Wipro: SDN and NFV are the building blocks of becoming a digital telco
Telcos in Africa are walking a fine line having to balance the needs of providing higher quality and feature rich network services while maximising return on their network investments. With quality of service recognised as one of the key reasons in people deciding to change network operators, it’s important to maintain great service levels. But with tens of millions of new voice and data subscribers expected to need connectivity in the coming years, operators also must serve the growing customer base and their demands.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) provide several levers that carriers can use to help them achieve both aims, without needing massive network investment programmes.
SDN centralises the intelligence of the network into a virtualised environment – so the network control is abstracted away from the network transport layer which in turn allows for a greater agility, manageability, flexibility and cost effectiveness. NFV virtualises entire classes of network node functions, such as load balancers, firewalls, intrusion detection devices or WAN accelerators, for instance.
SDN and NFV offer exciting opportunities for operators to orchestrate and even automate parts of their network management functions, with a number of advantages:
- Reduce dependence on OEMs and proprietary standards: Network configuration hardware has traditionally locked-in operators, forcing them to work within narrow, predefined limits. Modernising network functions required firmware updates and sometimes even radical ‘rip and replace’ strategies. But with open-standards governing their virtualisation strategy, operators can avoid the trap of “vendor lock-in”, and make continual upgrades to infrastructure, without expensive hardware changes.
- Cost reduction: New features and functionality can be deployed on existing networks reducing the cost of new capability deployment and extending the useful asset life of your network infrastructure. This has a direct benefit in terms of network costs with improving your return on assets and reducing your investment requirement. Research by Strategy Analytics found that the use of SDN could save US-based mobile operators more than $4 billion in capex in 2017. By making more efficient use of network resources, operators are guaranteed they’re squeezing maximum value from their networks.
- No more in-field configuration: NFV enables configuration of new and existing networks in a fully-remote manner. Service providers no longer have to send specialists to one’s physical location (such as an office complex) to configure or maintain networking equipment. This improves speed of new service or feature delivery while also reducing the workforce cost to delivery this.
- Consolidated traffic into a single virtualised network: Hardware and bandwidth can be used more efficiently by managing one’s various underlying networks from a single control console – pulling together everything from wi-fi, cellular, fixed-line IP, MPLS and any other WAN network.
- New business services and revenue streams: Particularly applicable in the enterprise space, SDN and NFV enables operators to more closely bond their core transmission services to a host of other services – from security tools like firewalls, encryption, and intrusion detection, to cloud-delivered business software, service monitoring, network caching, and more.
- New consumer services and revenue streams: Among individual consumers, operators also benefit from moving into software-based applications – from mobile apps that enjoy cheaper data rates, or the opportunities for consumers to shape and change their monthly contracts, there’s a wide array of exciting possibilities in this arena.
- Partnerships enabled by network prioritisation: By better prioritising traffic, operators can enter partnerships with broadcasters and other online content providers, to create packaged offerings for consumers, and ultimately share in the revenue from premium online services.
- Powering the cloud revolution: We’ve seen the explosion of over-the-top (OTT) services from the likes of Amazon, Google and Salesforce, everywhere from the largest enterprises all the way to individual consumers. With virtualisation, carriers can unlock even greater cloud potential, spurring increased enhancements in the way we work, and the way we connect with each other.
The SDN and NFV landscapes are still maturing, with new benefits emerging all the time. Those operators that start exploring virtualisation technology on their networks, even if it’s just in isolated pockets for the time being, will have the jump-start on competitors as the technologies mature.
SDN and NFV enable smarter, more digitised networks – and their value only increases over time. Think of it as something like how Elon Musk has revolutionised the car through the Tesla; it may still have four wheels and an engine and look like a car. But the Tesla engineers have the ability to push updates overnight meaning that in the morning you can climb into a ‘new car’, with enhanced self-driving capabilities, or a new launch control feature, for example. With SDN and NFV, operators get the same level of agility, pushing both minor and major configuration updates to their users whenever they decide, from a centralised location right to your office branch.
Viswanathan Ramaswamy is the Vice President and CTO of Communication at Wipro Limited. Hrusostomos Vicatos is the Business Development Executive for the Telco Sector at Wipro
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”