As we've discussed in recent blogs on the topic, APIs are dominating many discussions within OSS and the broader telecommunications industry. It is one of what seems like hundreds of buzzwords floating around the landscape of late. However, there is a reason this abbreviation deserves to stand out, as it represents a critical enabler of the software-defined, virtualized networks of tomorrow.
From the standpoint of service assurance, APIs enable the automation behind networking-as-a-service, providing the human-independent intercommunication responsible for communicating a subscriber's intent throughout the operational environment of an operator's network to actualize that intent. This automation is necessary to fully deliver on the promise of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), but it doesn't merely exist within the administrative boundaries of a single operator.
In fact, that same automation is necessary between operators both operationally and from a business applications perspective to establish partnerships between different providers and deliver nearly ubiquitous coverage to end subscribers. This ubiquitous access, based on assured versus best-effort network services is the foundation of the MEF's Third Network Vision. The resultant agile and responsive networks fueled by this automation can quickly react to the demands of enterprise customers and do so in a fully assured environment with the necessary network performance customers require.
SDN and NFV promise to enable providers to leverage the power of automation and virtualization to enhance the agility of their networks and introduce a bevy of new services to their enterprise customers. APIs underpin these agile, network-based services, delivering a self-service, on-demand experience to customers often accessed through service portals.
A CSP-provided portal for on-demand network services
As network architectures become software-centric, APIs enable customers to access additional services on-demand and in real time. This can be a boon for providers in an age where they are zealously looking for new sources of revenue, as price erosion on core connectivity services coupled with the decline in legacy services (e.g. voice) are resulting in dips to most providers' revenues.
Customers can now easily access services like perimeter security firewalls, application performance visibility or SD-WAN applications that combine multiple networks — including the Internet — into a single, super-intelligent WAN for the enterprise, with just a few clicks.
Services like these establish the synergistic value between connectivity and network-based applications, that is necessary for providers to maintain or grow their enterprise customer base and maximize their value. Using APIs, the order-to-cash cycle moves from months to minutes, tying customer need to operator revenue with a few mouse clicks from the user in a CSP-provided portal.
In order for these services and their ease of adoption to become a reality, the industry must work to converge on information models and APIs to minimize costs and ensure inter-operator automation. The necessary collaboration and consistency is required from several different areas. Standards groups like the MEF and TM Forum play a significant role in establishing this consistency, along with open-source solutions and developer communities like ONAP, OPNFV, OpenStack and others will go a long way toward accelerating the industry to achieve network nirvana.
To learn more about how APIs are helping revolutionize networks, listen to our recent webinar, “The ABCs of APIs,” where we take a deep dive into the wealth of opportunities for the networks of tomorrow.