SDN and NFV adoption fuels a paradigm shift in service delivery

But can they accurately bill the customers?

Increased Automation and Improved Programmability are the buzz words in today’s service delivery space. With the customers demanding better and on the fly services, service providers are left with but little option to embrace the new evolution and adopt themselves to this paradigm shift.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization are probably the two most prolific concepts that have led to this paradigm shift.

Software-Defined Networking is an emerging network architecture that seeks to decouple network control from the data planes of associated IP equipment such as routers and switches. It defines a centralized control layer that manages network device configuration using a SDN Controller. The architecture lets new APIs to network applications and orchestration, in addition to operations and business support systems (OSS BSS). OpenFlow is the newly accepted industry standard protocol that facilitates the communication between these layers.

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) leverages two important tenets namely proximity and economies of scale and has become the obvious choice, more importantly for datacenters. Virtualization fueled as an enabling component of cloud computing. NFV is a way to leverage standard, low-cost yet high-performing servers as replacements for expensive, exclusive hardware currently in use / planned for, in an operator network.

Service providers are transforming themselves into service integrators. By adopting SDN and NFV, customers will now have the option of choosing the infrastructure when they want it and how they want it, from a pre-defined set of options. It is a cakewalk for customers to spin out efficient network circuits, thanks to the already made available provisioning templates. It is needless to say that this automation reduces human intervention and thereby risks.

One of the biggest advantages of on-demand virtualization is enjoyed by the CXOs who now have a single pane view of the on-site/ off-site infrastructure. They now can make better informed decisions on performance management and SLAs.

SDN and NFV make the application layer programmable. This actually means that the application can dynamically define provisioning and orchestrate the network as per the needs.

The datacenter is transformed so to have self service capability and thereby attain greater business agility and lower IT response times and yes a more optimized resource utilization.

Finally the greatest benefit is in terms of the cost. The first component that shows significant advantage is the CapEx, as service providers will now replace the proprietary hardware with more agile virtual hardware. Over and above this the OpEx component too shows significant improvement as the resources are purely on-demand and customers can ramp up / down as per their businesses demand.

While we have seen the best benefits of adopting this newer trend of ondemand virtualization, it is imperative to understand the underlying challenges of accurate and efficient billing. From my experience, here are a few important points I think service providers must bear in mind when developing / sourcing billing software.

Ask yourself these questions!
  1. Can the software support usage based billing?
  2. Can it be integrated with the provisioning platform?
  3. Can it be integrated with CRM, external Finance & Accounting systems?
  4. Is it robust enough to support a reasonable large subscriber base?
  5. Can it be ramped up in case the subscriber base increases?
  6. Is it flexible enough to support from as low as 5 to as high as 5 million subs base?
  7. Can it talk the language of APIs?
  8. Do your customers have a transparent view of their usage (read as dollars to be paid)?
  9. Can it support a pre-paid model?
  10.  Is it cost effective?

If you have got the right answers to all these questions, then you have figured a way out to bill your customers accurately and efficiently.

All the best and Happy Virtualization!!!!!

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