When was the last time you heard Amazon, Facebook, Google, of Netflix observe that integration and testing were going to be a major impediment to a mission-critical activity? How much off-the-shelf software do they use?
Yet telecom operators routinely struggle with the fundamental reality of the cloud era: operational excellence — efficiency, productivity, agility, continuous development, integration, and deployment. Any company, telco or Enterprise, struggling with integration and testing, should ask themselves the question “Have I built a best of breed operations environment and culture”. Perhaps the reality is many cannot afford to because that is not the sweet spot of their value proposition or they do not have the investment capacity to do so.
Case in point, “Orange Issues Plea for Help With O-RAN Integration” where Orange is quoted by LightReading as saying “The success of[or] failure of an Open-RAN concept depends on operators’ capacity to find a good test and integration model”.
From the O-RAN Alliance website “Future RANs will be built on a foundation of virtualized network elements, white-box hardware and standardized interfaces that fully embrace O-RAN’s core principles of intelligence and openness. An ecosystem of innovative new products is already emerging that will form the underpinnings of the multi-vendor, interoperable, autonomous, RAN, envisioned by many in the past, but only now enabled by the global industry-wide vision, commitment and leadership of O-RAN Alliance members and contributors.”
While I think there is enough evidence to suggest telecom-specific standards often fall by the wayside over time, I can get my head around the idea that a telecom network is something industry-specific, it might need some uniquely defined interfaces, etc. That is not The Important though.
The Important for telecom operators is what will their companies look like 5–10 years from now, how they will add value, differentiate and deliver comparative advantage within the ICT universe. If they want to compete in the cloud era, with their own clouds, then they need to build the operations environments and cultures that will allow them to do that. That might include driving some external communities that help with integration and testing, but the bigger point of this piece is the core operations culture itself, which probably needs to be incubated well removed from the core telecom culture.
Any telecom framework has to ask the hard question, which is the highest priority: driving down costs or driving transformation to continuous development, integration, and delivery. The answer will determine the outcome. If complaints about O-RAN integration and testing become widespread beyond this single anecdote, then perhaps the question is self-answering.
The big cloud players are software companies, services companies, and companies with a specific focus on, and excellence in, cloud operations. Every company in the world has to ask themselves can they do this better than the big cloud companies. If not, then they need to evaluate their strategic options.