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One of the first technology partners to enter the Next Generation Enterprise Network Alliance was the Polish software company Comarch. ngena’s Head of Marketing, Jörg Wassink, spoke with Marcin Dąbrowski, Director of the Telecommunications Business Unit at Comarch, about his experience with ngena. And what it means for his company to be part of the ngena project, i.e. building an innovative, Cloud-based BSS/OSS portal, that helps ngena and its alliance partners to manage a global SD-WAN network for enterprise customers around the globe.
Marcin, can you first tell us a bit about Comarch?
We are a software house offering a wide portfolio of products for various industry verticals such as banking, telecoms, airlines, retail, and more. The telecommunications business unit specializes in providing integrated software solutions, traditionally known as Business Support System or BSS and Operation Support Systems or OSS, that automate business processes in the engineering and business departments of communication service providers. This is where we found common ground with ngena, based upon which we were able to become business partners.
When did you hear about ngena for the first time and what were your initial thoughts about this project?
ngena first came to our attention around three years ago. We saw that their concept was both intriguing and innovative – it really was the first of its kind, no one before has attempted an initiative approach of this scale to connect regional carriers through a global backbone. Most importantly, we also noted how closely it is aligned with our strategy, focused on automating and integrating business processes. We saw great potential for creating something special and unique as business partners with ngena, and we were excited to be selected as the technology partner to support the initiative with our OSS and BSS solutions.
Why did Comarch join the ngena alliance as a technology partner? What is unique about ngena from your perspective?
Comarch has a long history of helping telcos optimize their IT architectures and business processes. Standardized data models and protocols, service-oriented architecture and agile development have all helped along the way. Now we are moving into new areas – DevOps processes and microservice-based, cloud-native architecture, which promises to drive down operating costs (OPEX) still further and greatly facilitate large-scale network deployment. This aligns us perfectly with ngena’s vision of a global network.
Once we had met with ngena and discussed their business model and their needs, we knew it was an organization that we wanted to be a part of, and that we have the capabilities to support it. ngena’s ambitious vision to shake up the global telecom market was a big factor that drew us in.
Being part of such an innovative venture, you are truly at the forefront of technology. Seeing the telecom brands that stood behind ngena from day one, it was clear that this was a very promising project; just as we expected, it has grown a lot in the past two years, along with our cooperation.
How did ngena influence the way you develop business and operations support systems (B/OSS) platforms today?
ngena is a very conscious and demanding customer. We constantly need to prove the business value of our functionalities and solutions. The basics of our approach to BSS and OSS development remain the same, focused strongly on a zero-touch, integrated approach that blurs the traditional divide between these two realms.
The BSS/OSS platform we implemented for ngena is a prime example of us embracing their powerful vision. ngena required a solution that would enable global NFV services to be sold and deployed within a very short timeframe. We delivered this platform to deadline and made sure it integrated well with modules provided by other technology partners such as Cisco.
What changed as a result of our cooperation was our stricter alignment with industry standards focusing on speed, interoperability and flexible incorporation of extensions and other vendors’ systems.
Did you see any challenges during this project?
Well, it was the first project of this kind for us – with services delivered globally on a virtualized network. The main challenges were related to the new business model, the global scale of the project and the new technologies such as SD-WAN.
However, since we started working together, the project has been going smoothly and we have been able to tackle all these challenges efficiently.
Did you also learn anything new along the way?
ngena’s bold vision definitely inspired many valuable internal discussions at Comarch about the evolution of our product portfolio and the new business opportunities arising from similar business models. Being part of an alliance is also an important lesson in the value of cooperation and partnerships. It shows how much more you can achieve when you join forces with the right kind of partner.
As one of ngena’s key technology partners, can you tell us what part of the project you are especially proud of?
Well, first is the very fact you mentioned, of having been selected alongside Cisco as one of ngena’s first two technology partners. We are also proud of and satisfied with the mutual trust that has existed since the beginning of our journey with ngena.
Given the ambitious timeline that we faced, we were also proud to have started and finished the project on time. With big IT installations like this one, there are many factors that can contribute to potential delays, but we managed to minimize them.
If you look at the current status of the ngena project, what are the biggest advantages for the end customers?
The fact that services delivered by ngena are standardized and uniform among all alliance partners ensures a consistent, end-to-end customer experience and automated order management for the enterprises that signed as customers.
There are many conveniences that come with using ngena’s service. For example, the ngena platform ensures that customers’ security policies, set within the network of a specific carrier, carry over to other networks. On top of that, business customers can take full advantage of ngena’s SD-WAN portfolio which is scalable as well as easy to administer and operate. All of these functionalities enable companies to use secure global networks and connect new sites quickly.
Other benefits involve having a single contract and a single provider to manage all worldwide VPN services, and enjoying a very efficient, fast network built on SD-WAN, to name just a few. Ultimately, ngena enables enterprises to save time and money. At the end of the day, this is crucial in every business.
And how about the advantages of using an SDN & NFV approach for telecom operators?
SDN and NFV are new disruptive technologies that open up new doors for innovative business models and bring about numerous potential benefits for telecoms.
One of the greatest advantages that virtualized, software-defined networks bring for telcos is the ability to limit the exposure of enterprise data centers and achieve greater security through micro-segmentation, effectively isolating networks tied to virtual machines.
Secondly, when telecoms do away with switches, routers, access controllers and all other aspects of physical networks, they will be able to replace labor-intensive and error prone tasks with fast, automated network processes.
Experimenting with new services is also much easier with SDN/NFV technology and the model-driven approach to orchestration enables telcos to avoid heavy scripting of business logic for new services and makes it easier to onboard virtual network functions and partner services. We encourage telcos to give this “fail fast” approach a chance, so that they can see for themselves the full potential of the new technology.
Maintaining and re-creating virtual resources is also much, much cheaper than in the case of physical networks. This is beneficial for end-customers, both B2B and B2C, who can enjoy a wider variety of new services faster.
In the context of ngena, what future developments are you working on?
I can’t disclose all details, but I can shed some light on the future of our cooperation.
Since ngena’s business environment is quite complex and consists of stakeholders with varying requirements regarding monitoring, reporting, and interfacing, we need the ability to adapt our platform quickly. The flexibility and configurability of the platform is key here, and these are the aspects that we are constantly enhancing.
In the development of our OSS portfolio, we are focusing strongly on service orchestration and service desk, which are intended to be aligned with operational fulfillment and assurance processes, as required by ngena. We are also enhancing the SLA parameter monitoring functionality to fit ngena’s business processes and needs.
I believe that this project and our cooperation with ngena will bring many new challenges that we are already excited to face.
Thank you, Marcin, for this interview!