Mobile and fixed networks have become incredibly complex and capable pieces of infrastructure. From gigabit speeds to single-digit millisecond latencies, from accurate device geolocation to self-repairing software-defined networks – the array of products and services on offer today is impressive.
However, while the technical capabilities are certainly there, we often face a daunting challenge: development and integration of these capabilities into commercial products. The diversity of network suppliers and products, coupled with country-specific peculiarities (topology, regulation, security, etc.), makes it increasingly difficult to create and commercialise services globally in a timely manner.
We frequently need to develop everything from the ground up in each market (sometimes even per network vendor!), even if we want to provide the service under a single commercial proposition and through a common user-facing platform.
In practice, this means huge costs, longer time-to-market and little flexibility to modify, update or scale once deployed. So at Vodafone, we asked what we could do to tackle this issue. The answer? NaaP: ‘Network as a Platform’.
NaaP is a Vodafone strategy whereby we’ve identified key network features and capabilities, developed microservices to abstract all the underlying complexity in each of our networks, and exposed those capabilities as simple APIs in a centralised API catalogue.
Essentially, we’ve made things simpler and more accessible for everyone – our commercial teams, third-party developers, companies and customers – by making our network capabilities available in an easy way.
By identifying key network capabilities and exposing them as standard APIs in a modern cloud platform, we allow our teams to quickly integrate them into a product in a simple, unified, and efficient way across all of our markets. This translates to a short time to market and enables great flexibility for modifying, updating or innovating the Vodafone product portfolio.
We have a fantastic team of software developers and engineers who are developing the APIs and microservices needed to abstract the network complexity. Technologies such as Network Virtualisation and SDN are key enablers, as they provide the elasticity required to satisfy our changing needs.
5G is also key, with containerised deployments of the 5G Core poised to help further. Some APIs with relatively low usage might suddenly see a traffic spike after a new commercial product implements them, so having mechanisms in place to adapt efficiently will make the creation and maintenance of these services a lot easier.
Another important enabler for NaaP will be orchestration. To create and manage links seamlessly across our mobile and fixed footprint, components like the NSO (Network Service Orchestrator) will play a major role in abstracting the underlying assets that make all of this possible. This will undoubtedly be one of the main points of interaction for our APIs to leverage in order to expose functionalities to the product platforms.
Simply put, the aim of all of this is to make Vodafone networks more flexible and accessible than ever. It’s very exciting rolling it out and seeing the teams bring our NaaP strategy to life.
With NaaP, the creation and maintenance of products and services is heavily simplified. We’re effectively hiding the complexity of the technologies behind it all, massively reducing the amount of work required to deploy new services for our Vodafone customers, and making them much easier to maintain and update as well.
Additionally, because our API catalogue will be deployed in modern cloud platforms, we will also have the ability to expose some of these APIs to third parties without any further effort. Indeed, this could be a great opportunity for developers to play around and experiment with some of the functionalities our networks have to offer.
It’s going to lower the entry barrier for new services, encourage innovation and collaboration and ultimately, give our customers an incredible service. Our Networks team is primed for this API journey, and we’re more ready than ever to get it going!