Orange Business Services' John Isch talks about the importance of APIs

Orange Business Services' John Isch says that APIs play a key role in providing customers insights into their services. (Pixabay)

APIs are playing key roles in carriers' network services and interactions with customers, but there's still some work to do in developing them, according to Orange Business Services' John Isch.

The telecommunications industry as a whole has been working diligently on application programming interfaces (APIs), particularly through TM Forum and MEF. Earlier this year, TM Forum announced it would make its Open APIs available for use in the Linux Foundation's open source groups. Along those lines, ONAP's external API project was incorporated with the TM Forum and MEF's work around northbound APIs in the recent ONAP Beijing software release.

Isch, director of the network and voice practice in North America for Orange Business Services, talked to FierceTelecom about whether SD-WAN services could be provisioned across separate carriers' SDN networks by using an API-to-API interface. He also discussed how Orange Business Services is using APIs to help its customers get insights on how their services are working.

FierceTelecom: Colt and Verizon plan on launching an inter-carrier service later this year for Carrier Ethernet. Colt's Mirko Voltolini said that SD-WAN could be a future intercarrier service. Do you foresee that happening for Orange Business Services' SD-WAN?

 John Isch: I guess I haven't seen it so far in SD-WAN. I've certainly seen the work that we did with Colt and AT&T last year at a MEF 17 demonstration using APIs to initiate an order between two systems, but that was for Carrier Ethernet. It would interesting to see how far that goes into SD-WAN.

We're at a point where a lot of our customers have dual networks. With the large multinationals it's not uncommon for them to have two carriers, or even three carriers and use some of them regionally. They could have two carriers with one as a primary and the other as a backup in a given location, or maybe they're both active.

One of the challenges that we're coming up on with these very large customers that have multiple carriers is who do I buy my SD-WAN service from? How do I get my overlay network? We just signed a contract on exactly this use case, which is to pick one of the carriers to run your overlay network and then manage the underlay network carriers through a letter of agency or something like that. In the very large contract we just signed, we're doing the overlay network while the underlay networks are provided by regional carriers.

So with the integration of SD-WAN across carriers, I guess so as long as the carriers are using the same overlay. That makes sense to some degree, but I can imagine issues with that. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

FierceTelecom: What's your take on the use of carrier-to-carrier APIs? MEF recently said it was going to work on approving its Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Sonata APIs before the year was out, but is their other work to be done?

Isch: I think that there are two different sides of APIs: The easy one and the hard one. The hard one, I think, is what you just talked about. How do we get carrier-to-carrier APIs engaged?

To me, the more important APIs are last mile provider APIs so that I can impact last mile configurations. If you look at it from a domestic, or U.S., perspective that seems like a fairly easy thing to do.

But when you look at it from a global environment—to service our customers who are on MPLS— we have over 400 last-mile suppliers. So it's one thing to say AT&T, Orange and Colt can work together on APIs and we have. But there are a lot of small telcos around the world and there's a lot of development work to make that operate in 400 places around the world.

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To get everybody on the same page with those (carrier-to-carrier) APIs, I think that's a big ask. When we look at it from an Orange perspective, it's a global environment. There are probably a lot more things to be done there to get that working.

I'm just trying to give you the global perspective on something like APIs. If you're in a pure domestic market that is probably a smaller task than it is when you're looking at a global environment.

FierceTelecom: Do you have an example of how Orange Business Services is currently using APIs?

Isch: We've developed tooling to integrate our legacy network management systems and our SD-WAN management systems so that we can correlate events between the two. If we're running a SD-WAN environment and the underlay network, you could have local loop outage. You have the SD-WAN management system spitting out an error and an incident and you have the legacy network management tools spitting out an incident. You don't want to work on those independently. You want them to be correlated.

We've created systems to integrate those two and correlate the events. We will expose those APIs to finance so that they can see the same things we are seeing with regards to incidents.

We're working with the customer to show them everything they need to see about what's going on in their network where we're managing the environment for them. We call that a customer service agency, or CSA. That's a different side of APIs. It's more customer-specific than industry-specific, but it's equally important.