Microservices for Telecom Providers: Getting Ahead of Competitors
Technologies are rapidly developing, and our requirements for goods and services are ever more demanding. Providers are sensitive to market expectations and open up new lines of business, thus expanding traditional business models with new scenarios and partner offerings.
Eventually, the changes pile up, adding to the complexity of business process management. Monolithic systems, which service providers successfully used before, start to slow down the time to market (TTM) for new products, while innovations developed within companies take too much time from idea to implementation, thus losing relevance.
Competition for customers prompts providers to undergo drastic transformation, which indicates their willingness to continuously develop both the core BSS functions and supporting systems as well as the very approach to implementing innovations.
Providers actively develop non-telecom services and build their own digital ecosystems. Rapid ecosystem development is impossible with monolithic systems and old approaches with long release cycles.
The main advantage of microservices over monolithic solutions is their ability to build the desired solution based on existing programming modules as well as develop and deploy them independently of the vendor. This significantly reduces TTM, giving the provider a competitive advantage.
Another important distinctive feature of microservices is their easy integration with third-party applications and partner software due to the single API microservices use to communicate with each other.
Microservice Layer at MegaFon
The first stage of MegaFon’s transformation project was the consolidation of several billing systems on a single converged BSS platform followed by the creation of the Microservices Factory in the provider's updated landscape. This was a logical step towards MegaFon’s open digital ecosystem.
The Factory launched the production of new services based on the Nexign Microservices Framework. The platform supports the whole cycle of development, building, delivery and operation of services designed on the basis of microservice architecture. The solution enables a provider to:
Work on developments internally based on microservice architecture and host services both on the company’s resources and in the cloud
Implement the full cycle of continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD)
Ensure service protection, tracing, logging and secure work with credentials.
Cooperation between Nexign and MegaFon on the BSS resulted in the creation of a microservice layer to support the functional requirements of products, customers and partners.
Development and Deployment Processes
The microservice platform at MegaFon is designed to run hundreds of high-load business applications with continuous processes. The approach implies the use of ready-made templates and independence from CI/CD orchestration systems. It facilitates and simplifies development and deployment processes. The major platform conventions provide for end-to-end identification of applications and complex automated testing capability. Finally, the platform creates a single secure point for authenticating, balancing and routing business requests. All this helps to reduce TTM for new services from several quarters to a couple of months, and in some cases, a couple of weeks.
Modular architecture makes it possible to create separate logic for each new product in a separate component. The API unified in accordance with TM Forum standards ensures seamless integration of any new partner or product with any logic requirements. Thanks to this, integration of third-party services is fast.
What It Means for Business
Microservices help to quickly test any business hypothesis, whether it is developing a unique product offering with services provided by various partners or creating a customised offer for certain subscribers and groups. It is especially relevant during the pandemic when customer loyalty depends on the company’s ability to quickly adapt to market characteristics.
Easy integration of partner programmes makes microservices an excellent solution for creating a whole service ecosystem. An example of such a partnership is the joint offer made by MegaFon and a major Russian tourism portal. Upon booking a hotel room via a special promo website, customers received a voice and data roaming package for the dates of their stay. The package effectively covered the costs of buying a local one. It helped all the stakeholders boost sales and build customer loyalty.
The Microservice Factory also led to the emergence of a programming community for sharing knowledge and technology. Both third-party vendors and companies belonging to the same group can join this community. Thus, if a platform member creates a facial recognition solution, this microservice becomes available in all other MegaFon projects.
As a result, MegaFon, supported by Nexign, has managed to significantly expand its partner ecosystem and launch more than a 100 new products in less than a year of the Factory's operation.
Nexign’s experience with MegaFon’s transformation project proves that implementation of microservices is reasonable in companies that deal with a large number of projects simultaneously and are willing to change to overcome the stagnancy of existing architecture.
If a provider aims for fast market launch of its new digital services and wants to ensure efficient integration with its partners, microservices will make this work faster and easier.