Sunday, October 2, 2022

Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs

Alla Goldner - InsideTelecom

Amdocs is an international company founded in 1982 that specializes in software and services for communications, media and financial services providers and digital enterprises. The company helps service providers, communications agencies and financial service providers with modernizing solutions that involve digitization and automating systems and services in many industries. 

Mrs. Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs, discusses the company’s strategic direction, the future of 5G and building a better connected world.

What are some of Amdocs’ most notable achievements?

Our company’s purpose is to enrich lives and progress society and help build a better connected world using creativity and technology. Over the years, we have partnered with the leading players in the communications and media industry, enabling next-generation experiences in 80 plus countries through hundreds of transformation projects. We have helped service providers better meet the evolving needs of their customers as they drive growth and transform and take their business to the cloud. In the network domain for example, Amdocs has helped communications service providers open their networks to their full potential by providing software and services in the areas of network engineering and rollout, hybrid network management and automation, cloud/virtual network expansion and autonomous operations for LTE, 5G, fiber, cable, satellite and more. These are all notable achievements that we are very proud of.

You are recognized as a female pioneer in the world of telecoms. Can you tell us how you came to achieve this role? What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?

I have always worked in the most innovative areas of telecommunications, with some of the recent examples being 5G, NFV/SDN, and cloud-native networks. I always strive to see the bigger picture, which not only includes a combination of the key aspects of the most advanced technologies, but also the relevant definitions and implementations, the impacted standards, evolving open source communities, and the vendor implementations.

I also participate in and manage several industry-body initiatives and activities. Some of my ongoing duties are ONAP requirements subcommittee chair and TIP OCN Orchestration stream co-lead. These roles really help me to see the broader technology evolution picture as an insider.

Some of the biggest challenges, but also an opportunity at the same time, is keeping pace with the continuously changing technologies and ecosystem in the world of communications networks, and the need to stay up to date with accurate and relevant technical and business information all the time.

As a female in this industry, I do my best to encourage young female engineers, inside and outside of Amdocs, to be proactive, to plan their career, and to not be afraid of failing while innovating.

Amdocs has launched a special section related to COVID-19 on their website. Can you share some insights from this section?

The post COVID-19 world is one in which service consumption and network traffic patterns will be much more dynamic than before. There are all kinds of new challenges service providers are facing, such as, how to better optimize and build their networks, how to engage more effectively with customers through digital mediums, how to automate operations with less manual intervention, how to tailor and launch new types of service plans, and more. So, this section highlights some of the solutions that we can deliver to communications service providers to address these new challenges.

What are your thoughts regarding 5G deployment? What are the benefits and risks associated with the technology?

5G technology brings to service providers the opportunity to implement new use cases and deliver new services, including for the enterprise segment, ones that require very high bandwidth and extremely low latency, something which could not be achieved with the previous technology generation. It is important to mention that 5G also brings a new disruptive mix of standardization, open source and industry innovation communities and projects to telecom, such as ORAN, ONAP, and several new TIP projects (OCN being one of them). The challenge is to define where open source ends and where vendor implementation starts, and specifically, what vendors should do differently in this new changing environment, and how to maintain their own strengths and competitive advantages. One may look at these disruptions as an advantage, whereas others may see this as a risk. This is the reality though, and those who will be able to successfully adapt to these new patterns and build their products seamlessly on top of open systems and open source platforms will succeed, in my view.

What role do you think the pandemic will play on the telecom industry?

It may postpone some 5G deployment plans in the short-term, but I believe it will expedite things in the long-term (well, I hope pandemic will not last long!). The reason for that is the highlighted and fast-growing need for high-quality applications we are using from everywhere (and not only from the office or home) and the increased need to automate to reduce manual operations, which eventually requires very high levels of system assurance, including AI/ML, and excellent bandwidth and latency characteristics, which only 5G can deliver. 

Amdocs has partnered with some of the biggest names in the industry. What are some tactics you deploy to attract and maintain high-quality partners?

The communications industry is undergoing significant disruption in many areas, but one area that I will focus on is around the transition to open cloud networks. Here, a larger and more diverse ecosystem is starting to participate in providing solutions. We are successful in partnering with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as cloud-scales like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, because we bring not only advanced, complementary solutions like service and network automation platforms into the mix, but because we are also uniquely positioned as one of the most capable and experienced systems integrator in the communications domain. One that can pull together and integrate all the pieces to help communications service providers on their network transformation journeys to the cloud.

What are some of the biggest trends currently in the telecom world? Are you doing anything to stay ahead of these trends?

The biggest trends I would identify are ‘softwarization’ and virtualization of the telecom networks and the move to the cloud. Virtualization is turning into a push for ‘cloud-nativeness’, with major activity by cloud providers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and others. These companies are also starting to take share in traditional areas of the telecom world, especially for different types of edge deployments. Additionally, another significant trend is openness and creation of Open APIs among different network layers and components, defined by standards organizations such as ORAN, 3GPP, TMF, MEF, along with open source for the components themselves (ORAN-OCS, ONAP, Akraino, CCNT, TIP OCN are some examples of the relevant communities). And 5G, which is well on its way to being deployed across the globe, would be the first, hopefully successful, combination of all these mentioned trends. We are in lockstep, and in some cases staying ahead, with these trends, being closely and deeply engaged in leading the work done by some of these organizations. As an example, our leadership position in ONAP and in TIP OCN, right from the launch of these initiatives.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you have come across while in the telecom industry? How did you overcome these challenges?

For some years, it has been a world led by only a few big network vendors, such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, which made it very difficult, almost impossible, to bring any significant advances in standardization and reduction of lock-in through products built by other companies. The way to overcome this impasse is to get significant service provider support towards addressing this challenge jointly with standards bodies and new product entrants. By the way, this is something that I successfully did while working for my previous company, Allot, through introducing TDF (Traffic Detection Function), UPCON (User Plane Congestion) and several additional concepts into 3GPP standards. The landscape is becoming much more distributed and diverse, with all the trends I mentioned before, and therefore, I would guess the disruption may be easier to achieve now. Still, I would say, the major rule to overcome such challenges is to understand what the customer really wants and “recruit” them to support you.

From your experience, what is one lesson you think people should know at an early age?

Don’t be afraid to fail. One must try. In the worst case, a person will always have enough time to take a different path and will become more experienced through the failure. Young people – belief in your forces and ability to succeed is 50 percent of success, at least. And if you believe in yourself, and if have the confidence to take on challenges, others will also believe in you.

What advice would you give fellow women in the telecom industry?

With the introduction of work in the telecoms world largely done by the open source communities and by industry collaboration communities, the need in human interaction skills becomes more and more important. This is where women can show their strengths – a combination of technical and human skills – IQ plus EQ, and this is what I would recommend fellow women to focus on to help them along their career path in the telecom industry.

In IoT, beyond the smartphone, door opener and coffee maker alarms, what application of IoT do you see really making an impact in the future?

Smart city is one of the major IoT applications which found its way into reality and will only expand. Smart factory is another significant example of successful ongoing adoption. The health industry, especially considering the ongoing Covid-19 situation, will become more and more digitalized with IoT devices to play the key roles of measuring and transforming the information within the system, so less human interaction and human resources are needed. And, the advent of 5G networks will only accelerate the deployment of more and more interesting IoT-based services.

Amdocs completes 1.7 billion customer journeys per day. What are the most common types of journeys completed?

Just to be clear, this refers to the journeys of end-users, that is end customers of the service providers that we serve. Examples of journeys we directly impact and complete include things like, an end-user utilizing an Amdocs developed digital portal to purchase a new offering or viewing and paying their bill. Another example of a journey is one where a user is consuming a service that includes the steps of authentication, authorization, access, policy control and charging, all again going through Amdocs systems. All kinds of communication and media consumption activities by consumers and enterprise users go through and directly touch Amdocs provided systems and solutions. We are in the critical path of supporting all these customer journeys.

What are some niche-market solutions that you have been able to work on?

I would not necessarily call these ‘niche’ as they will accelerate towards becoming mainstream in a few years. But given the spirit of your question, two emerging areas that we are deeply involved in is providing service and solutions as part of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the ORAN Alliance initiatives, which I mentioned before already. TIP was founded by Facebook some years back, and both TIP and ORAN Alliance are focused on driving the realization of a vibrant open ecosystem of network solutions and integration services providers to help accelerate innovation, increase efficiencies, eliminate vendor lock-in and give service providers a wider choice of technologies and suppliers to help them transform and build the networks of the future such as 5G.

Can you envisage a completely cashless society or something close? What are the benefits?

I do believe it will happen at some point in time, as a fully digitalized community doesn’t need cash-based transactions and, in fact, there are some countries already, where cashless transactions are the norm. There are benefits in leveraging the same single platform people use for their bank transactions, for their shopping experience and for their personal expenses. However, there are different countries with different levels of digitalization at this time, therefore, the process will be gradual and will take a while.

Tell us more about the ‘good deeds’ solution. How does donating 700,000 GB help those in need?

I am assuming you are referring to the ‘good deeds’ solutions from service providers. I think this a great initiative the industry is taking to help users stay connected during these challenging economic times. The data donations service providers are making, is helping consumers worldwide stay connected during this pandemic, and this is somewhat akin to how food banks are keeping people fed during this challenging time. Of course, it’s not at the same level of urgent need, but it’s not that far off either. Connectivity is not a luxury, but a necessity in the world we live in today.

Besides speed, what is the importance of 5G for the world?

Realizing applications and services which require not only high speed, or in another words, bandwidth, but also low latency and along with several additional characteristics that only 5G can fulfill. This is on the technology side. But one major thing we sometimes forget about is enabling new monetization strategies to make it worthwhile to deploy, both for the carriers, and for the users.

How can some of your solutions help with business disruptions?

I will bring one example of what we are actively promoting in the standardization communities as well as in the industry in general. As you know, network slicing is a major 5G functionality, which allows to have separated virtual 5G networks, residing on the same physical infrastructure and using the same network functions. As I mentioned, one key thing for 5G to succeed is the ability to monetize it. A new charging method which can be useful for engagement of carriers with enterprises, is network slicing charging, where charge is not per mobile sessions of a subscriber, but by the consumption of a slice. We strongly believe this opens many opportunities for a new level of engagement and profitable monetization models, and thus, we include it as a part of our Network Slice Manager solution working along with our BSS system to drive innovation in this area.