Forget SDN and NFV: It's all about LSO

mef lso lifecycle service orchestration large

From the MEF: "The MEF's Strategy to implement the Third Network vision is to use Network as a Services principles, the solution is to develop a layered approach to break down complex problems, domain by domain or layer by layer."

Credit: Metro Ethernet Forum

Get ready for a conversation about Lifecycle Service Orchestration

Do you know SDN? Do you follow NFV? What about OSS? Those are yesterday's acronyms. The new buzzword is LSO, and it's going to be huge not only for carriers and other service providers, but also for enterprise customers.

Lifecycle Service Orchestration is a catchphrase that embraces the range of activities performed by a telco or other communications service provider. An LSO platform would handle everything from provisioning the customer order to controlling the delivery of the service to gathering metrics and ensuring guaranteed performance levels to remediating fault to providing usage reports to offering analytics to customers.

That's a lot to unpack, but the bottom line is that LSO is going to be big. According to the Service Provider Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Overview and Market Forecast report published by the Rayno Report in March 2015, LSO will be a $2.75 billion market by 2019 and will combine technologies found today in Operation Support Systems, Software Defined Networks, and Network Functions Virtualization.

According to the Rayno research report, "Global service providers are looking for software that integrates orchestration, fulfillment, control, performance, assurance, usage, analytics, security, and policy of enterprise networking services based on open and interoperable standards, according to our primary research and the results of a market survey of service providers."

OK, good. LSO is the next-generation operations platform for carriers and service providers. What's this mean for the enterprise? Why should anyone care?

Despite all of the past decade's revolution in networking, like Carrier Ethernet and SDN, it is still too difficult for carriers to define services and too hard for customers to comparison shop or even have a universal vocabulary for an RFP. Not only that, but when customers are ready to buy, carriers get bogged down when provisioning anything beyond simple bandwidth.

A lot of hair gets pulled out if the enterprise client wants something complicated, such as a secure network that spans multiple long-haul and last-mile service providers, bridges several cloud providers, and can accommodate mobility and regulatory compliance. Oh, the customers demand detailed pricing breakouts, real-time analytics, service-level accountability, and some degree of control over service delivery.

To meet those types of requests quickly, affordably, and with agility, service providers need to move beyond point solutions to lifecycle service orchestration.

According to the Rayno report, the top priorities are service velocity and agility:

"Better multi-vendor interoperability of services would be one important goal of LSO, but the operators need more. By far the most frequently cited goals in achieving LSO, according to our survey research and interviews, is the ability to deploy dynamic services and speed up the launch of new enterprise network services, from periods of weeks or months to minutes. Summary: Service providers want a better way to launch new offerings and enable customers to provision and manage these products themselves, often through a Web portal."

The Metro Ethernet Forum, a big industry consortium, is one of the drivers behind LSO through its Third Network initiative, announced last September. This is how Network World's Jim Duffy described the Third Network in September:

"The so-called Third Network initiative builds on the Forum's Carrier Ethernet 2.0 specifications for service expansion, application oriented class-of-service, interconnect attributes and manageability. Third Network work includes service orchestration functions, APIs, a protocol independent NaaS information model and service definitions between physical and virtual service endpoints."

The MEF excels at definitions, and has listed a set of six high-level capabilities of LSO based on its Third Network vision: Fulfillment, Control, Performance, Assurance, Usage and Analytics. You can see the detailed breakdown of each of those functions on the MEF's LSO page. This diagram is from that MEF page as well.

The LSO vision is quite compelling. More than that – it really addresses the concern that increasingly complex network services that go beyond pure bandwidth (and other basic connectivity issues like latency, service guarantees, and of course billable cost) are hard to define, hard to provision, and hard to deliver in ways that satisfy increasingly sophisticated customers.

If you are at an enterprise (or are a carrier customer), expect to have conversations about your carriers and service providers about how their LSO solution will save you money and make you more agile. If you are at a service provider, you'd better be ready for that LSO conversation – because your competitors will be soon.

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