According to a survey conducted by McKinsey Global, because of the COVID-19 crisis, companies have accelerated their digital transformation the equivalent of 3 or 4 years in a few months . Communications service providers (CSP) are protagonists of the digital transformation of the rest of the sectors since they feed them by providing an important enabler of digitization: communications services. That is why CSPs have had an increase in business volume that has challenged the limits of communications infrastructures.
Let’s take a look at the main challenges CSPs are currently facing:
The essential challenge for CSPs is to face a market with a disruptive competition and with a changing demand from its customers. This demand for communications services is growing exponentially, but between the fierce competition, and the demand for cheaper prices from customers plus the frequent investments necessary to meet the demand, leave a limited margin for maneuver for CSPs to organic growth and innovation.
To cope with the strong demand and increasingly agile competition, CSPs need to change their business model and processes, transforming agility in decision-making, culture, way of working and systems that support them. In other words, they need a digital transformation that allows them to evolve from providers of traditional connectivity products towards an “as a service” product
model that allows them to go further and become digital service providers (DSP).
An example of a digital service is the concept of Connectivity as a service (CaaS). Being able to obtain customized communication services at the click of a button is something that is getting closer and closer and will be demanded by customers as technologies such as 5G gain traction. In a hyper-connected world like the one that is coming, connectivity as a service can be as temporary as the live broadcast of a football match in 8k with very specific quality needs tailored to the event. How can a CSP achieve such a thing?
How can the industry address these challenges and the transformation to DSP?
A large part of the players in this industry are gathered through TM Forum, an alliance of more than 850 companies that work together to break the barriers between the main “players” in the sector. Its members include digital and communications service providers, telephone companies, cable operators, network operators, cloud providers, digital infrastructure providers, software providers, equipment providers, system integrators, and management consultancies.
The key is that TM Forum helps build an ecosystem between CSPs and solution providers so that they can work and be more efficient in helping the industry meet its challenges. Among other things TM Forum helps to:
- Plan and manage the way to transformation using tools, such as the Digital Maturity Model.
- Solve problems quickly by using the collective intelligence of Telco and providers to create widely adopted tools and frameworks, such as Open APIs, that drive transformation execution.
- Accelerating innovation through fast proofs of concept such as Catalyst Programs and serving as a meeting point for the collective development of reference implementations.
The most notable tools for this transformative journey are agile, Open API and cloud-native methodologies.
Open APIs as enablers of interoperability and automation
APIs (Application Program Interfaces) are key tools for all types of businesses and industries. From a technical point of view, they allow interoperability between different systems or applications and, therefore, organizations. That is why APIs are feeding a new wave of innovation focused on digital services that catalyze the collaboration and association of companies to put together true digital ecosystems.
The word Open API is synonymous of Open API Specification. The Open API Specification defines a standard, language-agnostic interface for HTTP APIs, which enables both humans and machines to discover and understand the capabilities of a service without the need to access source code, documentation, or inspection of traffic .
The Open API Specification is defined and governed by The Open API Initiative (“OAI”), which is a consortium of industry experts who have recognized the immense value of standardizing the way APIs are described. 
Following the Open API Specification, it is possible to describe a REST API including the following information:
- Endpoints and their operations (GET / user, POST / users)
- Input output parameters for each operation
- Authentication methods
An Open API description can then be used by automated tools (such as Swagger ) to generate documentation, code for servers and clients, code for tests, and many other use cases.
TM Forum Open APIs as an enabler of digital ecosystems
In the age of digital ecosystems, TM Forum Open APIs are a valuable tool to break down the integration barriers that block the digital transformation of CSPs.
TM Forum Open APIs are a suite of +50 APIs, collaboratively developed by TM Forum members, to enable digital ecosystems. These allow managing digital services from the beginning to the end of their life cycle in an environment in which there are multiple partners involved in the provision of the service. The APIs are based on strongly established industry design patterns that allow for rapid implementation.
The key to its success is its clear practical orientation providing specifications, reference implementations and conformance testing. This facilitates rapid API implementation that helps build agile and cost-effective solutions.
It is very interesting to explore the TM Forum Ecosystem API Portal  that serves as a guide for the adoption and implementation of these APIs. Particularly valuable, for anyone who wants to adopt a similar standardization initiative in other domains, is the API TMF630 Design Guide . Also, the documentation of each API in the Open API table can lead to the adoption of one of these APIs or serve as a source of inspiration for others in similar fields.TM Forum Open APIs are a de facto standard that more and more CSPs are adopting and demanding from their providers. As can be seen from the picture, today the industry is moving linearly towards a mature adoption of Open APIs. You can take stock of industry commitment to its adoption and use by looking at the signers of the manifests Level 1: “Open API Manifesto” and Level 2: “Open API & Open Digital Architecture”. If we look at the Open API dashboard for March 2021 we can draw conclusions about the interest they arouse.
Apart from the multiple benefits that the adoption of Open APIs brings, they pave the way towards a microservices architecture as the first step to transform CSP systems into cloud-native, and thus facilitate the migration to a cloud-based model.
“Cloud Native” technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern dynamic environments, such as public, private or hybrid clouds today. Topics such as containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure and declarative APIs are examples of this approach. These techniques allow creating low-coupling systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with solid automation techniques, it enables engineers to make frequent and predictable high-impact changes with minimal effort. “ As CSPs will increasingly offer cloud-based products and services it makes perfect sense that systems that allow them to provide such products and services are also cloud-based.
The continuous improvement process for migration includes stages where refactoring the information systems to a cloud-native model using Open API is a fundamental part. Furthermore, Open APIs enable CSPs to acquire or manage their information systems in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model.
Picture 9 Continuous improvement process for migration to the cloud 
Open digital architecture to complete the transformation
As we have already seen, the adoption of Open API by providers and CSPs will make interoperability between different software components from multiple providers or other CSPs possible. This will transform the way of dealing with integrations and customizations of a strict model, with high economic and temporary costs, and many times a single provider with a strong dependence on the supplier of products and services, which makes it not possible to replace it without facing substantial costs “Vendor lock-in” towards a flexible multi-vendor model that allows for trial and error and encourages innovation. This flexible model combined with the cloud-native character that software solutions are increasingly adopting leads to a Marketplace-type model where CSP can acquire solutions according to the SaaS model.
To move from a set of Open API to a Market pace of components in which CSPs can acquire and configure their components in an agile and simple way, TM Forum took the step in 2018 by betting on the definition of an architecture that shapes those components . This architecture is the Open Digital Architecture (ODA).
Open Digital Architecture defines an architecture framework, common language, and design principles. The foundations of this architecture are interoperable software components organized in domains that expose business services through Open API. The anatomy of an ODA component is as in the following picture.As you can see, the ODA components expose and consume services through Open API exclusively. The APIs for Security, Notification / Response, Management / Ops and Environment Depence / Requirements will be identical in all ODA components; however, it will be the Core Function APIs that will vary from component to component.This anatomy is designed to make the Marketplace model as easy as possible, so a component can describe itself indicating what its function is and what its dependencies are. In this way, a component once configured and deployed can expose its capabilities and discover other components and begin to interoperate autonomously.ODA is still in the process of definition, but the work carried out since 2018 has made it possible to establish the principles and vision of the architecture along with the definition of the ODA components. Efforts are currently focused on defining an inventory of ODA components together with their Core Functions to support the digital ecosystem, as well as providing a reference implementation for these components. This way, the TM Forum Open API model is continued at the component level, providing specifications, reference implementations and tools to test the conformity of ODA components against the specifications to ensure their interoperability.Where is Satec?Satec has an extensive experience in integrations and development of BSS / OSS solutions for CSPs such as Orange or Telefónica among others. During more than 30 years that we have been carrying out projects where we select and integrate the best solutions on the market to bring value to CSPs, we have seen how they suffered the difficulties exposed at the beginning of the article that impede innovation and the agility necessary for their digital transformation . That is why we decided to create alvatross, a product division within Satec that offers OSS products. AlvatrOSS products were born following the polar star of the OpenAPIs and with the collaborative model of TM Forum in DNA. These products will allow CSP to bring products and services to market much faster, covering the full-service fulfillment cycle through a cloud-native platform based on microservices and OpenAPIs.Satec always uses the latest paradigms, technologies and methodologies in our solutions and products. We are especially innovative in the use of OpenAPI, AIOps, RPA and microservices.To continue at the forefront of technology, we are signatories of the TM Forum’s “Open API & Open Digital Architecture” Level 2 manifesto, and we also actively participate in the TM Forum initiatives so that ODA (Open Digital Architecture Component Accelerator) becomes a reality.