The Virtual ISP (VISP) project will enable a cluster of SMEs to collaborate and operate as a single business entity for the production of tailored Internet Service Provider (ISP) solutions adapted to local business needs.
There is growing demand for increasingly specialised, complex and individual services. VISP will specify these tailored ISP services by combining customisable service building blocks selected from a set of a few hundred available. This will enable the most appropriate individualised services to be provided to each customer, thus allowing small ISPs to differentiate themselves from their larger competitors and the incumbent operators.
SMEs are facing the problem of providing tailored services to their customers in the context of increased complexity of ICT technologies that require highly-skilled and flexible human resources that are difficult to acquire. Moreover, there is a very significant initial cost associated with back-office and front-office deployment for ISPs and especially for SMEs. Several hundred service building blocks may be specified and the challenge of VISP is to specify, produce and validate an integrated platform able to accommodate these building blocks from their specification up to their deployment in a production network. Building blocks could be dynamically added, modified or removed from the VISP platform.
VISP will specify the business workflows required for a cluster of SMEs based on the existing set that has been specified and published as part of the automation of business processes between business entities in the Supply Chain Management cycle. VISP will go one significant step further by considering service ordering and implementation processes as processes that can also be decomposed and modelled into workflows rather than as the traditionally monolithic activities of standard business processes.
VISP will innovate by focusing on service implementation and provisioning for complex ISP services in a multi-party business collaboration context and by standardising the way that ISP services are implemented and provisioned. These services are highly evolutionary and the corresponding workflows require an integrated and standard way of being specified and implemented so that when a service has to be modified or added, the implementation effort is minimal and automated as much as possible. The ability to organise, distribute, coordinate and automate service implementation and provisioning is a key aspect for the operations of a virtual ISP.
VISP will innovate in its technical approach by relying widely on Web technologies based on XML. It will define and implement an integrated workflow tool chain fulfilling Business System Support (BSS) functionalities that will be integrated with a workflow execution environment interfacing with existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software and with an abstract Operation System Support (OSS) environment while fulfilling Directory Enabled Networks (DEN) principles. By relying mainly on simple XML-based technologies, VISP intends to simplify and harmonise the implementation of its solution as much as possible, which is a key aspect for SMEs that cannot afford to encompass multiple OSS and BSS technologies. VISP will build an integrated and automated software platform comprising a modelling environment linked to a distributed, secured and manageable workflow execution environment interfaced with ERPs. VISP intends to use and produce Open Source software as much as possible.
VISP will also contribute to standardisation by extending existing standards to encompass ISP services and their implementation. It will adapt and complement business workflows and specify implementation workflows as contributions to standards bodies.