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ODA reaches milestone as TM Forum calls on telcos to grab cloud opportunity

Industry association set up for driving digital transformation through collaboration calls on comms providers to take advantage of industry-defining cloud native standards

TM Forum, the trade body representing network and communications providers, has issued a clarion call to telecoms software suppliers, service providers and systems integrators to join the next critical phase of its Open Digital Architecture (ODA) initiative focused on delivering cloud-based native software component specifications to deliver plug-and-play IT and networks.

The association comprises more than 850 member companies, which include the world’s top 10 network and communications providers across 180 countries. TM Forum said that it can provide a platform for members to tap into each other’s collective experiences and abilities to collaboratively solve complex industry-wide challenges, deploy new services and create what it believes could be technology breakthroughs to accelerate change.

The Open Digital Architecture Component Accelerator project is part of such ambitions and has been set up for collaborative development of a reference implementation that can act as the basis for testing commercial ODA components. This is seen as delivering a significant step toward TM Forum’s goal of developing a market for standardised and interoperable software components to run service provider businesses.

One essential element ion this is reducing procurement costs. TM Forum research has calculated that procurement alone wastes $1bn annually, and that the true cost of building and maintaining customised software is much higher, with the negative impact on business agility even more crippling.

Creating open application programming interfaces (APIs) was the first step in addressing the situation and making ODA 100% machine-readable by building a full reference implementation. An early part of the evolution in the ODA programme was a Component Accelerator designed to enable validation and interoperability testing of ODA components. This is said to benefit the whole ecosystem, including communications service providers, suppliers and systems integrators alike.

Eight months after the launch of the ODA Component Accelerator programme, TM Forum said the ODA initiative has reached an important milestone, with the first ODA component specifications and prototype test kits for validating the interoperability of commercial software products now available.

This next phase will scale-up to create the detailed specifications for more than 60 ODA software components. In combination with the widely adopted open APIs, TM Forum believes these can provide what it said is an urgently needed blueprint to replace traditional telecoms IT and network systems with industry-agreed cloud-native software components that could transform business agility, operating costs and customer experience, defending current business and unlocking growth through new services.

TM Forum said companies that join the next phase of development will shape these critical industry standards, meaning that they will have an easier path to conformance with new industry-agreed specifications. Throughout the process, participants will also gain expertise in the industry's common approach to cloud-native transformation.

Offering his opinion as to the importance of being involved in the next phase of building the ODA standards, TM Forum CTO George Glass said: “As the industry looks to unlock the potential of cloud-native approaches to software and agile ways of working, the benefits of being part of Open Digital Architecture have never been more profound.

“If we move together as an industry, with a set of standards and processes that are universal, we will create the kind of business agility which unlocks new growth and increases value for the whole ecosystem. On the other hand, if everyone goes it alone, we will end up with a mass of different technologies that cannot work together.

“This is why so many organisations from across the industry are already supporting Open Digital Architecture. Now is the perfect time to get involved. We want the whole ecosystem involved so that nobody is caught out, playing catch up in the future, having to rearchitect their solutions so that they are in line with the standards that are being developed today.”

TM Forum Open APIs, which are critical elements of ODA components, have already reached maturity and widespread adoption. This year alone, more than 8,000 developers from over 800 companies have downloaded TM Forum’s open APIs more than 64,000 times. To date, 22 software suppliers have certified their open API implementations.

More than 60 leading companies from across all sectors of the communications industry are already involved in developing ODA standards that connectivity and digital services architecture will run on as they industry adapts and develops cloud native components. These include Accenture, BT, Oracle, Orange, Telenor, Telstra and Vodafone.

“Replacing legacy via huge and massive transformation projects is too expensive, too long and too risky,” said Orange Group’s CIO, Koen Vermeulen. “ODA and its new component based architecture, pre-integrated on the ODA-CA platform, allows us to implement faster and more efficiently new systems and it is a key part of our global IT strategy. In Orange, there is a very large adoption of open APIs in all our geographies, all projects, for internal consumption but also for the integration with our partners.”

Adriano Poloni, managing director of communications and media at Accenture, said: “Accenture recognises the importance of collaboration, interoperability, and standardisation in the industry and how it will impact growth for communications players.

“Adopting an open architecture will allow for new operating models and partner ecosystems. These are essential in today’s world when companies are transforming to intelligent enterprises and shifting to technology-driven telcos with platform business models. To enable this change, Accenture is pleased to support the ODA initiative.”

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