Industry Voices—Raynovich: Itential pushes JSON schemas for the telco cloud

Itential, an interesting Atlanta—based startup focused on network automation, today announced a new set of tools called Pre-Built Transformations designed to help service providers and enterprises automate their networking systems.

The Transformations make heavy use of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), which can be used to take standard data models and Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) and program orchestration and connectivity of devices and systems by using a flexible data schema. The program is designed to help speed up the integration and automation of multi-domain networks by mapping out data model and API paths for automation.

Why is this important? Service providers have been challenged to keep up with cloud-scale development, in part because large swaths of their infrastructure is attached to legacy hardware and software systems, each with their own management systems and command line interfaces (CLIs). Itential’s approach is to provide an abstracted, software bridge between legacy systems and modern Web-based management, which is more focused on data models and APIs to build integration.

Keeping up with 5G Joneses

This approach holds large potential for innovation at a time when service providers are grappling with an existential crisis—how do they extend their legacy infrastructure while at the same time move to modern cloud infrastructure and development techniques that have been proven more agile and scalable?

As Itential CTO Chris Wade points out, today’s networks are becoming more complex, with a different combination of tools, devices, and orchestrators for each networking domain. Itential’s approach is to abstract out data models and configuration models from network devices and software and build a real-time JSON interface that abstract and integrate anything with an API.

RELATED: Raynovich—How service providers can avoid bungling the edge

The move to automation will become more important as enterprises and service providers expand their networks and distributed applications. The extension of a “cloud edge” will support new 5G-powered networks, connected devices, and applications such as Internet of Things (IoT), video surveillance, augmented reality (AR), cloud gaming, smart cities, smart environments, smart retail, and autonomous driving.

“5G is a network that is unable to be managed by humans,” says Wade. “ This has to be managed by machines.”

Pursuing multi-domain connectivity

Networks have grown up and proliferated in a variety of ecosystems, each with their own standards and programming approaches. These are referred to in the technology industry as domains, which include communications networks such as fiber, LTE, and 5G; cloud-networks in both public and private networks; legacy enterprise networks; or IoT, connecting a multitude of connected things.

How will we connect all these networks? The answer is software, driven by virtualization and APIs. This is an area identified in Futuriom's recent 5G report, which concluded service providers have only one hope to keep up: They must move to modern cloud-native technologies which are built to react and adapt in real-time to changing needs.

Itential’s Transformations are part of its Itential Automation Platform, a set of integration modules designed to integrate more than 100 different IT and network systems in its Automation Platform. It says this will enable “network teams to rapidly integrate and transform data between any IT, OSS, cloud, and network technology in real time.”

What Itential includes in the IAP:

• Automatic translation and manipulation of data between objects in real time

• Customizable Transformations that can be auto-discovered when building automations and re-usable, ensuring consistency across automation projects.

• Drag-and-drop transformations within Itential’s Automation Studio for designing and visualizing automation workflows.

• A way for customers to share and understand automations that others have built

What’s notable about Itential’s ambitious moves is that this modest startup has found a low-cost way to help service provider modernize their infrastructure without mass upgrades.

It’s more likely that the service provider’ problems are going to be solved with new software, rather than waiting for hardware upgrades or by re-writing operations and support systems (OSS).

One path that service providers have went to is using scripting systems such as Python and Ansible to automate repetitive tasks such as configuring networking devices. But Itential’s Wade says using Transformations will enable them to manage changes in real-time.

“The cost of integrating systems is going toward zero,” says Wade. “Anybody can write a script to create a service one time but the question is how do you make changes? This is where service providers paint themselves into a corner because they are so rigid.”

Scrappy Itential is onto something. The good news? They’re not selling a forklift upgrade—they’re selling automation software that works with what you already have.

R. Scott Raynovich is the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom. For two decades, he has been covering a wide range of technology as an editor, analyst, and publisher. Most recently, he was VP of research at, which acquired his previous technology website, Rayno Report, in 2015. Prior to that, he was the editor in chief of Light Reading, where he worked for nine years. Raynovich has also served as investment editor at Red Herring, where he started the New York bureau and helped build the original website. He has won several industry awards, including an Editor & Publisher award for Best Business Blog, and his analysis has been featured by prominent media outlets including NPR, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @rayno.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceTelecom staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceTelecom.