Spotlight on Tech

Revolutionizing Telecom Operations with Automation Studio

By
Ashish Shukla
Sr. Training Manager
Rakuten Symphony
January 16, 2024
7
minute read

In the dynamic landscape of telecommunication networks, the need for streamlined, error-free operations is paramount. As the industry strives for enhanced efficiency and reduced human error, Rakuten Symphony Automation Studio emerges as a game-changing framework, offering a holistic solution to automate network operations and orchestrate seamless functionalities across telecom infrastructures.

Decoding the challenges in the telecom industry

The telecom industry deals with multifaceted challenges, including human error in repetitive tasks, network inefficiencies and the complexity of managing diverse elements across the network. These hurdles impede operational efficiency and hinder the swift resolution of network issues.

Automation tools are essential in telecom networks for several critical reasons:

  • Manual auditing/troubleshooting: Telecom networks often involve a multitude of devices and configurations. The current practice of executing repetitive tasks, auditing and troubleshooting network nodes manually through CLIs is time-consuming and prone to human error.
  • Absence of governance structure: Deploying scripts without a proper governance structure can lead to inconsistencies and potential issues in the network.
  • Uncontrolled execution: Untested MOPs and scripts running through multiple scheduled cron jobs in sequence pose a significant risk to network stability and security.
  • Lack of central repository: The absence of a central repository for commands and automation scripts results in inefficiencies, as it makes version control, collaboration, and access challenging.
  • Complexity in managing multiple scripts: Networks often use domain or vendor specific automation scripts, leading to complexity in managing and maintaining these diverse scripts.
  • Lack of CI/CD pipeline: Without a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline for automated script testing and deployment, the network operations heavily rely on manual intervention.
  • Fragmented automation: Existing automation used in the industry is task oriented and does not spin across the complete end to end MOP automation which includes tasks like pre-checks, execution, output validation and seamless integration with network ecosystems (OSS, ITSM, security solutions, etc.), essential for automating complex procedures like software upgrades, ensuring comprehensive automation across the entire operational workflow.

In summary, implementing an automation tool in the telecom network infrastructure addresses these challenges by enabling standardized, efficient and controlled execution of scripts, enhancing reliability, scalability and security while reducing manual effort and the likelihood of errors.

Diving into the capabilities of Automation Studio

Rakuten Symphony Automation Studio has been meticulously crafted as a comprehensive framework aimed at tackling the intricate challenges pervasive in the telecom industry. Its primary goal is the reduction of human errors while streamlining operational tasks through the facilitation of customized automation development and management across the network lifecycle. This robust and scalable framework is adept at executing automation scripts across multiple network nodes at defined intervals or upon request, offering a reliable API-driven mechanism. This mechanism allows external systems or applications to initiate and execute automation routines securely and efficiently, seamlessly integrating them into broader network management workflows.

Fundamentally, the solution is geared towards simplifying the creation, validation, storage, scheduling and API-driven execution of well-tested automation routines. Its purpose is to enhance network operations and efficiency through a modern web application, eliminating the necessity to grapple with archaic, cron-like interfaces. The studio also provides complete visibility into task statuses and logs, thereby obviating the need for manual oversight.

Moreover, the capability for automation scripts to be triggered automatically based on configurable conditions liberates the engineering team, allowing them to focus on more critical issues. Consequently, reliance on manual intervention diminishes, making it the exception rather than the rule. This shift prevents bottlenecks in the team's knowledge base and optimizes task execution.

The Automation Studio encompasses a variety of common use cases prevalent in the industry, including health and system checks on network nodes, backup and restoration, isolation and rollback procedures, troubleshooting and VPN access. It facilitates fetching commands from a centralized repository and executing them across multiple network elements. Moreover, it proficiently displays the execution output, a crucial aspect for network audits and troubleshooting purposes. The framework offers a plethora of features, including:

  1. Workflow support for complex automation use cases
  2. Automation Library facilitating rapid development
  3. Standardize and automate MOPs
  4. Custom script creation capabilities
  5. Scalable architecture for network-wide operational tasks
  6. Command Catalogue to ensure users interact with the NE for audit and troubleshooting purposes
High-level architecture of Automation Studio
High-level architecture of Automation Studio.

Automation Studio integrates seamlessly with Inventory, enabling swift acquisition of essential node lists for executing scripts and procedures. Additionally, its Security Module Integration ensures secure access to resources, enhancing reliability. The integration of Multi-Domain Coordination Platform (MDCP) empowers users to orchestrate automation across various network elements, ensuring flexibility and peak performance.

Automation Studio, with its API-based integration, facilitates cross-communication with various network ecosystem entities, allowing north-bound entities like OSS, Service Assurance, and ITSM solutions to trigger automation scripts via exposed APIs. This capability empowers network administrators to achieve comprehensive end-to-end automation.

What's the right way to automate a process?

Functionality and workflow:

The core working mechanism involves the Automation Studio front-end engine managing tasks via a user-friendly interface. The creation and execution of automation templates occurs through GUI or scheduled events. The Automation MOP/Script templates, created through the GUI, are executed using MDCAP or scheduled through the Scheduler Pipeline.

Execution workflow:

The execution engine of Automation Studio prepares and submits payloads to the orchestrator, MDCAP (Multi Data center Automation Platform). For on-demand executions, the engine directly submits requests, while scheduled events trigger the Scheduler Pipeline. MDCAP orchestrates script executions based on triggers received from OSS, utilizing worker pods for efficient batch processing. The MDCAP engine generates jobs for automation execution, primarily used to create and manage worker nodes that run to completion whether they succeed or fail and are then terminated. These worker nodes are intended for running batch or one-time tasks, ensuring successful completion before terminating associated pods. This parallel execution can be scaled by specifying the desired number of completions, allowing for efficient processing of multiple tasks concurrently. Additionally, you can configure different restart policies for jobs, either on failure or never, depending on your requirements. Monitoring the status of worker nodes and their associated pods helps you track the progress of batch tasks. Finally, jobs are ephemeral, automatically cleaning up both the job and its pods once the task is finished, aiding in resource management within your Kubernetes cluster.

Execution overflow of Automation Studio.
Execution overflow of Automation Studio.

Post-execution operations:

The Automation Studio notification service validates job completion notifications from MDCAP and writes them into Kafka messaging queues, ensuring efficient communication and monitoring of task status.

Post-execution operations of Automation Studio.

In conclusion, Automation Studio stands as a revolutionary force in the telecom industry, addressing critical operational challenges by automating tasks, enhancing efficiency and providing a scalable solution for seamless network operations. Its integration capabilities, comprehensive functionalities and diverse use cases position it as an indispensable tool for streamlined operations and innovation within the telecom sector.

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