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What is DevOps and Why is it Important for Telecom?

Dan Meyer
Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers

As the telecom space moves towards increased use of virtualization platforms, devops is becoming an important model to smooth the transition.

Devops is not a new term, but the combination of “development” and “operations” across the telecommunications space is growing as operators looks to generate greater operational and network efficiencies by combining software development and IT systems across their work environments.

But what exactly is devops?

According to the crew at The Agile Admin: “Devops is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.”

Sounds basic enough from a high level, but what’s the relevance to the telecom space?

Devops is seen as the combination of software development best practices with network operations. Historically, changes in network operations unfolded over decades; whereas changes in IT software environments is considered more agile. Combining development with operations is expected to allow network changes to occur without risking security, reliability and performance.

“There are strong business motivators for operators to move from their current hardware-dependent architectures to [network functions virtualization],” said Mike Bonewitz, VP of cloud and fiber strategies at Nexius. “But this shift brings uncertainty and risk to network stability and quality of service. Our research identifies a way forward to reduce the risks and realize the benefits.”

In a recent research paper, Nexius and University of Texas at Dallas researchers pointed to the importance of development and operations teams working closely together. In a NFV environment, developers are seen as continually delivering new services and functionality by implementing virtual network functions. Operations is then challenged to accommodate those changes while preserving the stability of the network. By closely collaborating in a devops structure, these two previously disparate groups can operate more efficiently in a synchronized way. As NFV moves from academic discussions to real deployments, the devops structure coupled with measurable KPIs are seen as critically important.

Ericsson also linked the move towards devops by telecom operators to the current move towards virtualization platforms using NFV, software-defined networking and cloud platforms.

“Considering operational requirements for upcoming telecom concepts like NFV (powered by SDN and cloud virtualization), we realized that current management frameworks (e.g. eTOM and ITIL) will not suffice,” the vendor noted in a blog post. “In addition to traditional carrier-grade requirements posed on telecommunication networks (high-availability and fast recovery, scalability, quality of service), the value proposition of software-defined infrastructures promises higher service dynamicity (e.g., scaling or migration of VNFs) and higher service velocity (e.g., increased deployment frequencies and faster time-to-market). To reach these additional requirements, novel fulfillment and assurance mechanism are required. Besides a common orchestration framework for cloud and carrier network resources, it will be inevitable to resort to programmable components and integrated quality assurance steps, making it possible to minimize failure rates and maximize predictability and efficiency of automated operational processes.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise in writing a 2016 predictions column for RCR Wireless News noted devops was set to impact how organizations view and allocate workforce resources, which are often the most cost consuming aspect of business and highlights the importance of the migration to a devops environment.

“The adoption of development operations by most IT organizations will force everyone to adopt new skills – from both a technical and culture perspective,” HPE wrote. “As developers become more familiar with infrastructure, and operations staff gets more familiar with code, it’s inevitable that jobs will begin to morph and evolve. In 2016 and beyond, those changes will go beyond development and operations to impact business analysts, planning teams and even C-level executives. For example, traditional system administrator roles will become less relevant as automation takes over many tasks, while “full-stack” engineers, who are familiar with the entire application technology stack, will start to become more critical. Roles will evolve as teams become more horizontally embedded around products and services, and multiple roles become part of the extended devops delivery chain.”

Devops may still be a new term for many, especially those in the telecom space, but it appears to be one in which the industry is set to become intimately familiar with over the coming years.

Click here to read the article in RCR Wireless News