a rush of blood to the head and decided to take an interest in Operations and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS). It’s been a long and very rewarding journey since then.

Perhaps for some, the thought of working in OSS/BSS might be “as funny as getting shot by an arrow through the neck, and then finding there’s a gas bill tied to it”, as spoken by the character ‘Blackadder’ in the famous ‘Blackadder goes Forth’ comedy series, set back in World War One.

Those of us who have worked in the OSS/BSS field will appreciate that there is a lot of work involved in building the systems that produce those bills! In today’s context, the OSS/BSS domain is what keeps the ICT backbone and digital product delivery platforms of most modern organisations alive. Systems planning, implementation and operations activities are becoming increasingly automated, and OSS/BSS is the tool that enables this progression.

It’s my personal belief that the world of Enterprise ICT is nearing or already at a point where a step up in OSS/BSS maturity is needed to support the ever growing demands of the digital age that we’re in. A similar evolution is occurring in the data centre and service provider domains where deeper customer operational interaction is relevant.

In these blog entries I’ll attempt to cover topics related to OSS/BSS, experiences and observations made as part of the journey with ArenaCore, and other ICT related items that seem worth including.

It’s not just company stuff – hopefully you might find something relevant or interesting, and hopefully I won’t look back in a few years time and think ‘did I really write that?!’

Please feel free to add comments, suggestions or corrections – I’d love to hear from you!

Service Arena / Product Automation (SA/PA)

For some time now I’ve been talking to people in the Enterprise ICT world about the benefits of Business/Operations Support Systems (B/OSS).

Very often B/OSS is a new term, and so I find myself explaining the history and advantages it can bring.

Conversation can then branch off into subjects including Service Orchestration, Public/Private/Hybrid Cloud, SDN, NFV, Security, DevOps, Hyperscale, ITIL, Big Data etc – the list goes on.

I’ve felt at times that I was struggling to maintain people’s interest re B/OSS, and so I’ve wondered how I could move more directly into discussion around areas of new opportunity that lie within that domain.

This might be a work in progress but I’ve come up with the term: “Service Arena / Product Automation” (SA/PA).

Hopefully the words “Service Arena / Product Automation” better reflect the broad business and operational territory associated with the commercial provision of service products.

SA/PA identifies service product delivery as occurring across a diverse ‘Arena’ (i.e. playing field) of interlinked producers and consumers of different service types. This is an expression of the fantastic Value Fabric concept as supported by the TMForum.

SA/PA inherently implies that Access Security capabilities are a first order priority. (Not an easy problem to solve, as an ‘Arena’ in this sense is really a business network fabric of interlinked organisational Directory implementations).

Additionally, SA/PA identifies the notion that services must be transformed into fully fledged product implementations if they are to be supportable and to enable cost recovery against them.

Finally, SA/PA identifies that automation is a key determinant that binds all associated concepts together. SA/PA automation implies management of relevant processes including those that must occur manually across teams described in the context of the ‘Arena’.

A SA/PA oriented B/OSS provides a common context in which service products (including infrastructure services) are defined and published from product catalogs owned by multiple customers into a diverse service oriented marketplace. I’m certainly not trying to supersede the concept or value of B/OSS!

Below all this, it’s probably obvious that a combination of complex infrastructure solution planning/life cycle management, ITIL management, Public/Private/Hybrid Cloud, Service Orchestration, Customer Care & Billing capabilities is expected – nothing has changed here.

There is more to be said about SA/PA but that’s probably enough for one post.

Hopefully I’ve got a way now of starting conversations in a way that will twig people’s ears more readily!

 

With each of these posts I like to make mention of something totally unrelated to what I’m doing.

This time I’d like to reference the Bluebird restoration project:

http://www.bluebirdproject.com

I think I found this one around six years ago.

It takes some reading to appreciate the scale of what they’re doing, but there are many hidden gems.

Apparently Donald Campbell didn’t want the boat raised in the event of an accident, but yet the commitment this group has made with their lives over many years in his memory has been remarkable. It’s a tough one!

TMForum Chair Michael Lawrey to speak at Australian Local Chapter Launch

The TMForum has recently chosen Australia as the first location globally to launch its TMForum Local program.

This is exciting news, and I’d like to invite you to join us at either of the Melbourne or Sydney launch events.

These first meetings will be a great opportunity to hear from TMForum Chairman Michael Lawrey regarding recent developments across the TMForum’s industry leading programs.

(In addition to Michael’s role with the TMForum, he is also Executive Director, Defence Engagement for Telstra).

The TMForum provides leadership across the management system architecture and digital product delivery domains globally via its ‘Frameworx’ Enterprise Architecture. Frameworx is in heavy use across large and small service providers globally, and can be regarded as a superset of ITIL/ITSM practices – including also concrete engineering and business process layer blueprints. Knowledge of TMForum blueprints and their application is a valuable asset therefore for professionals working in the ITSM space.

Following some words from Michael there will be plenty of time afterwards for networking including food / drinks.

Details for the Local Chapter events are:

Sydney: September, 16th, 6:30pm
Shelbourne Hotel, 200 Sussex St., Sydney

Melbourne: September, 18th 6:30pm
Ether Conference Centre, 265 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

RSVP is needed by Sept. 12. Please register by contacting Megan Lunde at mlunde@tmforum.org, and specify the location you wish to attend.

The TMForumLocal event details page may be found here.

I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

‘Mastering Your OSS’ – Book Signing

Ryan Jeffery has recently released his fantastic new book ‘Mastering Your OSS’, and as luck would have it I managed to secure retail copy number 1!

Ryan holds a regular monthly breakfast meeting for professionals working in the Operations Support System (OSS) space, and so I took my copy along to be autographed by the man himself:

MASTERINGYOUROSS

This book is loaded with bite-sized pearls of insight representing quite a few years of experience in the context of complex OSS implementation and integration projects.

Ryan has an enthusiastic attitude to his craft, and so the book isn’t a heavyweight ‘billing system implementation’ type read – instead it’s a positive, resourceful look at OSS related subjects that is appropriate for technical or non-technical people alike.

In terms of scope the material has relevance across the service provider, enterprise, SME and startup layers, and would be very handy reading also for anyone in the generalised ICT system architecture / project management space.

Ryan has taken a balanced look across both human and technical elements with a view to getting best-case outcomes under typical real-world problem scenarios. He manages to cover all the main bases in terms of OSS lifecycle from Planning through to Refresh – so that’s quite a bit of territory!

Some great resources are included, for example including content and discussion relevant for OSS business case generation and vendor team management.

Make sure to at least drop past Ryan’s blog site Passionate About OSS for a taste of the type of material in his book (although I find I tend to still like having real books – easier on the eyes!)

For purchasing information please refer to:  https://www.createspace.com/4774405

 

 

 

 

Claytonesque Commitment

I guess at some point in our lives we’ve all had a distant wish we could lead the bohemian life of a stage performer (except perhaps without all the hungry bits!), so I was all ears when a friend stopped past for coffee recently and told me one of the more out-there stories I’ve heard in this area.

Clayton Sinclair is an entrepreneur and entertainer that I’ve known for quite a few years now, and is very much a kind and sincere gentleman. His story took me a long way away from my normal activities that day, so I thought I’d share it here.

I mentioned to Clayton that I’ve been reading the ‘The Click Moment’ by Frans Johansson, and in response he told me that years ago he was asked by an entertainer friend as a desperate favour to stand in as MC for a rock eisteddfod event in Perth.

He said that he had two day’s notice and was very unsure about whether it was a good idea, but in ‘Click Moment’ style said to himself  – ‘you just never know what good might come out of it’. (Thanks very much to Ryan Jeffery of Passionate About OSS for the original The Click Moment reference!)

Clayton said that he got there on the Friday and asked for the program, which they didn’t have available – apparently they were too busy to even spend some time with him. He did finally get a sheet of band/performer names just before the show start on Saturday evening, although there were still no details about timings or any other supporting info.

He said that the time came, and he simply had to start the show – fortunately though he’d managed to find a chair and a light to have by the side of the stage where he could at least read the list he’d been given while off-stage.

Clayton is a song, dance & jokes guy from way back and can slip naturally into many different accents & impersonations, so I wasn’t surprised when he said he made it through the first hour easily (I wish I could do that!) By the end of the second hour he said he was starting to run out of gags, and by the end of the third hour he said he was seizing at any opportunity for quips – targeting people getting up & going to the bathroom, what they were wearing, hands up who was from the east or west etc. He said that things got to the stage where he was reprising songs and dance moves from the various performances, not to mention singing standards including from the Sound of Music, and then requesting ‘serious critique’ from the crowd.

Clayton is a very good natured person and knows how to navigate without offending people, all the same I was thinking that as a relatively unknown guy from the east (in the context of a Perth rock event), he was certainly putting himself out there.

Apparently there were between five and ten minutes of tear down and setup time between each act, during which the curtain would fall and it was Clayton up there alone with more than five hundred people in the auditorium – also TV cameras rolling (I think he said think for a community channel), and no ‘organisers’ in sight anywhere.

He told the story and said that when it was all finished (after five hours !!), he’d lost any doubt about whether he was capable of getting past his fear boundaries.

After Clayton left I wondered whether perhaps the punters may have been happy with just a few words and silence between bands? Maybe the sound guys could have thrown in some canned music? (But surely they would have told him in advance?!)

In the moment though, Clayton decided to go into professional mode and turn it into something that was up to his own expectations.

It definitely sounds like Perth got the full ‘Claytonesque’ experience that night (Clayton’s company name on LinkedIn).

I understand that a seasoned MC can stand in with little or no notice, particularly in a context that they’re well suited to. In the ICT world I’ve seen some incredibly good presentations over the years that looked effortless – ones that I’d very much like to be able to match.

Hopefully though in unexpected or less than comfortable circumstances,  any of us would attempt to respond like Clayton and just keep going all the way.

Sometimes stories like this don’t get heard, I thought that this one was worth the time – thanks very much again Clayton for a great story!

 

The Three Amigos Stevens

With each blog entry I’m attempting to include some kind of interesting reference material that may or may not be related to B/OSS – in this entry I’m already way off track, so I might as well keep going. Talking about performers, I thought I’d list a number of very talented ‘Stevens’ that I’ve come across here in Australia. Each of these guys has a unique and interesting story of their own that comes through in their music – here are some quick teasers in case you haven’t heard of them:

(Sorry – looks like I wound up with four!)

ITIL as a Product

The concept of how the Infrastructure Technology Information Library (ITIL) can be used as a set of named service products was a thought that crossed my mind in the middle of a business process re-engineering exercise I was involved in some time ago – I thought I’d attempt to explore the concept a bit further here. I’m not formally trained in ITIL, so I’m only putting these ideas forward as talking points! Possibly I’m stating things that are already well understood in the ITIL world, and possibly there are companies out there already doing this. Regardless, I’ll attempt to bring through the relevance of the TMForum  eTom process map to ITIL, and hopefully some value might come out it.

 

ITIL and eTom compared

ITIL describes long running business processes such as Incident Management, Problem Management and Change Management. These processes can be compared in their level of abstraction to other more generalised non-ITIL specific business processes such as ‘Order to Invoice’ or ‘Credit Approval’ in that they cover a lot of organisational territory.

For example, a Change Management process definition may touch engineering, test and executive groups. Such a Change Management process would typically look much like a flowchart, with various branches of process flow extending between numerous actors and tasks.

By contrast, eTom describes processes as many small units of work and then groups these into progressively higher order sub-domains and domains. The flowchart style ‘branches of process flow’ are not quite so obvious. The reason for this is that eTom is designed as an integral component of the TMForum Frameworx Enterprise Architecture, in which business process sub-domains and domains are aligned to support the relevant matching sub-domains and domains described in the Frameworx Shared Information and Data (SID) and Telecoms Application Map (TAM).

Once this is understood, it becomes more obvious that ITIL and eTom could be used together, with one providing the high level roadmaps (ITIL), and the other (eTOM) a way to describe detailed functions that map directly to a concrete service management system architecture. The key is to be able to understand readily which detailed eTom processes support any given ITIL process.

Fortunately this is something that the TMForum and its many service provider members recognised some time ago, and have already put a lot of work into producing such eTOM-ITIL mappings.

 

Are complimentary business process maps actually worth putting any effort into? 

Even if these mappings are readily available, just using them must involve additional work.

So what real business justification is there for doing so?

I tend to think that the first underlying reason is that as per the above, the human understandable form of a ‘business process’ is not usually in the same ‘shape’ as what is required to implement the process across the various relevant service management / OSS systems.

For example, some years ago I developed a detailed BPMN based business process flow supporting Change Management. The aim was to cover all relevant information entities and processing activities – understandably the result was a complex diagram significantly larger than even some of the multi-page Change Management process flow diagrams that I’ve seen since.

This type of diagram is exactly what an Architect needs, and could also be of interest to line managers with specific areas of responsibility. It would be inappropriate however for customers, stakeholders, or most other participants in the process flow, who will either want to know about the high level meaningfulness of what’s happening or only the detail relevant to their specific role.

 

What if one of the business process maps is really a set of complex service product definitions? 

Seeing the distinction between ITIL and eTom did however make me wonder whether high level ITIL processes could be used in particular as the basis for Service Product definitions.

For example a service provider could provide Bronze, Silver and Gold levels of Incident Management responsiveness. Problem and Change Management services may be named as such and structured formally in terms of relevant project tasks such as data collection & evaluation, problem/performance analysis, solution design, implementation, documentation, acceptance testing etc.  Help Desk staff would converse with customers using only ITIL terminology (which might occur more naturally as a function of the products having ITIL themed names).

Internally, a service provider could manage their delivery using eTom processes. This would enable close mapping of process activities to the systems involved, and would also allow more direct assignment of Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed (RACI) task involvements across all relevant individual roles and business units.

  • If it was possible to structure service product offerings specifically around ITIL as a theme, wouldn’t this resonate well with ICT customers who understand ITIL?
  • If it was possible deliver those products more effectively by backing them up with a service management enterprise architecture, wouldn’t that lead to greater internal efficiency (and also service system architecture gap analysis)?

The answers to these questions are probably obvious in the context of a large service provider. The point at which this style of thinking becomes relevant internally within an enterprise organisation is not quite as obvious (except perhaps when revealed in the form of a major outage!)

 

Summary

ITIL is a very rich and highly developed set of service management best practice descriptions. In terms of it’s usefulness to people who have day to day service management responsibilities, ITIL is clearly more immediately useful than eTom.

It seems to me that the world of Enterprise ICT service delivery is growing towards the service provider model where the need for a service system architecture that supports specific business process functions is at least recognised. It’s rare that a single OSS vendor will provide the complete service management software infrastructure for a whole organisation’s needs. By using ITIL and eTom in conjunction with each other, it becomes possible for a customer to realise their own structured service management architecture in an ITIL context, and perhaps even to leverage more value out of ITIL in terms of productisation (if they are a service provider).

Hopefully someone formally trained in ITIL can help me to better understand whether I’m just re-stating things that are already well known in the ITIL world, or how what I’m saying could be better framed in an ITIL context ?

I’d love also to hear any other comments or points of view!

 

With each blog entry I’m attempting to include some kind of interesting reference material that may or may not be related to B/OSS. With this entry I thought I’d mention a product of a completely different type, namely the private jet – the beginnings of which where were discussed in this Wired article titled: The Lear Jet Turns 50 – But It Almost Didn’t Make It Off the Ground.

It was great reading about the story of how a seeming disaster turned into a key turning point for them during their early days. I had no idea it was Lear who came up with the name ‘Motorola’, or that the basis of the original Lear Jet was a Swiss military aircraft (not discussed in this particular article). Although in a totally different world I thought that this was another good example of borrowing from one domain in order to gain benefit in another – as is possibly the concept of using eTom in an ITIL context!

 

Converged Infrastructure Management & BSS/OSS

You may possibly have been watching the emergence of Converged Infrastructure (CI) offerings from the major equipment vendors. In this entry I’ll attempt to examine the relevance of these products and their management layers to the OSS/BSS domain. This may be a near impossible job for a single blog entry, but here goes!

Significant product offerings in the CI space include:

(VCE is a joint venture between VMWare, Cisco & EMC).

Background

‘Converged Infrastructure’ (CI) products provide pre-assembled compute, storage and network fabric configurations relevant mainly for virtualisation workloads, in a range of capacity options. (Some of the above vendors also support pre-packaged configurations specifically for application and data workloads).

CI products are supplied with an integrated management layer enabling a range of hardware monitoring and management services, and also virtualisation configuration capabilities. It appears that some offerings also support workflow driven service activation for complex multi-layer virtualised services – it was this item that really caught my attention due to it’s relevance to BSS/OSS, prompting me to do some further investigation.

Good material I thought for another blog entry!

 

Benefits of CI

  • Software Defined Networking – CI products arrive pre-cabled and enable dynamic configuration of complex virtual resources in specific network topologies and security partitions, without requiring physical cabling changes.
  • Rapid implementation – CI products arrive pre-integrated and can be production ready shortly after delivery.
  • Validated Configurations – CI vendors provide validated combinations of equipment items in terms of software release levels, and ensure that ongoing upgrades are provided as tested packages.
  • Single Source – From the executive layer perspective, these products represent platform building blocks that are simple to acquire, implement and manage, and have single-source vendor commitment.

The story regarding the customer needs that drove creation of the VCE product set are described in this blog: VCE and Vblock –3 years in

 

Relationship to SDN

CI is a key platform via which Software Defined Networking is being introduced to Enterprise customers, saving customers from having to architect and implement their own SDN and associated management environments – CI appears to solve this problem in one move. Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) is in the mix also, although I won’t try and address this here.

 

Management Layer functions

I haven’t had the opportunity to see the management layers for these products in real life yet, but I have had a quick dive into some of the documentation available online.

After a little investigation it became clearer that each of the associated management suites are focussed on supporting similar areas, as follows (assumptions are indicated!):

  • Discovery/Identification – probes for and catalogues resource item presence and configuration against manufacturer expected configurations,
  • Health monitoring – alarm capture & notification (& I assume contextual interpretation),
  • Event Logging – capture of items such as configuration change tracking, management tool access events etc,
  • Usage data collection / Billing support – it seems the tools allow definition of projects & would presumably therefore associate capacity/usage events produced to the Project level,
  • Environment validation – scheduled examination of component software release levels against manufacturer supported configurations,
  • Environment Upgrade – managed firmware/software upgrade processes,
  • VMware vCenter integration – CI vendors are highlighting their integration with vCentre as a key feature (some of their respective architectures for this appear to be different).
  • Complex virtualised resource configuration – this area has been harder to get a very clear view of. It’s not easily possible to determine exactly how much ‘service orchestration workflow’ occurs directly within the CI management toolsets, or in associated products such as VMware vCentre, EMC UIM etc.
  • API Support – supports external management system access for orchestration of above capabilities/access to management information.

Of course, the capabilities listed above are normally provided by distinct virtualisation, FCAPS, SNMP and AAA device management & configuration tools. Some vendor supplied product marketing material I’ve seen describes these ‘previous generation’ products as being disjointed and difficult to work with – including presumably their own well-established product offerings. CI is clearly therefore a very strategically important product category.

 

Relationship with the OSS world

My first reaction upon seeing these products originally was ‘uh-oh what does this mean for OSS..!’

It seems clear that the world of  integrated CI management tools is heading generally towards the OSS/BSS space. Of course OSS/BSS actually encompasses all of these areas – I’m using the term to loosely differentiate higher order/layer capabilities.

Whilst it’s not completely clear yet how fully embedded or integrated the configuration and orchestrated activation of full-stack virtualisation capabilities is within CI products, the general approach is obviously heading towards total unified management support.

So what role does OSS/BSS have to play in this scenario?

My view of CI management tools is that they are evolving towards higher layer management functions, from the equipment layer upwards.

Conversely it is clear also that numerous OSS/BSS tools are reaching downwards towards the virtualisation layer from the Service Management viewpoint.

Taking a step back, the capabilities supported in OSS management models such as the TMForum Shared Information and Data (SID) model were added originally based on the real-world needs of many service providers globally. It could be said that the modern ICT division of a large Enterprise class organisation is a service provider – services are contracted and recharged externally and internally, and strategy, planning /design is done from the viewpoint of the wider integrated system landscape, etc.

It will be interesting to watch which CI management toolsets evolve towards becoming more comprehensive in terms of OSS/BSS capabilities, and which ones stop at the API layer.

Data modelling decisions made early in the design of these products will make this evolution easier or harder. (Some vendors have made large OSS acquisitions that should make significant OSS domain knowledge & components readily available: Oracle/Metasolv, IBM/Intelliden, NEC/NetCracker).

OSS/BSS products are usually generalised for operation in a multi-vendor context across physical and virtual equipment / network resources . They may be used for workforce management, have understanding of application integration architecture, be capable of working in conjunction with ICT supplier partners, and deliver/support Product Catalog management, Billing, Revenue Assurance or Security capabilities (this is only a partially complete list!)

Regardless, it will certainly be very interesting to watch how CI management tools and the OSS/BSS domain evolve with respect to each other. There are numerous other major software and hardware based advances that are occurring separately from the pure CI domain – OSS/BSS must ultimately encompass all of these. I’ll save discussion of these for future blog entries.

This is really only a quick look across what is really quite a large subject area. I’m not an expert on CI products – perhaps you might have some comments, insights or corrections? If so I’d love to hear from you!

 

Thanks Ralph

In each blog entry I’m attempting to include some interesting reference material, which may either be on topic or completely off topic, depending on how you look at it 😉

Given that this entry is in the hardware domain, and because CI products reminded me initially of large mainframe implementations (visually), I’m including a link to the personal site of Ralph Klimek who tells the story of: A brief history of the Burroughs mainframe at monash university and my part in its maintenance. I should warn that it’s definitely not brief, and also quite technical – but anyone with an interest in technical things may find Ralph’s storytelling humorous and the nature of what he was doing ‘just a little bit out there’ by modern standards.

Possibly the description of what life was like in those days highlights the strong quality control benefits of modern CI products.

I was lucky enough as a pimply fifteen year old to be taken through the ANZ Bank data centre on Toorak Road in Melbourne, where they had a large amount of Burroughs equipment similar to that shown in the photos at the bottom of Ralph’s page. At the time it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie – Ralph has done a very good job of explaining the reality of it all!