Abel Tong (@EnableBlue) is part of Ciena's Blue Planetdivision and is responsible for helping network operators transform their networks by leveraging SDN and NFV to create new services while simplifying their network operations. 

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting Blue Planet’s new architecture and features.  Other posts:

 

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how SDN, NFV and orchestration can transform networking.  In fact it was the talk of the show at last week’s SDN& OpenFlow World Congress in Düsseldorf.  As part of this, we’ve seen architectural diagrams with an orchestrator and northbound RESTful APIs connecting up into the network operator’s existing OSS. 

Though this is technically accurate, these diagrams gloss over how complicated it is to integrate new functionality and new interfaces into an existing OSS.  The integration of a service orchestration platform into a network operator’s OSS is critical, because without a robust integration, network operators will not be able to access the full potential of SDN, NFV and orchestration.

 

The Legacy of Inflexible Old OSSs

The problem here is largely inherent in the OSS.  Below are results from a MEF survey, Dynamic Third Network Services & the Role of LSO (March 15, 2015).

 

As shown in the survey results, OSSs are inflexible and lack agility.  They are monolithic, largely fragmented and proprietary applications. 

But it really doesn’t matter where the problem lies, integration needs to happen.

 

OMG, It’s BPMN to the Rescue

To deal with the challenges of OSS integration, Ciena’s Blue Planet brings Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) into the mix.  BPMN 2.0 is a standard modeling notation for workflow management.  BPMN 2.0 was developed and is now maintained by the Object Management Group (OMG). 

The notion is graphical and reads like a flow chart, which makes it easy for different stakeholders throughout a business to understand.  Thus, non-technical and technical personnel can work together and easily convert business processes into programmatic control.  

BPMN consists of simple diagraming features. Diagrams are built from basic elements including event, activity, gateway, and connecting objects.  The workflows are triggered by events.  Activities define the work being done.  Gateways describe the paths between elements in a workflow.  And, connections represent types of flows.  BPMN diagrams look a lot like UML Activity Diagrams. 

Here’s a simple example of a new service turn-up:

  1. Check a customer management system to validate the service request
  2. Check the inventory to verify resources
  3. Activate a service across a network over both physical and virtual devices; and run service activation testing
  4. Update inventory management and trigger billing

 

 

So, BPMN combined with Blue Planet provides a structured way for directing control and interfacing into an OSS.  Network operators can leverage BPMN to integrate their new SDN, NFV and orchestration cleanly into diverse and complex OSS systems.  And with a robust integration, leverage the new technologies to transform their networks.