Editor's Note: In this month's TM Forum guest column, organization president and chief technical officer Martin
Creaner looks at how defense industry standards initiatives dovetail with communications industry issues and how the two can work together. The TM Forum is a communications industry consortium that concentrates on improving business effectiveness for service providers, or Operations and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS). The Forum works with its members to provide solutions and guidance to transform the way digital services are created, delivered and charged.
When you think of stalwart standards like TM Forum's Solution Frameworks (NGOSS), Business Process Framework (eTOM) or Information Framework (SID), you inevitably think about communications providers.
Then we learned that the defense industry -- yes, defense, as in the Pentagon -- had been quietly applying TM Forum standards for years. But as defense industry agencies and companies have developed expertise in our standards, which are highly relevant to their communications needs, we're finding a whole community coming out of the woodwork.
The defense community is bringing its interest and use of communications standards out in the open, which will benefit not only those companies but also traditional service providers.
Companies like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, MITRE and the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) -- which provides advanced information technology to military services -- are getting involved with TM Forum for the first time, and veteran members including HP, Oracle, Cisco and Telcordia are adding defense to the lists of vertical markets they support.
To work with this community, in January we promoted the Defense Initiative within TM Forum to a Sector, meaning it has now increased its influence. In the past, the defense community has been a "silent consumer," in that it has been using our standards and frameworks for years.
Defense solutions extend to security and policy management
Why should communications companies care if defense-related companies and agencies are on board with TM Forum and its standards? It's really quite simple -- with its unique expertise and knowledge, the defense industry can take our standards and frameworks and modify them for its needs. Then other companies -- most likely traditional communications service providers -- can take the results and apply them for their own needs.
Security is a good example, since it is paramount for all things defense-related. We'd heard that some defense companies were looking to do some work around security management and weren't sure whether SID and eTOM, as they currently exist, would have the level of security that defense-related companies required. It's one of those areas where defense would have a much more urgent need to have robust standards, but telecom could benefit from that work as well.
Another area of great interest to the defense world is policy-enabled network management, which is an example of where defense and telecom differ. From a network perspective, the network is really there to support missions, whether reconnaissance, search and recovery or other assignments. Mission planning involves figuring out what services they need, how to configure the network and what resources they need in the network.
So while defense agencies may be setting up a network, provisioning and taking other steps familiar to service providers, the difference is that they are mostly dealing with federated networks, which cross provider boundaries and coalition partner boundaries. There's also a much more urgent time element associated with defense missions, where the network might need to be provisioned and ordered very quickly.
The bottom line is that the mission is dependent on the network, and there's a high degree of urgency but a short lifespan for some missions. Defense standards, network operations and OSS infrastructure may be virtually the same as for telecom providers, but the time element and the idea of applying the network to various missions is different.
Any changes and improvements to our core frameworks made by companies and agencies within the defense field can certainly be used by our more traditional base. Take, for example, our SID framework. DISA said it took SID and used about 50% of it right out-of-the-box, so to speak, but then extended it to suit its needs. The great part, however, is that it followed established rules and guidelines for how to extend it, so it's fully forward-compatible for anyone who would like to pick that up. Service providers could take SID or eTOM, add in the appropriate levels of security for their applications, and make it available for general use.
Defense Technology Catalyst Project to be showcased
In May, our defense sector and participating companies will have a high profile during Management World in Nice. Defense will be front and center during one of our Technology Catalyst Projects. The Catalyst Program is an innovative approach to launching and creating cutting-edge solutions and showcases how service providers, system integrators and hardware and software suppliers can work together to meet common challenges.
The defense-centric Catalyst -- Collaborated End-to-end Operation and Service Management in Satellite Communications -- will focus on satellite communications management and how to quickly provision and dynamically allocate bandwidth. This Catalyst, which is expected to be multi-phased, aims to showcase an end-to-end operation and service enabler of network-centric operations with future IP-based satellite communications management systems. This will be achieved by using TM Forum's standards and extending these standards where necessary to create an end-to-end, context-specific solution framework.
Building communications and defense coalitions
Going forward, we anticipate being able to chart a lot of new ground by working closely with the defense sector. By creating a community for a non-traditional industry, we're challenged with doing things we haven't done before and looking at things in new ways. The defense community is known for a high level of cooperation and collaboration. It's in its nature, and it's something we can certainly take a page from.
About the author: Martin Creaner is the president and chief technical officer of the TM Forum and has worked in the communications industry for the last 18 years. Creaner held a number of executive positions with BT and with Motorola, where he led the 2.5G and 3G OSS solutions development activities. He sits on the boards of a number of telecom companies and is the chairman of Selatra Ltd.