Telecommunications APIs

What are Open APIs? Interview with TM Forum

open apis

This week, I would like to welcome Joann O’Brien, VP-Open APIs & Ecosystems with TM Forum, to tell us about Open APIs, their current state, and their future development.

Antoine Rizk (AR): Hi Joann, could you present us TM Forum?

Joann O’Brien (JO): Sure, with pleasure. TM Forum is the global industry association that drives collaboration and collective problem-solving to maximize the business success of communication and digital service providers and their ecosystem of suppliers.

Our vision is to help communications service providers (CSPs) and their suppliers to digitally transform and thrive in the digital era. We do this by providing an open, collaborative environment and practical support which enables CSPs and suppliers to rapidly transform their business operations, IT systems, and ecosystems to capitalize on the opportunities presented in a rapidly evolving digital world.

As a neutral, nonprofit member organization, TM Forum represents over 850 member companies generating US$2 trillion in revenue and serving five billion customers across 180 countries.

Our members leverage the collective intelligence of the industry through our agile, collaborative working groups of CSPs and suppliers to create practical Toolkits and widely adopted frameworks, including Open APIs, that drive the execution of CSP digital transformation.

AR: Great, thank you. Could you give us a brief history and description of the Open APIs activity?

JO: The TM Forum Open API initiative was set up initially to create a small number of APIs for services such as trouble ticketing and product ordering with a view to using common consistent APIs across the industry to reduce integration tax.

AR: Open APIs are developed within the TM Forum. Do you have to be a member of TM Forum or a telco organization to benefit from them? If not, who can benefit from Open APIs?

JO: The APIs are available for anyone to use.  We are currently republishing under an Apache 2.0 license. The opportunity to influence new APIs is reserved for members of TM Forum; however, any company can become a member.

AR: What are the major categories of Open APIs to date?

JO: The APIs are not organized into categories as such today.  They do however cover all the critical business operations required by any B2B business.  The APIs are REST based and therefore are technology and use case agnostic.

They have also been proven in many contexts such as industrial manufacturing to reduce the downtime of robots between configurations, and in eHealth scenarios particularly looking at the care of the elderly.
The foundation of the APIs is the Business Process Framework (eTOM) and Information Framework (SID). These are traditional assets of the Forum which capture the business processes and information model required to simplify business.

AR: What is the degree of adoption of Open APIs?

JO: There are 770 companies actively using the APIs and a user base of over 5,000 professionals with deployments in 66 countries. You can read more about our industry uptake stats in our latest ebook. Link to latest ebook here.

AR: What are the main organizations using Open APIs?

JO: The telecommunications Operators and their suppliers are the primary users of the APIs today. These are used for multiple key purposes, firstly to expose capabilities to allow them to partner with others in an ecosystem environment, for example, their billing capabilities could be reused in other contexts.

At the network layer, the APIs are used for interoperability and cooperative working between different operators. Enterprise customers of the telecommunications operators have been asking for the APIs to ensure a smoother integration with their systems.

For example, there are examples of mainstream banks requesting the APIs from Operators providing their connectivity services.

Read also Open Banking adoption: Don’t Panic, APIs are here!

AR: How are Open APIs represented? How can they be accessed by developers?

JO: The APIs are publicly available on the API table, which can be accessed here.

We are now exposing the APIs in our new Open Digital lab which will enable rapid innovation for members and their partners leveraging the APIs and other open source technologies.

AR: Do you have any promotional activities such as hackathons?

JO: We have run many hackathons in the past. However, our focus today is the enterprise developer and engaging with open source developers for example in the Linux community.  Hence the reason we did a collaboration with Linux on exposing our APIs there, which you can read about in this press release.

AR: Could you give us an example or two of Open APIs use cases in deployment?

JO: There is a very detailed use case in the book link from Orange. This is a great example. In proof of concepts, we have used the APIs to demonstrate how to create a more flexible manufacturing system and to reduce the downtime of robots.

We have also provided APIs in service assurance scenarios. Take for example autonomous cars that require ultra-reliability, the Forum Open APIs can be used to gain a consistent scalable way to do this across the globe.

AR: Do you have a certification program for users or solution providers?

JO: Today, we have a self-certification offering, where members can take existing compliance test kits (CTK) and run these against their products / APIs for validation of alignment. We are continuing to crowdsource a good deal of compliance test kits, and companies that contribute a CTK can gain conformance and promotion of that compliance.

AR: What are the future developments for Open APIs you are working on?

JO: We are celebrating two years since the formal launch of the program at our flagship event in Nice, May 14-16, Digital Transformation World. We are marking this with the release of our ebook as mentioned above, the demonstration of our new Open Digital Lab for rapid innovation across ecosystems leveraging Open Source technologies and Forum Open APIs.

And, we will announce the first set of API component suites defined and agreed by operators to provide a single voice to the supplier community on the critical API requirements for specific business challenges. The first of these is Customer Self-Care led by Telefonica and Network as a Service led by Telstra.

For Customer Self-Care, the ability to enable customers to self-manage their own offerings consistently and in a scalable way through a pre-defined set of APIs is captured.

Here, efficiencies in network operations can be achieved by abstracting network services and exposing them to a framework of reusable service domains and standard APIs.  This is a new set of types of specifications and will have value right across all digital transformations in any industry. These new sets are in Team Review with a view to being released in June.

AR: Thank you so much, Joann, for spending time with us. I am sure Axway’s customers will find this interview beneficial and would love to engage with you for further discussions. We look forward to discussing other topics with you in the future and wish you success with Open APIs development.