The next big challenge for service providers moving to 5G and beyond is to unlock the potential of autonomous networks. Rakuten Symphony, Appledore Research and RCR Wireless experts recently discussed a proven software-driven approach that will propel service providers towards achieving complete network autonomy.
James Blackman, Editor of Enterprise IoT Insights at RCR Wireless, invited our technical experts, Sandeep Karkala, VP of Technology, Intelligent Operations at Rakuten Symphony and Hiren Joshi, Head of Operations at Rakuten Mobile, as well as telecom analyst Francis Haysom, Principal Consultant at Appledore Research, to explore this technological breakthrough.
Service Assurance refers to the set of technologies deployed in the network to ensure that services are running as expected, detecting failures and eventually predicting them to take actions before the occur.
Led by Karkala, the session opened with a discussion on the need for a more forward-thinking approach to building and managing future networks. As the network becomes increasingly disaggregated in complex environments, it's essential to identify the right implementation, cloud and service automation strategies that can evolve with time. Here, Rakuten Symphony saw the need to take an end-to-end service assurance approach to optimize every stage of a service provider's journey and the total cost of ownership.
As technologies and network elements (both logical and physical) expand over the years, optimization becomes even more crucial, as event streams leading to alarms related to network service assurance is expected to increase from millions to billions on a daily scale, according to a recently published report by Appledore Research, Service Assurance in the 5G Era.
In this conversation, Joshi highlighted that network service assurance has traditionally been done in a siloed manner, with individual domain owners focusing on their KPIs, doing the analysis and finding solutions within their domain. While this approach might work in a deterministic world, it would not support future requirements.
With virtualization and cloudification introducing interdependency across different network layers, a collaborative approach is needed where solutions can come from across domains.
During the session, Haysom stated that Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have the opportunity to evolve in terms of end-to-end service assurance. The fundamental tipping point comes with a standalone core in 5G and Open RAN, which involves introducing disaggregated software into the network.
“In the future, we must move from a hardware-focused, location-based service assurance approach to a software-focused, cloud-based service assurance approach.”
The overall democratized approach of Open RAN compared to legacy networks, with the introduction of cloud, Open RAN and automation, means the focus needs to be on how the software stack is developed and managed. Combining these different pieces to deliver end-to-end service assurance is the most important thing and should help manage the complexities of different networks and technologies while providing a familiar and consistent interface.
Karkala highlighted three significant points to be taken into consideration when it comes to cloud-native service assurance:
The experts concluded that you can only control something if you can observe its state; therefore an observability framework is necessary when it comes to end-to-end service assurance. In addition, it is vital to understand how service assurance tools such as fault management, performance management, configuration management, quality of service (QoS), customer experience management (CEM), service level management (SLM), security management, and capacity management can work together to provide comprehensive end-to-end service assurance.
During the discussion, Blackman, RCR editor pointed out that two out of three network problems are reported by customers rather than being identified in the Network Operations Centre (NOC).
At last, it’s not a rip-and-replace mechanism. Service providers must focus on where they are today versus where they want to be tomorrow and make incremental changes in their network advancement journey.