ipad_tv_commons_bendodsonSome major telecom service providers hope to use an Amazon-style platform to support a new approach to offering video content to end users, said Barry Graham, senior director of agile business and IT for technology association TM Forum, in an interview. Graham used the term platform business model to describe the Amazon-style approach.

Amazon, he said, “started out selling their own product [but they] now sell other peoples’ products and you can buy the platform they use to sell other peoples’ products.” Amazon, he added, makes “far more” money out of letting other people use its platform than it does selling its own products. The company’s e-commerce platform enables it to essentially act as a curator, setting guidelines for companies that want to sell their products through its platform.

For telcos, the idea would be to use a platform business model to enable content providers to sell video content for delivery over end users’ broadband connections. The platforms telcos are looking to develop would give end users the ability to create their own content bundles, Graham explained.

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The telcos want their platforms to support a “zero-touch” approach that would let content providers “on-board” themselves, automatically adding content to an online catalog, he added.

“It stops being up to the service provider to choose bundles; it’s an open platform,” said Graham. “It’s just a venue where you connect content to buyers.”

A Platform Business Model for Telcos 
Telcos’ interest in pursuing this approach to video came to light in research TM Forum was doing on end-to-end service orchestration aimed at automating service automation and delivery.

While “orchestration” is a term often associated with network functions virtualization (NFV), end-to-end orchestration is broader as it includes provisioning, configuration and assurance, explained Dawn Bushaus, managing editor for TM Forum.

As the forum interviewed service providers about end-to-end service orchestration, “it became clear why they wanted to use it,” said Bushaus. “Orchestration was an important part of the platform push.”

When asked the top three drivers for end-to-end service orchestration, the number one answer – selected by 75% of respondents – was agility. People wanted to be able “to deliver services to customers more quickly.” Service providers also expressed strong interest in being able “to offer service on demand with updates in real time.”

The findings are somewhat at odds with conventional views on new enabling technologies such as NFV, noted Graham. “A lot of people talk about . . . significant cost savings, but when you talk to people who are actually making the decision, they’re way more interested in agility,” he said.

That is “absolutely true of orchestration as well,” Graham continued. “It’s not about taking cost out of the services you’re doing today. That would be a race to the bottom. It’s about genuinely being able to differentiate themselves.”

“And create new revenue streams,” added Bushaus.

The Work Ahead
Service providers have work to do before they can achieve end-to-end orchestration and platform business model nirvana, however.

One of the goals of the TM Forum survey was to prioritize that work. What the forum found was that the top three items service providers wanted to tackle were to establish standardized patterns for components to follow, to enable the use of automated control loops for real-time response to requests for service and to establish intent-based management.

The Open Networking Foundation and the MEF also are working on various aspects of service orchestration and the TM Forum is talking to them about “working across different domains,” Graham said.

TM Forum’s research on end-to-end orchestration already was shared with forum members. A summary of the research is expected be released publicly within the next week or so.

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