to Service Provider Success
is a brief insight into the various operation support
systems and the different functionality they offer service
Support Systems (OSS) enable service providers manage
their business critical operations. These systems
are business critical because they enable service delivery
impact customer satisfaction and, thereby, service provider
These systems include customer
order management, provisioning, service activation,
network management, service and fault management, billing
and customer care.
The concept of OSS and its evolution is a carefully
studied discipline, which has been put to use in an
extensive manner in the mature SP markets of Europe
and US. While SPs in India do use some OSS components,
typically Network Management Systems, the concept is
still new and untried.
Applications such as CRM, DSS are also considered components
of OSSs. These can also be classified separately as
Business Support Systems (BSS).
Workflow Engine is the heart of an OSS that integrates
all the other components together. This is Middleware
software, which enables components to talk among themselves
and thus ensures seamless
workflow and hands-free or automated operation.
Workflow typically involves the order management interface
where the customer
places his order; the provisioning application which
"setsup" the service requested; the service
activation application which activates the service requested
by the customer; finally the billing application which
rates and bills the customer.
Management is the interface (on the Web, or offline
on the desktop) where the customer himself or the SP
representative places the order for services. This can
be a graphic user interface (GUI) that provides information
on the various services available such as Web hosting,
bandwidth, content and the accompanying pricing, discount
schemes, promotions, etc, which assist the ordering
The order management system then breaks down the service
order into specific tasks to be performed by various
other OSS components to enable the customer to access
he ordered. The workflow engine then takes over the
supervisory role of ensuring that various tasks are
performed and sends the feedback to the order management
system from where the order status can be obtained.
Provisioning and Service Activation
systems track and manage
network equipment such as circuits, switches, routers,
etc, which need to be activated for providing the service
ordered. For eg for a Web hosting
service order, the various network elements to be assigned
include servers, T1 lines, network routes, etc.
Service Activation systems enable automatic or manual
activation of the service ordered. Certain elements
may be activated automatically, but others need manual
intervention. These systems
notify engineers on the service ordered, the equipment
involved, where it is located and what needs to be done
to activate the service.
Today, systems are available that enable flow-through
or zero-touch provisioning
and service activation. Such systems, based on the inputs
from the order management system, automatically
activate service on the network equipments that are
required for enabling the service.
Management Systems (NMSs) are familiar to most SPs today.
They supervise and monitor network traffic and collect
statistics on performance. They are key tools in any
Network Operations Center (NOC). They use SNMP and CMIP
to interact with network elements such as routers, switches,
etc. NMSs also include trouble identification and
resolution capabilities based on the statistics collected
from these network elements. A NMS issues a trouble
ticket based on a fault alarm from network elements,
and initiates the repair process, which may or may not
require manual intervention.
Service Level Management
competition among SPs has led to the emergence of this
new OSS functionality. SPs thrive on service differentiation
and the Service Level Agreement (SLAs) they sign with
their customers. Typical SLA variables include:
Network latency between POP A to POP B
Packet Delivery success rate
Proactive outage notification
Server Installation time
Circuit installation time
SLA Management tools provide SPs with summaries of service
availability and details of network events, enabling
them to circumvent service outages. A service might
be an end-to-end
application, a digital transmission service,
a business unit, a virtual private network, or an Internet
connection. Such tools complement existing NMS and operate
similarly. They feature probes that collect event messages
from various environments ranging from IBM mainframe
systems to SNMP management systems to network devices
The system enables organizations to manage their environments
from an infrastructure and customer-centric perspectives
as it links the elements to the services they provide
and tracks the availability of the actual services as
well as the status of the devices supporting them. Some
tools come with remote consoles that the SPs provide
to their customers, who in turn can monitor the services
they bought, on their own.
Billing and Customer Care
billing and customer care (BCC) is different from the
traditional practices employed by telecom operators.
SP services are real-time, impact much larger number
of customers, complex and varied. Billing does not follow
the typical 30-day cycle, prevalent with telcos.
If an SP is offering a basket of 10 services (dialup,
leased lines, VPNs, security services, hosting, co-location,
etc), marketing can be innovative in designing cross-service
discounting schemes. Customers should have the flexibility
to buy his choice set of services, and check his expense
Provisioning and billing some services
is complex. Take the case of video conferencing, where,
in the middle
of the conference, the customer wants to increase his
bandwidth for better resolution. The SP network should
support this request online and also bill the customer
for this extended service. If this service is pre-paid
then the billing system should be able to check on real-time
basis, the balance on the customer's account, compute
the fare for extended service, and inform the provisioning
system whether the request can be serviced.
BCC systems must have the following
Real-time support (for authorization, registration,
fraud prevention, rating, discounting, promotions
Comprehensive Web-based customer care and support
High scalability (for new services and large customer
Extensibility (to integrate with general
ledger systems, legacy apps, CRMs, etc that an SP
might be using)
Business Impact of OSS
help address the following key concerns of SPs:
How to differentiate services?
How to provide superior customer service?
How to reduce time-to-market for new products and
And more importantly, how to achieve all the above while
controlling operating costs?
Balasubramanian D, Product Manager-Solutions, Wipro
Infotech can be reached at email@example.com