TM Forum Defines Process Framework To Cut Service Development Costs

Aileen Smith, SPV, collaboration & R&D, TM Forum

Aileen Smith, SPV, collaboration & R&D, TM Forum

June 8, 2010 – Networks aren’t getting any less complex, nor are the services that run on them. All of that means extra costs for operators in terms of developing new services and turning them up for new customers.

Enter Frameworx, a TM Forum initiative aimed at streamlining those tasks by defining common business processes for operator back offices. Vendors will be able to build software based on those definitions, reducing the amount of time and money that they and their operator customers would have to spend on custom integration.

“It’s most suitable for service delivery environments where there is likely to be a lot of change, where a service provider needs to onboard new services, tweak existing services and replace services very rapidly,” says Caroline Chappell, a Heavy Reading analyst.

The TM Forum says Frameworx will help operators “significantly reduce” their operating expenses (OpEx). Some analysts have put a number to those savings by looking at similar, existing deployments.

“It could be as much as between 30 percent and 50 percent in terms of the OpEx associated with rolling out and managing new services (i.e., lower costs of integration with business and operations support systems, faster service deployment times),” Chappell says. “This is based on figures from IBM, which has built its own Frameworx-like set of SOA (service-oriented architecture) services and deployed them now in a number of projects.

There may be additional benefits of having a standards-based set of services and interfaces (i.e., even more plug-and-playability across systems), she adds, but this depends on whether vendors are going to support Frameworx.

“The one thing that operators want – and that vendors will resist – are firm, standards-based interfaces between Frameworx-defined functions,” Chappell says. “This will mean breaking apart and re-architecting a lot of vendor products, so expect to see some dragging of feet in making it a reality on the vendor side.”

But some vendors already have in-house initiatives that dovetail nicely with Frameworx. That work should help them leverage operator interest in Frameworx.

“Those vendors and operators that have built out their own Frameworx-like architectures – for example, IBM and Huawei – have based them on the TM Forum process and data frameworks, so they won’t be a million miles away from whatever Frameworx produces,” Chappell says. “And in many cases, these players are actively engaged in the program, offering up what they’ve already done in order to ensure they are aligned with it.”

Announced in March and scheduled for release this month, Frameworx builds on the forum’s Next Generation OSS Business Process (eTOM), Information (SID) and Application (TAM) frameworks. Frameworx also incorporates standards such as ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) from the IT world to help operators target the enterprise market.

“Service providers said: ‘The people we’re selling to in enterprises speak a different language. They don’t speak telecom. We really need to start to position all of this work we’ve done as an enterprise architecture, because it has all of the components, but the language is telecom-specific,'” says Aileen Smith, TM Forum senior vice president of collaboration and research and development. “It becomes very applicable and easy to understand for the enterprise IT market.”

For example, the forum spent the past 18 months making eTOM compliant with ITIL.

“So if the service provider is eTOM-compliant in terms of its business processes, then it’s also ITIL-compliant,” Smith says. “That’s very valuable for making that sale into the enterprise.”