System-wide automation is around the corner: Expert Panel on Network Automation

Jason King
Senior Director, Partner Marketing
Rakuten Symphony
December 6, 2023
minute read

This week I had the difficult job of identifying the session highlights from our very successful expert panel on network automation hosted by TelecomTV.  

It was difficult because the panel in question featured a group of extremely passionate tech experts (included our own Geoff Hollingworth, Caroline Chan from Intel, and Mory Lin of Supermicro) speaking for an hour on network automation. Attempting to condense that into a few minutes was no easy feat. However, after much deliberation, here are a collection of the most illuminating quotes and ideas from the group.

Automation journey is just beginning

"Automation is not something new to the industry. It is something that we have been doing for 10 plus years, but we tended to do it in a very localized and domain-centric way. And now I think what we're starting to introduce in this journey is actual automation at the end-to-end system level and that's where you get the promise of true transformation and ultimately autonomy if you've gone down the full journey."
– Geoff Hollingworth, CMO at Rakuten Symphony

This theme was echoed by the results of a poll we took of all the participants asking what percentage of their network is automated. More than half said 25% or less of their network was automated, while only 3% indicated that their network was between 75-100% automated.

This means that there’s a lot of work to do to bring about the kind of system-wide automation that can have a major impact on network operations and new service deployment.  

Collaboration is important

This brings up a second theme of the event: collaboration. Open RAN ushered in a new model for network systems that is ripe for automation because it is open, virtualized and has an ecosystem of value-added technology providers.  

“I think the operators definitely want to see the three parties (Supermicro, Intel, Rakuten Symphony) working together to lower the total cost of ownership."
– Mory Lin, VP of IoT, Embedded and Edge computing at Supermicro

The collaboration between Rakuten Symphony, Intel and Supermicro is a great example of how technologies at all levels contribute to maximizing the impact of automation.

"When you … break down the big problems into smaller problems then everybody in the circle knows the part that they have to play."
– Caroline Chan, VP of Network and Edge Group at Intel

Automation needs programmable interfaces

Another theme was how the cloud and Open RAN are leading the way in providing programmable interfaces that can be used for network automation.  

“… the cloud is a programmable interface so you can remotely control hardware. Open RAN is a programmable interface so you can remotely control radios from anybody and then that feeds into everything you want to do with data."
– Geoff Hollingworth

As more legacy network appliances embrace the open, programmable model, automation can grow in its network impact.

All the panelists acknowledged the difficulty of embracing automation when NetOps organizations are working 24-7 to keep the network running. But in this era of more network complexity and a dramatic business need for new services, the payoff will be great.

You can watch all of the session highlights here, or watch the entire panel discussion on demand for network automation insights from the experts.

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