Opinion

Enabling the global services supply chain with automation

Pascal Menezes.jpg

As the continued development of new services reshapes the dynamics of wholesale, Pascal Menezes, CTO of MEF, explains how automation can enhance the supply chain

Most of the world has grown accustomed to on-demand content, goods, and services – and this requires well-orchestrated, complex supply chains. Take the example of streaming services for on-demand content, which involves everything from content producers to data analytics to delivering the content via high-bandwidth, low-latency services.

Today’s service and cloud providers have a similarly complex supply chain ecosystem for the delivery of services and applications, where buyers (retail) need to source services outside of their own inventories from sellers (wholesale) to meet the needs of global enterprise customers.

Those providers who are able to automate business transactions (e.g. ordering, provisioning) in their supply chains are poised for success, as they are better able to deliver services in near real-time and provide outstanding customer experiences.

Getting to cloud-like speeds and a better user experience

Reliance on the cloud – and cloud-to-cloud interconnect – is growing across the services and technology industry. For service providers, the need to “cloudify” their networks and services to deliver high-value products and services with higher-margin revenue is an important driver of business automation. Because the range of functions and/or elements needed to deliver digital services are seldom available from a single service provider (owing to cost, global footprint and practicality) an automated global supply chain is emerging.

Services such as connectivity, cloud storage, and cybersecurity, for example, are becoming more complex, and more and more suppliers need to work together with supply chain partners to source what’s not available within their own inventories. Automation lets service providers move toward real-time interconnection of their clouds to supply-chain partner clouds. Automation can be used for many scenarios, such as traditional retail-to-wholesale global access connectivity, accessing partner cybersecurity functions, and security operations centres for security responses to potential breaches.

Here is an example of one supply chain workflow. A buyer (enterprise or service provider) requests a service of a digital service provider (DSP). The DSP checks its inventory for the required services, and for those not available within its own inventory, the DSP can request services needed from a range of trusted suppliers via business automation application programming interfaces (APIs). In turn, those suppliers check their own inventories, and request from their suppliers what’s not available, and so on.

Creating complex supply chains to meet customer needs using automated APIs enables DSPs to: create new revenue streams with high-value products that can quickly be deliveredn and resell unused inventory in real-time. In addition they provide innovative solutions on a global scale with an ecosystem of supply-chain partners.

Open, standardised business automation APIs fuel global supply chain

Open, standardised business automation APIs provide a common structure for digital communication, making it easier for service providers to do business together. When interactions such as quoting, ordering, and inventory are simplified, services can be delivered across a global supply chain with cloud-like speed.

Since 2016 MEF’s member organisations have worked to define such business automation APIs that can be implemented and used by anyone. MEF Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) APIs provide product and service schemas required to maximise interoperability within the supply chain ecosystem. MEF market research indicates significant LSO Sonata API adoption, with more than 50 leading companies currently in the adoption lifecycle and at least 34 planning to be in production as sellers and/or buyers by the end of 2023. And as more DSPs enable automation APIs, the speed of delivery for the range of products and services available across the ecosystem will increase.

Currently, MEF LSO APIs support standardised Carrier Ethernet and Internet Access services; work is under way to support additional MEF-standardised services such as optical transport, network slicing, edge compute, SD-WAN, SASE, zero trust, and other services. Additionally, to increase the return on investment of LSO API implementation, MEF LSO APIs can be used with non-standardised MEF product and service schemas such as SIP trunking, connected vehicles, wavelength services, and IoT applications, for example.

With a goal of driving an increasingly large network of buyers and sellers in a global supply chain ecosystem of automated services, MEF also is accelerating the development of operational APIs to complement the business automation APIs (e.g. service operations, administration, and management). Operational APIs will provide more comprehensive commercial and operational lifecycle management with broad product and service support.

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