Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Janne Ohtonen, Sacha Labourey, CEO and Founder of CloudBees examines how DevOps is helping CSPs keep up with the times.
The digital revolution has been a double-edged sword for telcos. Despite enabling positive and transformational innovation, it has introduced additional strain on network resources, and ever-increasing competition from over-the-top (OTT) players such as Netflix and HBO, which stream their content over existing networks for free.
The telcos’ core business remains voice and data of course, however the areas of business for a communication service provider (CSP) have proliferated to a point where they’re also providing entertainment, public safety, financial services, education and countless others to customers.
Not only this, but telcos are subject to regulation at the national and international level. They have been tasked with maintaining momentum in their core business of voice and data, while expanding into non-traditional sectors such as supporting the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to remain relevant and competitive.
They depend upon the assignment of scarcely available and incredibly costly spectrum, and as a result carriers are also working on newer spectrum efficiency technologies, including Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi). Indeed, the challenges for CSPs are numerous and the stakes for telco executives are high, meaning that the stakes for application teams are just as high, if not higher.
Providing reliable voice and data services has become a commodity for many providers, and therefore developing software solutions and enhanced services has become crucial in differentiating and adding value to end users. Accelerating the development of software and creating it in tandem with line of business managers is the key to success in the telco industry. This is where DevOps comes in.
DevOps and Continuous Delivery
Providing enhanced services and an improved customer experience requires the continual delivery of new and improved applications. DevOps is a movement which promotes a culture of shared goals and rapid, frequent application updates, enabling IT teams to deliver more reliable releases, quickly, through improved productivity and efficiency.
DevOps centers around the collaborative effort required for rapid and frequent application development, testing and delivery. It’s a cultural shift; a better way of working across functions. A DevOps culture emphasizes more effective communication and collaboration between diverse teams such as development, operations and QA. The goal is to break down silos within organizations for a more collaborative workplace, which creates a synergy that ultimately benefits the end user. As we know, the benefits of creating and maintaining strong relationships with customers are exponential, including but not limited to less subscriber churn, and more potential revenue streams.
Because DevOps is about culture, there is no single DevOps tool, per se, but there are available tools to enable and support a DevOps culture. There are both open source and proprietary tools, and they are used for specific tasks across the entire software development and delivery process. And speaking of process, let’s look at continuous delivery.
Continuous delivery is all about process, and automation is the enabler for it. Continuous delivery processes are a fundamental component to a DevOps transformation. Continuous delivery and DevOps enable development teams to greatly accelerate delivery of software. With continuous delivery processes and a DevOps culture, teams can continually deliver secure and tested code that is in a production-ready state at all times. This includes the delivery of software updates which, for a telecommunications company, can be as frequent as three or more times per day.
Jenkins – The open source tool for continuous delivery
Jenkins is the most widely-adopted automation tool and an example of an open source technology that can assist with rapid software application development and delivery. It acts as a shepherd, rounding up excerpts of code from various modules, and getting that code to where it belongs, automating steps that are currently manual and error prone, hence increasing velocity, reducing errors and largely improving repeatability and determinism.
Jenkins also has an extensible architecture, giving it the ability to integrate with a wide array of code from disparate tools and sources – this can be particularly important for telcos, facing the need to support systems and environments that can be decades old, yet, leverage today’s leading edge tools. Owing to this ubiquity and this breadth and depth of supported environments, Jenkins is likely already used within telcos amongst teams involved throughout the software delivery pipeline, from development to production.
The Way Forward
Clearly the telecom industry is in the midst of one of the greatest industry upheavals in its history, and as a result, needs to adopt a new approach to achieving business goals. The shift from competing to provide the fastest and most reliable data and voice services, to competing on content – providing the software-based solutions that businesses and consumers demand – means that for IT teams to succeed, they must have the tools and processes to enable them to accelerate getting innovation to their customers, while creating predictable and secure solutions.
Much rides on the ability to provide new applications, content and updates faster. The most successful telcos will be those that can do this – and exceed customer expectations. Telco teams must strive to adopt automation and adoption of DevOps culture and practices. If executed across the business, telco operators will be able to capitalise on new content and technology areas ahead of competitors, align with industry regulations more efficiently and relieve time spent on network management to focus on developing and improving offerings.
Sacha was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and graduated in 1999 from EPFL. It was during Sacha’s studies in 1996 that he started his first consulting business – Cogito Informatique. In 2001, he joined Marc Fleury’s JBoss project as a core contributor and implemented JBoss’ original clustering features. In 2003, Sacha founded the European headquarters for JBoss and, as GM for Europe, led the strategy and partnerships that helped fuel the company’s growth in that region. While in this position, he led the recruitment of some of JBoss’ key talent and acquisition of key technology. In 2005, he was appointed CTO of JBoss, Inc. and oversaw all of JBoss engineering. In June 2006, JBoss, Inc. was acquired by Red Hat (NYSE:RHT). After the acquisition, Sacha remained JBoss CTO and played a crucial role in integrating and productizing JBoss software with Red Hat offerings. In 2007, Sacha became co-General Manager of Red Hat’s middleware division. He ultimately left Red Hat in April 2009 and founded CloudBees in April 2010.